Category Archives: live dates

RedFest Halloween Special

Redfest Halloween Special – 2nd November 2012 –
Harlequin Theatre, Redhill, Surrey
Featuring:
Clement Marfo & The Frontline
Dive Bella Dive
Proxies
Hearts Under Fire
Critical State

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The WonderYears Senior Rock Chorus

After seeing the amazing WonderYears rock chorus rehearsing at their ‘headquarters’ in Virginia Water, and after listening to the warm praise and unabashed acclaim for their enthusiastic and memorable live shows, I was very keen to meet the dynamic personality behind the WonderYears – The Senior Rock Chorus and Band. So on Monday I met the founder and esteemed musical director of the project, Dave Thomas.  Dave is a modest man, warm and confident. He is clearly passionate about his creation, and he cares deeply about every single member of his troop, acting like a rock n roll pastor to his flock.

From the outset, Dave stressed that the WonderYears are not a choir, but, to be precise, a chorus.  “We don’t harmonize – we concentrate on musicianship, live performance and self-expression. Our performances are always energetic and entertaining “ He tells me.  “So the chorus embraces the true values of rock music?” I ask.  “Exactly” he tells me. “And it is important to explain that our four-piece band is an integral part of our overall sound – they are the engine room for our performance and they distinguish us from groups like the Rock Choir, who tend to use backing tapes”. The 24 members of the chorus- comprising of 14 ladies and 10 men – plus 4 in the band, and the sound people,  are all ‘Seniors’. “The average age of the chorus is 70” says Dave “and the oldest member is 86 – we are the UK’s only seniors rock chorus and band.”

Keen ‘Radio 1’ and ‘Magic FM’ listener Dave sang in choirs in his childhood and later turned to opera. He got the inspiration for The WonderYears from the 2008 documentary film ‘Young@Heart’ by Stephen Walker. The documentary focuses on a New England based choir who take up singing the old classics and contemporary rock and pop songs together. So Dave placed an advert locally, inviting older people from the Surrey community to help form a Seniors Chorus and to be prepared to leave their comfort zones- and to become excited by the world of rock music.

Dave says he is a ‘supporter’ and ‘motivator’ rather than a conductor. And members of the chorus agree, saying that they feel thrilled and energised by his ever increasing levels of enthusiasm and verve. Audiences report that the feel good factor ‘overcomes you’ when you attend a  WonderYears concert  – and they say that an evening spent with WonderYears is every bit as good for you as a night out seeing a West End show like Mama Mia!

“Are there any consequences or unusual complications in the management and operation of a choral group comprising of seniors – rather than ‘young’ performers?” I was keen to know. Dave is kind about his team, and he raves about their individual talents. He is generous about the contributions that each individual makes to the overall sound, but he admits that there have been some small difficulties to overcome, and that the project is still evolving. “For example, I realized early on that I need to split up the choruses and the solo parts – in order that the songs become memorable and easier to learn and to master ….  As you get older, it’s harder to remember things – especially lyrics – and so we tend to break down the songs into more manageable pieces. And we also tend to choose songs with ‘proper’  and ‘appropriate’ lyrics  for our later years. Nothing too suggestive or too muddy”.  The group have, in the past, rejected some songs, because, perhaps, they are too cloying in a sentimental way – or because they are distressing for the older singers to perform. “Where have all the Good Times Gone” by the Kinks and “Dance with My Father” by Luther Vandross were two numbers that proved unpopular with the chorus members.

But the words of some well known rock songs often have surprising connotations or take on fun new meanings and special significance when performed by older singers. Take for example The Who’s  “My Generation” or “I Wanna Be Sedated” by The Ramones.

Although he admits to loving the ‘big hair’ rockers of the 1980’s  such as a ‘Journey’, Dave also ensures that the WonderYears Chorus address some rock pieces with rougher edges, including a good dose of punk. “Our most popular number is the Killers song  “Human “.

“In addition, we always get a great reaction from ’Should I Stay or Should I Go.’  “Burt (aged 86) does an astonishing solo on “Let the Good Times Roll” and Tom does equally well on the Stones number “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”. Other audience favourites include the Bee Gees hit “Stayin’ Alive” (another song that reveals new meanings when performed by a group of seventy something seniors) and “It’s My Life” Bon Jovi. “I ain’t gonna be just a face in the crowd. You’re gonna hear my voice, when I shout it out loud….”

Dave admits that he receives a lot of stick for the constant introduction of new songs to the group. “But I need to keep feeling that our Chorus is refreshed and rejuvenated” He says, “We must keep our energy flowing.”

Exciting times are ahead for the Surrey based outfit. Guilfest has invited them to come back to perform after a great success last year. They are also scheduled to perform at the Wokingham Food and Drink Festival. They even registered for this years Glastonbury festival. “Who would you like to share the top of the bill with – if your dreams come true?” I asked, “Bon Jovi” says Dave, without pausing, and with a glint in his eye.

“But it is always a great honor to play live music to any audience, anytime, supporting any performer.  Obviously, we want to ‘go all the way’ and play all the big venues and all the big festivals. But we also realize that we owe our local community a huge debt of gratitude for the support they give us. For example, we owe Christ Church, the community church of Virginia Water – a great big thanks for allowing us to practice there every week. We are not a church choir and we have no ties to the church, but they allow us to practice in their area and that is very precious to us. Every year we do a benefit concert to thank the church. We will never forget our local community and the warm support that our neighbours give us.”

“Twenty-four singers is an ideal size to provide the power and emotion that our songs require.” says Dave. “Only once, when we took the Chorus to County Sound Radio (to do a live broadcast), did we did experience a little ‘difficulty’. We discovered it was a bit of a  ‘squeeze’ to fit us all in. And then we could not hear our music properly, the sound was coming through the cans. We have a reliance on our live sound for the rhythm and structure. But because we couldn’t hear our live band sound, it all went a bit wonky!”

Dave says that it involves a lot of hidden costs and logistical support to take the band plus 24 singers and sound engineers onto the road. The WonderYears are currently looking for a sponsor to help with expenses. Currently the choir is self funded – the members pay a regular subscription. But there is no shortage of new volunteers. “We currently have 8 women and 3 men on our ‘wait list’ – but we keep our choir at the optimal size.”

“Our audiences range in age from grandchildren to great grandparents. Our songs appeal to everyone.” says the official WonderYears publicity officer, Maureen Grogan. “Just because we qualify for a bus pass, it does not mean that we are over the hill”.  She smiles. “Last year we developed a very popular Christmas show and we did several performances of it. But in the end we had to turn down requests to perform it because everyone wanted it!   We are becoming a big success.”

“We have performed at the Hackney Empire and we were in the windows for the Phones 4 U (ad) so we are now getting the recognition we deserve.”  But Dave is quick to point out that committing to about eight concerts a year is ‘right’ for the Chorus. “We are working on 24 numbers for our 2011 our show- and 19 songs are brand new for this season – so each song so has to be learnt and rehearsed.”  He says. “We rehearse each week and expect all of our members to attend all rehearsals. Eight big performances a year is quite an ambitious goal for us.”

Founder and Musical Director of the WonderYears, Dave Thomas was talking to Neil Mach

© Neil Mach 2011

Link:

http://www.wonderyearsrock.com/

The WonderYears will be performing alongside PUBLIC IMAGE LIMITED and others on the GOOD TIME GUIDE STAGE on 17th JULY at GUILFEST 2011

Wokingham Food & Drinks Festival Saturday 27th August

Elton John -Charity Concert at Royal Opera House London

Still Shining A Light

You don’t spin a successful career spanning four decades just by wearing comedy spectacles and high-heeled boots …. Elton John has been at the top of his game for the whole period – as a writer, singer and entertainer.  He may just be a piano player from Pinner, but he is very possibly one of the best showmen that there has ever been.

