It’s now 20 years since Bryan Josh founded Mostly Autumn, and they seem to have recorded a live album every other year during that time.
This latest release is a rendition of last year’s Dressed In Voices performed in full. While for some bands this might be regarded as an unnecessary indulgence, Mostly Autumn’s sound doesn’t half lend itself to the expansive sonic landscape of the live arena. Somehow the live stage seems to make the dramatic dynamics of their songs all the more pronounced. When Saturday Night‘s midnight piano creeps in, followed by the orchestrally swollen swathes of symphonic rock riffs, you’re already gripped. Then Josh’s weary appeal to the heavens, ‘Just where I gooo,’ and Olivia’s Sparnenn’s opera- tinged insistence that something spooky is afoot ‘under city lights’ sweep you right off your feet. The tale climaxes as ‘the bullets ripped, running for their lives’, and we segue into the despondent piano lament of Not Yours To Take, before that too bubbles up into a more passionate, indignant anti-love song.
Since the departure of original singer Heather Findlay five years ago, Sparnenn has proved a charismatic replacement. But as ever, it’s the songs that are the real star of Mostly Autumn’s show. They have matured considerably over the years, and this performance highlights some of the more inventive arrangements they’re dressed in. A dramatic high-water mark comes with Home, but it’s all the more unexpected after its darkly austere introduction, as ship-funnel synthetic bass churns the low-end frequencies while Josh contemplates, ‘This is my wife, these are our children.’ Chinks of light are then allowed in via a gently uplifting organ line, before his bottled-up emotion bursts out: ‘You are still my best friend, you are still my brother, you are still my sister, this is where the blood goes.’ And later: ‘Mama don’t you die inside, daddy hold my hand, don’t you ever let go, so I can go home.’ Powerful stuff. First Day At School is a more delicate slice of balladeering, walking a line between hurt and redemption like a marginally more optimistic take on Pink Floyd’s The Final Cut. But as the urgent crescendo of Last Day proves, they’re still as good at doing windswept symphonic rock anthems as anyone, while Josh’s cloud-bursting guitar solos shoot for the stars as Running’s desperate, edge-of-panic chorus hits top speed. All told, then, it’s another impressive showcase for one of those perennially underrated, under-noticed bands that the prog scene so often finds a home for. Better still, though, they’re doing dates around the country till the end of the year – why not experience all this in the flesh?