Mostly Autumn

The Crescent, York

12 December 2021

I have been following this band for over 20 years, literally following them to gigs all around the country. But the best gig of the year was always the home-town Christmas show in York. Christmas doesn't start until Mostly Autumn come on stage.

And it's been two years, and it's been horrible, and I don't think I've been truly happy at all for the last two years, and right up until the last minute I was convinced that something would go wrong, because that's what the world is like now, and it wasn't until I was actually standing there, front(ish) and centre, in a crowd of faces I know from countless other Mostly Autumn gigs, and the deep opening keyboard chords of Graveyard Star vibrate through me, and the flute rises above them, and that moment is such a perfect feeling, and honestly I'm happier than at any point in recent memory.

I know they've already played two or three gigs in the last couple of weeks, but even so you might still expect some signs of rust after a two-year break, or some hesitancy with the brand-new material, but there's none in sight, all I see are smiles and energy, and all I hear is flawless playing, and telepathic musicality as they execute the complex song arrangements with seven instruments and four voices and an enthusiasm that's completely returned by the crowd bouncing around me.

One problem with being at the front is that you're never going to get the best sound mix. Olivia's low voice gets lost in the sound, but her high voice still cuts through everything and is still unbelievable in its power and range. The flute is low in the mix, but I can hear every note of Angela's vocals (singing either high or low harmony to Olivia, as the song demands), and there are enough high whistle solos to keep me happy. The guitars are perfect, but the keyboards dominate the sound, just as Iain's energy dominates the stage. But it's all fine, you make the decision to stand in a less-than-optimal sound zone so you can be three feet away from the band and just revelling in their joy and enthusiasm.

The energy is immense. Six songs from the new album make up most of the first half of the set, and they sound majestically powerful, and even though the sound mix isn't letting me follow the lyrics perfectly they still musically convey the thoughts and feelings I know they represent. The second half leans heavily towards other recent albums, with the "old favourites" that I've loved for 20 years kept to a minimum. But that's fine. This isn't the same band I discovered 20 years ago, their sound has evolved over time just as the line-up has, but I don't love it any less. This is still the best band in the world today.

Bryan does the song introductions, but keeps them to a minimum. It's ok, because we all know the stories as well as he does, but it also feels like he simply doesn't know what to say. Like he's as overwhelmed as the rest of us. It's fine. All the emotion is there in his lyrics, he doesn't need to add to it.

Until the encores, when he's had just enough beer, and we all remember it's Christmas and Bryan loves Christmas and we're all ordered to sing along, and in the hands of this ridiculously talented band the cheesy old Christmas songs are just epics of joy and fun, and when they reach the curfew after two hours and forty minutes of playing I wish they didn't have to stop. When they leave the stage without the customary group bow I think they will come back, but no, there's a curfew, and they ended on the perfect Fairytale of New York which as far as I'm concerned is their song now, ended with the flute playing a last peal of Christmas bells, and I'm happy.

I am just so happy.

You know the rest...