Mostly Autumn

Fibbers, York

20 May 2016

That is what a proper rock band sounds like.

I've worked very hard at not seeing the set list for this tour—not easy in the Internet age—so I could be surprised tonight. After a couple of years of Dressed in Voices dominating the live set (which was fine, it's their best material for years) I thought they must have retired it this year, and with no new album I thought we would get a set full of "classics". So a long wait for the band to come on, while I ran through all the possibilities in my head, and then the surprise was spoiled as soon as half the band (Angela, Chris, Iain, Alex) came on stage, because there was only one thing it could be: Out of the Inn. And there I was, front(ish) and centre for the best opening song I've ever seen.

Ah, it was perfect. The most perfect music, the band looking happy, everything was beautiful.

The sound was great at this point, and monstrously loud for the size of the venue, completely wrapping me in a wall of sound. Bryan and Andy came on to kick off the second half of the song, and the energy was immense.

Straight into Answer the Question, and when Olivia made her appearance for the vocal, the sound went a bit pear-shaped. Instrumentally it was still perfect—a massive, dense sound, teetering on the edge of distortion but with each instrument still clearly separated. But the vocals were swamped. I could hear Olivia, but she never rose above the instruments the way she should. Weirdly, Angela's backing vocals were much more clearly distinct in the mix.

I'm so used to Mostly Autumn getting a great sound in recent years, even in the most challenging of venues, that it was a bit of a surprise.

But, minor niggle of the vocal mix aside, there was nothing to complain about in the gig. The set list was a perfect balance of old and new material. Olivia sounded best on the new (I count "new" as post-2010, i.e. the songs that were written for her). The tremendous vocal showcases of Deep in Borrowdale and Wild Eyed Skies were her finest moments, as her screams actually managed to cut through the instruments.

There's a funny moment between songs when you can hear the sound bleed-through from the pub next door (is that why the instrumental mix was so loud? to drown it out?) and Olivia wants to sing along to We Built this City but can't get Bryan to join in. But this is the sort of band where you half expect that they will, and they'll play the best version of it you've ever heard. I've seen them do weirder things than that.

Other highlights ...

From Dressed in Voices, Skin on Skin has been kept in to showcase the best proper rock drummer in the world, and anyway it's just a brilliantly-constructed and feel-good song designed to get the whole room dancing even without the added bonus of the drum solo.

Chris sings Silver Glass, which surely ranks in any sensible person's list of the best songs of all time.

In the encore (between Passengers and Heroes) Bryan introduces The Last Climb, Angela actually looked really surprised (I later found it wasn't supposed to be in the set) but still played the best flute solo the song's ever had.

Honestly, this review was almost just "They played Out of the Inn and The Last Climb and I don't remember anything else," but that wouldn't have been fair, because the true highlight of the night came in the middle of the set, a complete out-of-the-blue surprise, first time I've heard it in at least six years, the best thing they've ever done and the reason I actually have a bruise on one hand now (Mostly Autumn don't usually do clap-along songs).

Mother Nature.

And I don't need to say anything else. You already know it was the best concert I've ever seen.

Hey look, I got through the whole review without mentioning corsets. How good am I?