Mostly Autumn

Grand Opera House, York

6 December 2012

The Opera House is the best venue Mostly Autumn have ever played. Mostly Autumn on a big stage, with a top-notch sound system, with beautiful lights, is a completely different beast from Mostly Autumn squeezed into a pokey, sweaty, echoey club. And so my annual pilgrimage to the Opera House for the Mostly Autumn Christmas show has been the highlight of my gig-going year for the last nine years.

Because sometimes music demands that you sit down, focus, and absorb every moment of it. From the stage of the Opera House Mostly Autumn run through over two hours of flawlessly performed, complex, emotion-filled, virtuosic music that leaves you stunned by the sheer brilliance of it all. It doesn't matter how often you've seen them (and I've seen them a lot) — when Bryan rolls into yet another jaw-dropping solo you are amazed all over again by what a truly world-class guitarist he is. When Olivia delivers yet another jaw-dropping vocal crescendo, you are amazed all over again by the quality of her voice.

I've had my reservations about recent studio recordings, but live this is still the best rock band of modern times.

The 2+ hour set was similar to the one played on their recent tour, leaning heavily on the last album, but with a few surprises switched in (a semi-acoustic Pure White Light and a beautiful Top of the World). I still think the songs written for Olivia's voice work best and so the highlights of the set include Deep in Borrowdale and Questioning Eyes, as well as Ice, which is just a perfect composition.

But it's the Christmas show, so after two hours of sitting in blissful appreciation of the songs, it's on-your-feet time for the encores: I Believe in Father Christmas, Fairytale of New York and Merry Xmas Everybody. With a special guest singer on Fairytale who I won't name because it will make everybody who couldn't make the gig jealous.

(Heather Findlay.)

And that's not the only reason this was the best concert I've ever seen... but I have to admit, it made a special gig even more special.

It was disappointing that the audience was so small. I know a lot of people found Thursday problematic, but I guess it's hard for the band to book the Opera House for a weekend this close to Christmas — and previous "Christmas" gigs held in November have felt a bit wrong. From my point of view, the date was perfect, and even if it wasn't convenient I would have moved Heaven and Earth to get there. Because it's only once a year. And because Mostly Autumn are worth the effort. Especially for this event.

Next year I want to see you all there.

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