Mostly Autumn

Trillians, Newcastle

7 April 2004

Mostly Autumn have a problem. Though a young band, they are 30 years out of fashion and they don't have a convenient gimmick to attract media attention. All they have is a set of beautiful, melodic, rock songs, flawless performances, and a warm and intimate stage chemistry. And that's why they've spent the last six years playing Trillians-sized venues and struggling for any real recognition.

And it's why they are justifiably proud to announce that tonight's gig is a warm-up for their appearance at Newcastle's Tyne Theatre next month. It's taken six years of hard slog but Mostly Autumn are relentlessly expanding their fan base. A fan base that, like tonight's crowd, is composed mainly of thirty- and forty-something rockers who had given up hope of finding a new band playing "our" style of music. Forget the hype given to certain other bands, it's Mostly Autumn that are the carrying the torch for real British rock music. With influences that range from Pink Floyd to Fleetwood Mac to Fairport Convention, Mostly Autumn are delivering a style of music that that the mainstream just isn't interested in these days.

Mostly Autumn is a seven-piece band, something of a nightmare on Trillians' tiny stage, and they have a mix of instruments that threatens to defeat the club's sound system. Lead vocals alternate between Heather Findlay (a beautiful voice with a range and power that frankly puts any modern chart act to shame) and Bryan Josh (with a vocal delivey reminiscent of David Gilmour). Bryan also handles lead guitar, with a powerful, virtuoso style sitting somewhere between Gilmour and Ritchie Blackmore. Second guitar and backing vocals are provided by Liam Davison, quietly competent at the back, and Heather adds a third guitar on the songs that need it. Organ, piano, synthesisers, and additional backing vocals come from Iain Jennings, a man with so much kit that it overflows the stage and has to be set up on the adjacent floor space. Angela Goldthorpe plays flute, additional keyboards, and adds yet another layer of harmony vocals. Finally, the sound is reinforced by Andy Smith on bass and new drummer Andrew Jennings, a duo who really drive the rock songs but also know when to shut up for the softer material. Are you starting to get an idea of how intricate Mostly Autumn's compositions are yet? And I haven't even mentioned the recorders and whistles that give a folky edge to some of the songs, or the way that both guitar players switch effortlessly from electric to acoustic, often in the course of a single song. Mostly Autumn offer a rich, ever-changing blend of sounds and styles that ensures no song ever sounds like the one before it.

But all this talk of instrumental virtuosity hides what is perhaps the band's greatest strength: their lyrics, which deal with themes of nature, life, love, and loss — moving, heartfelt lyrics which reach out and connect with their audience on an emotional level. Whether it's a song of despair and hope (The Last Bright Light), Heather's personal "confidence builder" (Shrinking Violet), Bryan's tribute to his late father (the epic Heroes Never Die), or thoughts on birth (Another Life) and death (Answer the Question), every song carries a message. No throw-away, bubble-gum pop here.

Tonight's set lasts almost two hours and is drawn heavily from their latest album Passengers but includes favourites from each of their earlier albums and a scattering of songs they haven't attempted live before this tour. The audience is full of die-hard fans who greet each song with cheers of recognition and can sing along with every word. There's a sense of mutual love and respect flowing between stage and audience, as the band is treated to the typically exuberant and welcoming Trillians atmosphere.

With no disrespect to Trillians, Mostly Autumn really need to outgrow this class of venue. Their music almost demands a hall with a big sound system where you can sit in comfort and absorb the beauty of the songs.

And if the Tyne Theatre isn't full to capacity next month with people doing just that, there is no justice in the world.