Well, not exactly.
Apologies to both Smiths fans and republicans but this isn’t really for you people.
Instead, it is a review of Mostly Autumn last night (i.e 10th April) at the Gloucester Guildhall.
It was the first gig after lead singer of 13 years standing Heather Findlay had left the band, hence “the Queen” bit. Former backing singer Olivia Sparnenn has stepped forward into the limelight as the lead female foil to singer, writer and lead guitarist Bryan Josh.
Well, can she kick it?
Yes, she can.
Olivia has what it takes to be a great front for the band, she looks good, she moves well and she can sing. She has a really strong rock chick sensibility with a bit of ice maiden cool as well. I think she needs to grow into the role a bit more, but she did fine.
The band split their set into two parts and the first part kicked off well, the sound seemed a bit harder and more rocky than when I saw them last year, bass and drums well to the fore in the mix and a lot of David Gilmouresque guitar from Bryan. I definitely enjoyed the first half a lot, good dynamics. I enjoyed a short section where second guitar player Liam Davison had a chance to step forward and do some serious plank spanking himself. I’d say that away from the stage he listens to a fair amount of Robert Fripp, there was an element of Frippertronic soundscapes and lots of sustain in his playing. Well, if he listens to Fripp, that is all to the good in my book. It made a nice piece of light and shade from Bryan’s Floydian style. I’d maybe like to see more of the inter-play in the future, it would widen the band’s sound out.
Now, here is probably my quibble about last night. The second half of the show wasn’t as gripping as the first and I think that I understand the reason I’m saying that.
Understandably, when Heather left the band they chose to drop songs that were associated strongly with her, a wise move overall, because Olivia needs to establish herself in her own right, not just as someone stepping into the previous singer’s shoes.
The problem is, I think, that what is left with the material is all too similar. Lots of mid-tempo epic sounding rock ballads with not hugely dissimilar guitar crescendoes and Wall period Gilmour-style solos. This is all well and good, but it tends to blur together a bit, Heather had different songs, a bit of lightness and some variation. OK, it is early days yet, time to work on new stuff, so maybe I shouldn’t criticise too much.
Two things strike me though, things that are lacking and which add a dynamic to music; key changes and different time signatures.
I’d really like to see them move away from the often plodding mid-tempo 4/4 stuff, get some jazzy stylings in there and make more of the possibilities of two keyboard players. I’d also love to hear a few songs have those stadium rock moments where the song changes key for a chorus or a middle eight or a solo.
I’m not suggesting ripping off the Diane Warren songbook here, but a key change can really put a kick up the arse into a song, as can the shift from minor to major just when the solo starts. Transposing up helps too. It is all about the dynamic.
Don’t get me wrong here, I like Mostly Autumn and Bryan is a good guitarist, I just think that parts of the second set last night were too samey.
Anyway, they finished strongly and I think that Olivia is going to be a good front for them in the future.
More photos of the gig can be found here