Elton has been heavily involved in the fight against AIDS since the late 1980s. Since 1992, when he established the Elton John AIDS Foundation, the foundation has raised over $200 million. And in 2010, Elton joined Cyndi Lauper in the launch of her ‘Give a Damn’ campaign to bring a wider awareness of discrimination of the LGBT community as part of her ‘True Colors’ Fund. But less is known of Elton John’s charitable contributions to young musicians and emerging music – but he is an equally generous contributor to young music and the arts and especially to the Royal Academy of Music – in London’s Marylebone, which he attended as a scholar when he was barely 11 years of age. Elton regularly puts on charity concerts for deserving causes, and last year he raised money for a music organ for the Royal Academy of Music. In Jan 2011 he put on another show at the Royal Opera House to raise funds for the organ for the Academy – well it is a ‘really big organ’ he told the audience. (2,921 pipes)

Elton is essentially a ‘one man’ show (though his Royal Academy of Music charity concert featured the much admired percussionist Ray Cooper.) The honky piano and the gospel-chords are played with astonishing power and overwhelming clarity. From standards like ‘Rocket Man’ to ‘Philadelphia Freedom’ we also had some wonderful lesser known (but no less loved)  numbers like ‘Love Lies Bleeding’ and also some very contemporary songs from ‘The Union’ album, his collaborative work with Leon Russell.

A perfectly punctuated ‘Levon’ [Madman Across the Water] allowed Elton to thank his songwriting partner Bernie Taupin (of 44 years) for his friendship and skills. Then we shimmied over some lighter numbers to reach “Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word” from the amazing ‘Blue Moves’ album of 1976.

Probably the most enjoyable song of the night and an all-round winner with the rather posh crowd at this premier venue was the g-g-great song “Bennie and the Jets”. Gigantic slabs of chord were churned out by Elton’s pudgy fingers and the whole sound was punctured, perforated and powdered by the aerobic air-doodling and artistic percussion from Ray.  Naturally, we also enjoyed “Candle in the Wind” and the now ever-present “Your Song”-  which sounds so fresh yet it harkens back to 1970.

Ray first started working with Elton in 1971 on ‘Madman Across the Water’ and joined the ‘Elton John Band’ later that year.  Ray has continued to perform and record with Elton sporadically since then. This ‘piano and percussion’ concert was perfected by the duo in 1994 and they have now played more than 50 distinct performances together.

Elton’s tunes are all accompanied with surprising speed and exhilarating virtuosity, by cascades of sumptuous notes. And I don’t mean tinkly plinkety-plonky notes either.  Elton’s notes are big fat man-sized slugs of sound. Generous slabs of noise. The musical equivalent of a homemade sausage sarnies – made with thick wedges of crusty bread. Big coils of rope to hang a hearty song onto.

And what also surprises you is the amazing clarity of his baritone vocals- especially the seat-shaking low notes. And when these brooding sounds are accompanied by darker, more soulful piano pieces, the effect is very mystical.

Elton John is proud to be able to support the Royal Academy of Music and, just like his musical forefathers Sir Henry Wood and Sir John Barbirolli, he also hopes to  create new audiences and gain recognition for this amazing musical institution.

© Neil_Mach
Jan 2011

Links:

To find out more about the Elton John AIDS foundation click here:  www.ejaf.com

The Royal Academy of Music is internationally recognised as representing the highest values of music and musical society.
Click here to donate:  www.ram.ac.uk/giving

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Arthur Rigby & the Baskervylles Live at The Hobgoblin, Staines

On Saturday night we caught up with the Leeds based orchestral pop band Arthur Rigby & the Baskervylles,  at our fantastic local music venue – The Hobgoblin, Staines.

Ostensibly, this band is simply Ben Hatfield (vocals, guitar) and Alex Pinder (percussion and drums). But the duo employs everything from a six piece setup to a full-on symphony orchestra to add both depth and infinite flavour to their endlessly colourful productions. When I saw the troop at The Hob,  Neil Balfour was on keys adding  texture and classical motifs to the compositions, and Dan added to the beat with a bluesy-sounding bass. Additionally, there was violin from string quartet player Hannah Elizabeth Want and rambunctious trombone from scholar Tom I’Anson, both instruments creating a warmth and a special character to  the broader sounds, adding a rather splendid and luxurious element. These music college graduates have obviously resolved to tip over the apple-cart of the music establishment and add their own cultured and refined twist to the proceedings.

