Mostly Autumn
Saturday 8th May 2004
The Astoria, London, UK

By Charlie Farrell


Lights, Lasers and a String Quartet

After much fanfare from Classic Rock Productions, the day of the first big ĎVí show arrived. With the promise of a huge lighting rig and assorted effects - apparently used by Genesis themselves in the 1970ís and 80s, and consisting of

...48 moving lights, 36 Aircraft landing lights, projection screens, 2 fog machines, 2 smoke machines, 2 motorized mirror balls.

along with a string quartet and, during the week preceding the gig itself, the announcement of the presence of lasers, the show promised to be both musically and visually spectacular. Unfortunately, the pre-gig advertising did not attract enough to sell out the venue and by closing off the upper section of the venue to all but selected guests, the promoters managed to make the lower section feel full, though not oppressively so.

On stage, Mostly Autumnís equipment was arranged as per usual with the keyboards of Iain Jennings and Angela Goldthorpe to the right, the string quartet right center behind clear Plexiglass shielding and the drums of Andrew Jennings (Iainís bother and the bands latest recruit) left center also behind the same sort of Plexiglass shielding. Above the stage the lighting rigs looked full, though not more so than normal.

As the venue lights went down, the sound of wind came over the P.A. and Mostly Autumn made their way on stage to open with the powerful Caught in a Fold before bridging nicely into Something In Between. Perhaps it wasnít quite as powerful and punchy an opening as the one that they played at the Progeny Festival, at the same venue last November, but then there was less for them to prove in front of an audience of converts. The lasers made their first appearance during the second number either rotating or projecting a matrix-like web across the stage and above the heads of the audience. This might have been pretty innovative in the 1970s but in this age of video games it was hardly revolutionary.

Another Life was the first opportunity for the string quartet to get involved and they certainly enhanced this particular tune during which Bryan Josh delivered one of his immaculately phrased solos. The much vaunted screen dropped down from the ceiling at this point and resembled a prop which I vaguely remember seeing during a Genesis show ages ago. Unfortunately the combination of the screen and strong lighting made the images that were projected upon it appear pale and indistinct while its positioning interfered with those images which were projected upon the second screen at the rear of the stage. The special effects were thus something of a disappointment, but then, after 30 years of attending gigs maybe Iím a bit jaundiced in my views of such trickery. I was, after all, there for the music anyway.

Heather Findlay explained that First Thought had been inspired by the view that Bryan saw as he looked out of his pram as a baby, before the band played the remainder of the Passengers album, with the tracks Distant Train, Answer The Question and the closing Pass The Clock forming the musical highlights and Troy Donockley appearing from time to time to add a few unusual elements into the musical mix.

Following a ten-minute break, the musicians returned for a second set that focused on their older material. The Night Sky, so wonderfully well performed on the bandís Live at York Opera House DVD made for a fantastic set opener. Though there was no choir on this occasion, the extra touches added by the string quartet and Troyís flute and Uilleann pipes, all lifted this well above the ordinary with the section featuring Troyís pipes bridging into Bryan Joshís guitar solo proving to be, for me at least, the exceptional passage in an evening of fine music.

The Spirit of Autumn Past also proved to be a big hit, the crowd joining in and singing along with the band during the chorus. Personal favourite Evergreen was amazing as usual, with Heather Findlay revealing that the song had been inspired by Bryanís mum Jean Taylor. Then, putting her top hat back on, Heather announced "It's time to rock" and the band launched into Never The Rainbow.

No Mostly Autumn gig is complete without Heroes Never Die, dedicated as usual to Bryanís dad. I hadnít been paying too much attention to the use of the props during this second set, but it was difficult to miss the projections of news footage of spacemen along with the faces of Robert Plant, the guys from Deep Purple and made others, who presumably were all in one way or another, heroes of the band members. To be honest the footage was once again a little feint, but it was not of much consequence since the music being played on the stage was so compelling.

Mother Nature is far from the "short bluesy tune" that Heather described it as, in her introduction. It is a powerful and fairly heavy tune, yet when played live it does seem a tad over-long, in particular in the closing instrumental section, which does seem to go on forever and certainly appeared to do so, on this occasion.

With the clock desperately close to the venueís Saturday night curfew of 9:45PM, there was no time for the band to go offstage, so, no sooner had Mother Nature finished and the musicians had turned to leave the stage than they had to immediately turn around and begin the encore Ė a new and fresh interpretation of Genesisís Afterglow. To describe how well it fitted, one only needs to say that many of the audience assumed that it was a new tune, though I can only presume that these people did not see me (and many others) singing along with the words. Itís strange how the lyrics to a tune one probably hasnít heard for 20 years are still deeply buried in oneís memory, and pop up again in moments like these.

The efficiency with which venue security staff clear London venues when the headline act has finished its show does rather take the edge off the evening's entertainment, as one has no time to savour the atmosphere before being thrust into the cold night air. This night was sadly no different, and one had little option than to retire to one of the local hostelries, already overflowing with Saturday night drinkers, to share oneís impressions of the evening with other concert goers.

Personally the presence of the lasers and light show was all a bit peripheral and some of the laser projections on-screen seemed to have no relevance to the rest of the show. However, the films and projections that had been used at York the year before, were extremly effective, particularly that used for Distant Train and clearly the matching of films and effects to the music is a work in progress. No doubt, they will be even better at the next show or series of shows of this type.

When it comes to the musicians, the hours of rehearsal have clearly paid off and even with a relatively new recruit behind the drum kit, the band were supremely tight. The string quartet was used sparingly and generally effectively, while the presence of the multi-talented, multi instrumentalist Troy Donockley was a fantastic bonus. His Uilleann Pipe playing was marvellous and whatever instrument he chose, he somehow managed to enhance the bandís sound.

Bryan Joshís singing and guitar playing was excellent as ever, Heather Findlayís confidence seems to grow every time I see them, while the equally excellent Liam Davidson and Angela Goldthorpe often seem to slip into the background. It was therefore very nice to see on this occasion that they received a bit more of the spotlight and Liam even got to play a little solo of his own.

Full marks then to the band and their record company for aiming high and trying to do something a little out of the ordinary. They may not yet quite justify the comparison with Pink Floyd which has been suggested in the press, but they certainly deliver a show that is always excellent musically and one that continues to develop as a visual feast.

Setlist:

Caught in a Fold
Something In Between
Another Life
First Thought
Pure White Light
Simple Ways
Bitterness Burnt
Distant Train
Answer The Question
Pass The Clock
Passengers

Night Sky
Sprit of Autumn Past
Evergreen
Never The Rainbow
Heroes Never Die
Mother Nature

Afterglow

 

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