Image © Classic Rock Productions 2004
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Spring 2004 Tour, Index
Image © Stephen Lambe 2004
(15 September 2004) As described elsewhere on Musical Discoveries, the "V" audio-visual concerts during spring 2004 were a significant step forward for Mostly Autumn, taking their visual presentation and popularity to new heights. The shows were originally planned to showcase the band's next full length album, but alas, insufficient time was available to prepare new material so the shows were positioned with enhanced visuals to accompany material already in the band's catalog. The Astoria concert in Central London--from which this double DVD and bookhave been taken--was a distracting occasion for a variety of reasons, but this visual representation is certainly a very welcome reminder of the evening.
Mostly Autumn's The V Shows is a two disc DVD collectors' edition (Classic Rock Productions (UK), 2004) available both in PAL and NTSC formats. The package itself is similar to the near-perfect Live at York Opera House DVD (review) from 2003, given a sumptuous hardback book style cover and a 64-page booklet inside, written by Jerry Bloom, the editor of Autumn LeavesMostly Autumn's quarterly magazine. Though hardly essential, this is decent stuff, and the reproduction of Chris Walkden's excellent photographs is decent rather than spectacular. Much care has been taken with sound formats with versions in Dolby Digital, Dolby Surround and DTS, all the instruments are distinct and the string quartet is very effectively used in the sound balance, however the overall mix comes across as rather dry. Sadly, there are no other extras on either of the two discs, which, when considering the steep retail price and the relatively brief running time of this two DVD package, is disappointing.
Disc one presents the entire first set on the night, a performance of the Passengers album in its entirety, while disc two features the second set, a delve into the bands back catalogue--and a surprising but effective cover version of the Genesis song "Afterglow." The visual presentation is very effective. Closeups--particularly of Brian Josh and Heather Findlay--make for added intimacy, and the visual elements of the show, particularly the lasers, come off particularly well. Better, in fact, than the experience of being there. However, the whole set up still seems a little over the top. Having seen Marillion's Marbles tour a couple of times in recent weeks, plus Steve Hackett's live show, it is amazing to see how effective subtle lighting techniques–-the use of back lighting, strobes and near darkness--can be. The Mostly Autumn “V” show was about sheer numbers of lights and lasers. Not necessary, in our view, though the lasers were certainly more effective at the subsequent Wulfrun Hall concert.
In retrospect, it's not entirely clear whether playing the Passengers album in its entirety, albeit in a revised order, works, though the band have to take credit for giving it a go. This could simply be because there is no specific reason to play the album back to back--it is a magnificent recording, but despite some loose lyrical themes, the album does not have an overall concept strong enough to give any real point to playing it in that manner. The result is a slightly stilted performance--excellent in the main, but many of the songs will have been performed better elsewhere. That said, "Pass the Clock" benefits, once again from Troy Donockley's Uilleann pipe playing, and it is also good to see some of the rarely performed songs, like "Pure White Light" and "Bitterness Burnt" get an outing."Somewhere in Between" and "Simple Ways" have both improved considerably in concert, to the extent that they are now part of the regular live set. Bryan Josh's singing sounds rather forced and nervous, though, thankfully, Heather Findlay is on great vocal form.
On Disc two, the band revisits some of their more popular older songs, and they, not to mention the big Astoria crowd, seem more relaxed. Bryan singing is much improved, and the band really kicks into life. The version of "The Night Sky" is essential viewing, with Troy’s virtuosity in Low Whistle and Pipes adding emotion and atmosphere. "Evergreen" and "Heroes Never Die," in particular, are both played with huge passion and confidence, as is the long version of "Mother Nature." The aforementioned "Afterglow" rounds things off beautifully--an emotional rather than musically flawless version, but very welcome. A special mention should go to new drummer Andrew Jennings who gives a performance of supreme competence after a remarkably short time with the band. The accompanying book explains his background well.
As an introduction to the band, the emotionally charged York DVD remains our recommendation. However, fans of Mostly Autumn should buy this in the full knowledge that the content is not perfect, but, like The Story So Far DVD, it marks another important stage in a superb band's evolution, and remains fascinating viewing.--Stephen Lambe in Cheltenham and Russ Elliot in New York