Sometimes leaning towards folk – and at other times rock – but always on the orchestral and mellow side of the tracks, we enjoyed tunes like ‘White Houses’ which starts with imploring bass-baritone lyrics set against a lush accompaniment of ponderously sad notes that plink out from the lonely keys like stained tears dribbling down mossy walls. Feathery imagery is provided by the soft trombone.

Or ‘One Stormy Night’ which exhibits the artistic intentions of the band’s arrangements with soft shimmering guitar echoing across a silvery landscape created by those lush orchestral manoeuvres. Supple lipped vocals accentuate the lyrics as the pace almost imperceptibly picks up and gradually, and evermore gradually, until the song becomes a rock piece, creatively clouded by the classical images that abound.

Arthur Rigby & the Baskervylles have clear electric folk aspirations and the ‘big hitter’ of the night at the Hob was the song ‘Follow’ with that jaunty pony-riding beat and feel good chorus sung in a round. The country fizzy-jig formula was magnified exuberantly by shining violin-play from Hannah and foot tapping percussion from Alex.

Other songs like  ‘Fly Far Away’ have pounding insistent beats and earthy textures whilst others, like ‘Stranger’ are moodier and complex set-pieces.

Bringing to mind Canadian folk rockers ‘Crash Test Dummies’ crossed with 2010 ‘Plastic Beach’ era ‘Gorillaz’ this band is set for stardom. I can easily see them on the world stage collecting themselves a  “Grammy”  in a couple of years time. It brings a tiny tear to my eye- as an ‘oldie’ – because I nostalgically think that Arthur Rigby & the Baskervylles are this year’s answer to that never-sufficiently-praised nor properly lauded English progressive rock band ‘Renaissance’ – albeit with a ‘Brad Roberts’ sounding lead vocalist instead  of the five-octave vocal range of Annie Haslam. But the same eloquence, attention to detail, poetry and classical aspirations are present in the musical treasure-box that Ben and Alex have on offer.

Mind changing, game altering stuff.

© Neil_Mach
February 2011

Link

http://www.myspace.com/arthurrigby

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Anderson / Wakeman – Are They Just Yes-terdays Men?

On the evening of Friday 22nd October I went to see Rick Wakeman and Jon Anderson  [The Anderson-Wakeman Project] at The Anvil, Basingstoke.

I approached this concert with a feeling of some ambivalence. The whole thing about these antique rock treasures being taken out of the old trophy cupboard and dusted down saddens me. I can think of nothing worse than spending an evening fawning over some old has-been who is attempting to rekindle that long extinguished flame one more time.  And all that servile pretentiousness that is expected from the audience. All those fake nostalgic feelings. And all that hushed beatification of the noble rock luvvies – the entire experience tends to bring bile to my lips. If old rockers don’t die gracefully then, at the very least, they should be forced into exile far away – running a trout farm or something. We do not need them to come back every five minutes, trying to hit the high notes, and rambling on about how freaky everything was back in ‘73. It is undignified. And, worse still, it reminds us that we are getting old too. So, no thanks.  If we really want to hear them at their very finest then we can download their stuff onto MP3 can’t we?  We don’t need them to be standing there in the weakly quasi-living flesh, doing their absent-minded best to entertain us in some frail way do we? But, on the other hand, what if they still could still turn on the old magic? What if the gift was still there? What if they could still deliver a sting?  It is so intriguing that it is almost worth taking the risk.  But, frankly,  I was  prepared to be disappointed.

