Review by David Waterfield and photos by Russ Powney
Following a powerful and emotional performance at last month’s Cambridge Rock Festival which celebrated the band’s past, Sunday night at the Robin2 saw Mostly Autumn looking to the future as they unveiled tracks from their latest album The Ghost Moon Orchestra. Although it’s unmistakably a Mostly Autumn album, The Ghost Moon Orchestra marks something of a shift in direction for the band towards a heavier and at times more symphonic sound.
The band spring several musical surprises throughout the evening but they begin their set in familiar fashion with the evocative instrumental ‘Distant Train’ before launching into the opening track from the new album, ‘Unquiet Tears’. The song is as dramatic an album opener as you could wish for and it set the mood for the evening. It came across brilliantly live. Underscored by Iain Jennings haunting keyboard melody and featuring soaring vocals from Olivia Sparnenn. A noticeably heavier version of ‘Never The Rainbow’ was followed by the surprise inclusion of ‘Changing Fast’, a song only available on the limited edition of the new album on a bonus disc entitled A Weather For Poets. For me the song came to life performed live and it had much greater power and vibrancy than its studio counterpart. Of the other new tracks the ethereal ‘Tennyson Mansion’ was a standout, as was ‘Wild Eyed Skies’ which featured a terrific vocal from Olivia Sparnenn.
It is heartening to see Iain Jennings playing a more prominent role in Mostly Autumn. He makes a significant contribution to ‘The Ghost Moon Orchestra’ and it’s worth noting too that the evening’s set list contained six songs that he either wrote or co-wrote. Olivia Sparnenn is continuing to flourish in her role fronting the band. She handles classic Mostly Autumn songs such as ‘Evergreen’ and ‘Passengers’ beautifully but it is on the newer material, written to suit her voice that she truly shines. A special mention too has to go to Anne Marie Helder. Although she fronts her own band (Panic Room) she plays a supportive role here; providing beautiful harmony parts to compliment Olivia Sparnenn, understated flute and keyboards that add depth and colour to Mostly Autumn’s sound, in addition to a gorgeous flute solo during ‘The Last Climb’. Bryan Josh was on imperious form throughout and never more so than on set closer ‘Questioning Eyes’. The performance on the night was simply immense – powered by the dynamic rhythm section of Gav Griffiths, Andy Smith and Liam Davison and crowned by Olivia’s passionate, heartfelt vocals. Wonderful. The encore was ‘Heroes Never Die’ followed, surprisingly, by another new song ‘Tonight’ (from ‘A Weather For Poets’) which ended the evening on a mellower note.
The Ghost Moon Orchestra represents a new chapter in the life of Mostly Autumn. For me they remain a great band making quality music. Their return to the Robin2 in December for their Christmas Show should be something to savour.
Set List: Distant Train/Unquiet Tears/King Of The Valley/Never The Rainbow/Changing Fast/Evergreen/Ice/The Dark Before The Dawn/Drops Of The Sun/The Devil And The Orchestra/Passengers/The Last Climb/Tennyson Mansion/Wild Eyed Skies/The Last Bright Light/Questioning Eyes
Encore: Heroes Never Die/Tonight
And you can see more shots from the show here: