Concert Review Archive


Mostly Autumn

Saturday, 3rd December 2016
Cultuurpodium Boerderij, Zoetermeer, the Netherlands

Article and photos by Theo Verstrael

On their website Mostly Autumn announced that the forthcoming show in De Boerderij in Zoetermeer would become a special one. As they are building up a nice tradition to frequent their favourite Dutch venue at least once a year in December everybody expected another nice Christmas party.

Mostly Autumn

Mostly Autumn

Well, we did get that but that was actually the least of the many surprises that Bryan Josh and his band had brought along for us.

At exactly half past eight the band took the stage to start their set of songs that inspired the individual members of the band, as Bryan Josh explained to the eager audience that nicely filled the venue. Of course we then knew that there would be some Pink Floyd and the first song proved us right. Us and them opened this part of the evening and although this is a rather slow and mellow song, it worked perfectly to feed the anticipation of the audience.

That was also because we became aware of three surprises in the band. First of all there was the return of Angela Gordon, member from the beginning but on maternity leave since 2008, to play keys and flute and do a lot of backing vocals.

Apparently Anne-Marie Helder was too busy with her own band Panic Room; she couldn't have wished for a better replacement! Furthermore Chris Johnson was taking up guitar duties and vocals instead of long-time member Liam Davison while Chris Backhouse played saxophone on a couple of tunes, adding a new sound to the already varied MA-music. What would it bring us all?

Mostly Autumn Well, I think nobody really expected that after the mellowness of Us and them Josh would start a thundering Rock n roll (of Led Zeppelin fame) with Olivia Sparnenn bravely taking up the intensive lead vocals. That was followed by a Fairport Convention cover beautifully sung by Angela Gordon proving she can sing very well as lead vocalist!

Classic songs by Neil Young (a thunderous Like a hurricane, just as it was meant to sound), Radiohead (Fake plastic trees) and an intricate Take the long way home with lead vocals by Chris Johnson and tenor sax by Chris Backhouse, took us to many different spheres.

A loud and intense version of All by myself from Eric Carmen followed which was quite a surprise too as that song is regarded by many, including myself, as too poppy, too cheesy.

But not in this version in which Olivia sang her heart out which served the song well. It proved to be a warming up for a fantastic rendition of A great gig in the sky in which she showed again how good she is as lead vocalist; clear on voice, powerful and with an amazing range in tones. She keeps growing in her role, seems to be more confident as ever and is constantly exchanging warm gestures and smiles with the audience as well as with the band. She has become a very important asset for Mostly Autumn and definitely not only as Josh' wife.

Mostly Autumn

Mostly Autumn

The closing song of this set was, not very surprising, Comfortably numb which gave Josh on lead guitar, Andy Smith on bass and Alex Cromarty on drums their chance to excel.

When as we expected to go for a break Chris Johnson brought two mics to the stage after which Bryan Josh asked the audience to help Chris on a new song for the forthcoming Mostly Autumn album Slight of day. A big choir was needed to sing some lines both very loudly and very softly, enabling to create a spooky atmosphere in the song. Of course we stayed on and hopefully behaved as expected. At least both Josh and Johnson seemed delighted with the result; we'll wait and listen!

After the short break a long set of Mostly Autumns songs followed, starting off with again a surprise. Angela Gordon on flute, Iain Jennings on keys and bass player Andy Smith started off with Out of the inn, one of those fantastic folky tunes that were a Mostly Autumn trademark on their first albums but alas almost disappeared from the albums and gigs with the departure of Gordon from the band. Now it made an unexpected return and was welcome warmly by the cheering crowd.

Mostly Autumn

Mostly Autumn
It was followed by a nice tune I didn't recognize but that turned out to be a song from the Josh & Co album Transylvania - part I. Through Answer the question we stumbled into recent work with songs from Go well diamond heart, The ghost moon orchestra and their most recent album Dressed in voices.

The three songs from the latter were played very well, especially the title track, and impressed me far more than on record. And again there was a surprise because they also played Silhouettes of stolen ghosts from the bonus cd of that album, a beautiful ballad that probably should have been part of the original album.

Further on Silver glass was played, a Chris Johnson song from the Heart full of sky album that had not been played since the tour that accompanied that album, at least not that I know and I've seen them many times since! Oldies like Mother Nature and Passengers were also included in the varied set.

So little was to be wished to make this a memorable evening and even that materialized. Mostly Autumn has this peculiarity to write their most impressive music when dedicating a song to a loved one that passed away. Of course that counts for Heroes never die, written to commemorate Josh' father and a live favourite for many years, now played as the first song of the encore.

Mostly Autumn

Questioning eyes is another of those moving songs, written by Sparnenn and Jennings as a tribute to her deceased father. That song has everything that makes this band great: a quiet keys intro, acoustic guitar, beautiful vocal lines, melodious harmony vocals in the chorus, pumping bass and drums and a thunderous guitar solo at the end. That song closed the main set and appealed to all to call for more. As we were all aware that the band had a very good time again we got more.

This traditional December gig was scheduled quite early this time; The Netherlands were still busy with their other December tradition, Sinterklaas, instead of preparing for Christmas.

But that didn't prevent the band from taking along their usual Christmas paraphernalia to enlighten the atmosphere. And again it worked, simply because you can't stay serious when looking at the usually concentrated Iain Jennings wearing his totally ridiculous reindeer antlers with a very big smile.

Add to this that Bryan Josh behaved like Benny Hill (his own words!) when he spilled some of his gigantic beer on the stage floor and ordered Olivia to clean up (so that's how things are organised back home in Yorkshire...) and the surprising choice of Chris de Burgh's A spaceman came travelling sung by Chris Johnson and you will realise that it was again a big party during the closing song of the evening, The Pogues Fairytale of New York.

Mostly Autumn

Another great evening with Mostly Autumn ended there, after more than 3 hours and 28 (!) songs with absolutely great music by a formidable band. We'll all be looking forward to next December!


Us and them (Pink Floyd cover)
Rock and Roll (Led Zeppelin cover)
Who knows where the time goes? (Fairport Convention cover)
Like a Hurricane (Neil Young cover)
Fake plastic trees (Radiohead cover)
Take the long way home (Supertramp cover)
All by myself (Eric Carmen cover)
The great gig in the sky (Pink Floyd cover)
Comfortably Numb (Pink Floyd cover)

Out of the inn
In for the bite (Josh & Co. Limited cover)
Answer the question
Drops of the sun
Skin on skin
Deep in Borrowdale
Wild eyed skies
Silhouettes of stolen ghosts
Silver glass
Mother Nature
The house on the hill
Dressed in voices
The spirit of autumn past Pt 2
Questioning eyes (Breathing Space cover)

Heroes never die
I Believe in Father Christmas (Emerson, Lake & Palmer cover)
A spaceman came travelling (Chris de Burgh cover)
Fairytale of New York (The Pogues cover)

Mostly Autumn Official Website

Cultuurpodium Boerderij


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