As I sat waiting patiently in the luxurious surroundings of The Anvil I couldn’t help asking myself…  Are Rick and Jon just yesterdays men? Can they still pass muster?  Culture lovers and quality music aficionados around me seemed to be asking the very same question. Then, as the lights went down, a gentle ripple of applause echoed around the venue, and the two venerable rock-gods shuffled onto the simply light stage. Jon was clutching an acoustic guitar and was dressed casually, as if he was popping up the corner shop for a pinta.  Rick strolled over to the two keyboards. And that was it. We were in the presence of two artists who can conjure up sounds, images, textures and sensations from just an old guitar and a couple of keyboards.  It was magical.

It is interesting that Jon is five years older than Rick – because he doesn’t look it.  Aged 66 (to Rick’s 61) he looks like he is in his late forties. The years have not worn away Jon’s elfin features and nor that airy-fairy posture. Neither have they worn down his amazing voice. Naturally higher than tenor, but without extending to falsetto – his voice has a lush mellow sweetness to it. At this  concert he was still perfectly pitched and the nuances of that nutty-brown Lancastrian accent were still abundantly clear. Jon seemed to be completely baffled by the whole experience of getting up on stage with his guitar and putting on a show.  A consistent theme  ( perhaps  deliberately over-emphasised  for dramatic effect ) was that Jon could not remember the text of any of the songs, nor present a concise introduction to the pieces. In fact, it seemed likely that he didn’t even know what day it was. But the audience seemed perfectly happy to let this go by, and the songs were gorgeously inspiring and wondrously created.

Rick has now become a minor celebrity outside his rock persona for being one of the regular ‘Grumpy Old Men.’ He is also an admired DJ on Planet Rock. As far as I am concerned he can never do wrong, not just because of his keyboard work for ‘Yes’ but also because of his incredible contributions to such famous songs as Bowie’s “Life on Mars?” and Cat Stevens’ re-working of the school assembly hymn “Morning Has Broken.”     I first encountered Rick’s virtuosity on ‘The Strawbs’  ‘From the Witchwood’ album (1971) and I commend to you the track “The Hangman and the Papist”.  I advise you give that a listen, to understand why I was completely blown-away by his spectacular artistry. In the Anderson-Wakeman Project,  Rick keeps things simple. Just two keyboards and a laid-back gentle attitude. Only once or twice did we experience the true greatness and extraordinary rendition of this amazing player.  And at those times he stooped over the keys like a mad praying mantis – a look of deadly concentration upon his face – as his fingers flashed out, like a predator, to take the ivories.

Rick seems, upon the surface, to be ‘of sound mind’ and the more lucid of the partnership. But it is quite clear that he adds depth and magic to the mythical and emotional dimensions of Jon’s characteristically surreal pieces- like those old favourites “I’ve Seen All Good People” and “Yours Is No Disgrace”. He is perfectly at ease in translating what seem like the ‘ramblings’ of  an imaginative mind, and turning that jamboree-bag of Jon’s thoughts into real commodities, containing sound and light. These two are a perfect creative partnership. This became even clearer as the new songs emerged from ‘The Living Tree’  and during the “Recital Part” of the show, (as Jon called it.)

Constant humorous interludes and witty interjections from the pair helped enliven the show and added a welcome lightness. Not only were these anecdotes entertaining, they were also inciteful.  According to Jon the two partners collaborate together using email and text – Rick lives in the UK whilst Jon lives in the U.S.A.   So when one has an idea, he urgently emails the other to put across the musical concept. Jon told us how he was grappling with the ideas behind ‘The Living Tree’ and he told us how he had come up with the idea after he had ‘Just come in from the garden… and trees and plants were on my mind ….  I had to contact Rick right away with my thoughts’. Rick added “It’s a good job, then, that you hadn’t just come in from the loo!”   An another occasion Jon was speaking passionately and fervently about the theme of love and how people do not love themselves enough – loving each other has to start somwhere and it ought to start with loving ones self.  Rick interjected ‘ I used to love myself …. a whole lot …. back when I was fourteen – until my dad told me to stop because it would make me go blind’.

