Mostly Autumn at Islington Academy, London - live review

Mostly Autumn stylishly debut Sight Of Day live in London

Mostly Autumn performing on stage in London
(Image: © Will Ireland)

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With a chill in the air and drizzle hanging over the city, summer is definitely heading for the exit tonight as Mostly Autumn return to London for a mammoth two-part, three-hour show. The opening set sees the band play their latest album, Sight Of Day, in full.

“It’s the first time we’ve had a go at that!” announces guitarist Bryan Josh after they successfully navigate the epic title track, and there’s a sense that several of these new songs have yet to become muscle memory. In some cases that lends the proceedings a certain frisson as the musicians are at their most focused, but it does mean that some tracks sound a little stiff and self-conscious.

The septet temporarily become a quartet for the stripped-back The Man Without A Name, providing a showcase for the lofty tones of Olivia Sparnenn-Josh.

Tackling an album in full means taking the highs with the lows, and Hammerdown plods along without raising the pulse. Fortunately, that’s followed by Changing Lives, one of only two songs where guitarist Chris Johnson takes the lead vocal. Mostly Autumn might be missing a trick here as Johnson is a strong singer, and Changing Lives has an alternative rock vibe that really lifts the room’s energy.

Only The Brave has a mighty stomp that blends Big Country and Thin Lizzy with Jethro Tull. Native Spirit is an odd one – it’s loaded with drama, featuring a ripping Josh guitar solo and wicked drumming from Alex Cromarty, but when Josh starts singing ‘Give me Indians’, you have to wonder what the hell he’s on about. Anthrax’s Native American anthem Indians this is not.

The first set reaches its crescendo with Forever And Beyond, then there’s a short interval before the band delve into the back catalogue for the remainder of the evening. With a sweet but all too short drum solo from Cromarty and a massive jam at the end, Skin On Skin suggests Led Zeppelin in both folk and rock modes, although Josh and Sparnenn struggle to blend their very different voices.

Evergreen boasts another tasty lead workout from Josh and it’s clear the players feel more confident and comfortable with the older material. Silhouettes Of Stolen Ghosts is played as a duet between Sparnenn, in very fine voice, and Iain Jennings on keys, before Johnson returns to the spotlight for the Pink Floyd vibes of Silver Glass.

The band encore with Heroes Never Die, by which point they’ve been playing for almost three hours, and those who’ve lasted the distance – presumably the punters without trains to catch – are left thoroughly sated. Autumn arrives in style.

David West

After starting his writing career covering the unforgiving world of MMA, David moved into music journalism at Rhythm magazine, interviewing legends of the drum kit including Ginger Baker and Neil Peart. A regular contributor to Prog, he’s written for Metal Hammer, The Blues, Country Music Magazine and more. The author of Chasing Dragons: An Introduction To The Martial Arts Film, David shares his thoughts on kung fu movies in essays and videos for 88 Films, Arrow Films, and Eureka Entertainment. He firmly believes Steely Dan’s Reelin’ In The Years is the tuniest tune ever tuned.