Another interesting anecdote was shared with the audience when Jon explained how he had come up with the idea for “Roundabout” [from the 1971 Yes album Fragile ].  ‘In and around the lake – mountains come out of the sky – one mile we’ll be there and see you…’ According to Jon, the band were herded into a van to make a difficult return journey from northern Scotland back to the north of England in time for the next concert. The journey seemed to ‘go on for ever’ and the most annoying parts were the ‘roundabouts’ (circular road junctions) “I remember there seemed to be hundreds of roundabouts on the way back, and at each roundabout there was a traffic hold up – I thought we would never get to our destination.” But the icy lakes and the occasional glimpses of mountains squeezing through the cloud, helped Jon to pass the time and paint a pretty potent lyric.

The purpose of prog rock is to create an imaginary world. To move beyond what is commonplace. To travel through space and time, and reality. To represent textures, sounds and ambiguous ideas in the forms and nuances of light and shadow that make life a dream and reality a memory.

You might like your rock to be earthy and raw. You might need it to be unblemished and simple to digest at times.  But if, like me, you want to leave this tawdry planet every now-and-again and fly off in a paper glider towards those Topographic Oceans then you need bands like ‘Yes’ ( or ‘Porcupine Tree’ and ‘Spock’s Beard’ or ‘Rush’ ) and you need artists like Jon and Rick to help you break the bonds of your existence so that you can float gently away.

In the Anderson-Wakeman Project tour, Rick and Jon have managed to cut down on flamboyances, cut away excesses and shortened the conceited sojourns and the interminable jazz odysseys. This is stark, almost nude, Progressive Rock. Not quite unplugged, but almost. And without the pomposity and the over inflated egos, the audience were left with some simply attractive, carefully crafted, rock pieces. Put together with heart and soul. Yes, the lyrics are in bloom, and you need your thinking-cap on to make the most of it. But for sheer joyous escape, and flight to a better world, there is nothing better than sharing some time with Rick and Jon. I was not disappointed.

© Neil_Mach
October 2010

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The Anderson/Wakeman Project 360 Tour continues through November culminating in a visit to London’s Indigo at the O2  on 15 Nov

Monday, November 01, 2010      Colston Hall
Bristol

Tuesday, November 02, 2010     Cliffs Pavilion
Southend

Saturday, November 06, 2010     Playhouse
Edinburgh

Sunday, November 07, 2010     Concert Hall
Perth

Monday, November 08, 2010     The Sage
Gateshead

Thursday, November 11, 2010     Palace Theatre
Manchester

Friday, November 12, 2010     The Corn Exchange
Ipswich

Monday, November 15, 2010     indigo2 at the O2
London

Paul Saxby at The Hobgoblin, Staines – May 23

I once heard Zakk Wylde  ( with Nick Catanese)  play a stripped down acoustic version of the BLS hit “Stillborn” and this memory kept haunting me as I watched Paul Saxby play at The Hob Staines. Yeah, OK, the string-work doesn’t quite compare, but you really get the feeling that these two rock hounds share the same experiences of anguish and despair. And they seem to share a secret desire to just get up off the stool and belt the hell out of a song – preferably with a huge and thunderous backline.

Moping about in the low chords- “Why Can’t We Just Get Along?” Because we’re programmed to function- sings Paul and you know where his heart is at. This song can be seen as mournful but it also chugs along with a ‘proper’ rock riff and shrugs its shoulders at any folk aspirations. And Paul’s big number is ‘Social Casualty’ – a buzzingly busy beat-pop song with a catchy and memorable chorus that makes the most of the time it spends  in your head by burning deep into your synapses.

The good looking and cheerful Staines crowd also loved the excellent howling cover of “Seven Nation Army”. And whilst we are on the subject of the ‘White Stripes’ it is worth mentioning that Paul pays more than a passing resemblance to Mr Jack White.

Sometimes an array of vocal effects tends to hide the size and character of shiny supple voiced Paul, but nevertheless the results are often moving, always interesting, never corrupted.  Paul uses his expressive voice to interrogate social ideas and his voice has an appealing edge against the contrasting tonal sounds picked up by his acoustic guitar.  Climaxes are often fought over and cried for, a sense of audacity pervades every movement and composition. The performance was neatly concluded with a respectable version of the first success story in the  ‘folk rock’  annals,  “The House of the Rising Sun.”

Paul Saxby is a versatile and an uncommonly appealing singer of songs. Highly recommended.

© Neil_Mach
May 2010

Link:

http://www.myspace.com/paulsaxbyofficial

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Mostly Autumn – O2 Shepherds Bush Empire

Sadness sells.  Just think of the dirges- (“To Live is to Die” by Metallica) the elegies (Elegie, Patti Smith) and the requiems ( Verdi’s Requiem).  Dark timbres, moody textures, melancholy notes, slow movements,  sometimes painful yet always perfectly rendered visual images – these all contribute to expressing the emotion of sadness.

Mostly Autumn know that sadness sells. They know that a walk around a lake in Cumbria is likely to fill you with a kind of joyful sadness. It is that bittersweet release that makes it so poignant. Autumn seasons are sad. The vitality and new life of spring is over. The fullness and maturity of summer is all gone. Only a future of darkness and cold is to be seen. Autumn is the saddest month because things are no more. Nor have just begun. We compare the seasons for the duration of our lives, so the ‘autumn of our  life’ can be seen as a golden age at the end of a prosperous and fruitful time, but can also be seen as harbinger of the dark days, the decline and death.

So Mostly Autumn gently turn their sweet yet mournful songs into exquisite symphonies of majesty and power for the crowd at the O2 Shepherd’s Bush.  ‘Marcia Brady’ looking golden-haired beauty Olivia Sparnenn (also ‘Breathing Space’) now ‘fronts’ the band and looks like a radiant angel in her white smock over tight black pants and long boots. She has the same kind of range and power as Christine McVie and delights with her soaring voice. Upon the stage it seems as if she can talk to the spirits (within some kind of trance) and at times I could make out what sounded very much like Sigur Rós-type ‘singing in tongues’. Maybe it is the Jórvík in her!

Big man Bryan Josh is the big daddy of the outfit. He is very much the “auteur” and director of the show -although the band probably says that it is a matter of cooperation. You get the feeling, though, that this giant haystack of a man, with his thick rubbery lead-guitar solos and thumping, crashing chords is the power-house of the band. Near to him were Andy Smith – Bass Guitars and  Gavin Griffiths – Drums – stirring up one hell of a wasp-nest of excitement and dangerous fury. On the other side of the stage were the combined talents of Iain Jennings and Anne-Marie Helder on those luscious keyboards.

Ann-Marie also played the haunting flute pieces (so reminiscent of The Moody Blues) and also came ‘out front’ for the odd ditty and jig, when the time was appropriate. Liam Davison also provided a ranging mix of guitar sounds.  All-in-all this was a big sound from a very big band- almost an orchestra – both in dimension and aspiration .

One of my favourite pieces (and you must think of the work of Mostly Autumn as ‘pieces’ in the classical sense) is “Dreaming” from the 2007 album ‘Heart Full of Sky’.  It has to be said that this has an annoying euro-pop almost Abba-esque sound to the  chorus bit it is the verse that I most enjoy – very reminiscent of May’s “The Prophet’s Song”  off  of Queen’s 1975 album ‘A Night at the Opera’.  Like many Mostly Autumn pieces, it has that evocative thin slice of spine tingling lead guitar in the middle. The focus of this perfect composition is a duet by Anne-Marie and Olivia, before returning to the lively chug of the verse. A very accomplished composition.

Many fans were saddened by Heather Findlay’s autumn departure from the band but I think that Olivia is a worthy and valuable replacement and she deserves her place at the front. She holds the fragile hearts of the audience gently and compassionately in her expressive hands, as the finale to the show – the crowd pleasing ‘Stairway to Heaven’ type masterpiece ‘Evergreen’ –  is teasingly unravelled for all to behold. This is an epic song full of grace and charm.

And maybe Heather knows what it’s like to be Evergreen ….

Oh, a little sadness . . .  but sadness sells well.  And I am sold.

© Neil_Mach
May 2010

Link:

http://www.myspace.com/mostlyautumnband