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Mostly Autumn – The V Shows (DVD Review)

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This eccentric marriage of progressive rock and folk music, or "prog-folk", was first hinted at back in the late 60’s and early 70’s by such bands as Traffic, the Strawbs, and most obviously Jethro Tull, especially during their Songs From The Woods and Heavy Horses period. Many fans of this style consider England’s Mostly Autumn to be the current torch bearers of the genre, although they impressed me more as a very good Pink Floyd tribute. Band founder Bryan Josh is a dead ringer for David Gilmour in both the guitar and vocal departments, and they even recently put out a DVD called Pink Floyd Revisited. But just when you start to get too comfy with this groove, Angela Goldthorpe infuses the mix with some delightful flute and whistle flourishes, and the enchanting Heather Findlay captures your attention with her warm voice and rhythmic tambourine beats. This is when you can put all comparisons aside and simply appreciate them as Mostly Autumn.

This mix of Celtic-folk and spacious, progressive-rock might sound like an odd mix, but this stuff is a pleasure to digest. Findlay’s vocals have both the subtlety of a Kate Bush and the power of an Ann Wilson, but reminded me most of Andrea Corr from Irish pop band The Corrs. Her alluring stage persona harkens back to a young, Rumours-era Stevie Nicks, with all of the flowing robes, endless scarves, flowery hats, and other hippy regalia.

The V Shows was recorded on May 8th, 2004 at London’s Astoria Theatre. This version is the single disk edition, but there is also a two-disk special edition available that includes their entire performance that night. The show starts off with seven songs from Mostly Autumn‘s most recent album at the time, Passengers, which was released in 2003. Passengers finds the band really striving to forge their own identity as they leave much of their folk and Floyd influences behind and go forth in a more straightforward rock direction. This will hardly be noticed by the more recent fans like myself, as the Celtic influences still dominate this lush progressive stew.

"Something In Between" is my favorite song from Passengers and the band wisely opens the show with it. Immediately you are captivated by Findlay’s beautiful voice and equally stunning appearance. She is a breath of fresh air in the mostly male dominated world of progressive-rock. The Regent String Quartet joins the seven core members of the band onstage to give them a very rich sound. Although Bryan Josh is certainly a decent guitarist, he didn’t do much to distinguish himself from being more than just a Gilmour apprentice. It’s probably best if he leaves all of the lead vocal chores to Findlay on any future albums as well.

By the last half of the disk they get to some of their older material, if you consider 1999 old, starting with the epic power-ballad "Evergreen". Findlay is at her best here as her delivery is one of the most heartfelt I have ever seen. "Heroes Never Die" is a shameless Pink Floyd homage which starts gently and slowly builds to an intense guitar-fueled climax. After closing the set with the title track from Passengers, they are drawn back out by wild applause to perform perhaps their grandest epic of all "Mother Nature". I found myself drifting back to the first time I experienced such brilliant Genesis classics as "Supper’s Ready" and "The Cinema Show", which were obvious inspirations for this song. As a fitting tribute to their inspiration, they actually play a Genesis classic next as they dig right in to the somber ballad "Afterglow" to close out the show. Findlay and Josh share the lead vocals on this number and the band finds just the right nuances to really make it their own.

The production quality of this DVD was only average at best. Even though a DTS audio track was provided, along with the typical Dolby 5.1 and stereo options, the music never sounded as crisp and dynamic as it should have. The mix sounded rather dull and compressed overall. The picture was not incredibly sharp, and there was a fair amount of grain and blurry shots, especially when shot from a distance. The stage show was dazzling with a blend of lights, lasers, and projection screens that reflected the bands music and personality perfectly. Bonus material consists of promo videos for "Something In Between" and "Pure White Light" as well as a live performance of "The Night Sky", which was not included as part of the main set for whatever reason.

As Mostly Autumn continues to flesh out their own style and the songwriting continues to mature, they will most certainly remain one of the brightest stars of the progressive-folk scene. I look forward to catching them live in the U.S. someday.

Set List
Something In Between
Caught in a Fold
Another Life
First Thought

Pure White Light
Simple Ways
Distant Train
Answer the Question
Heroes Never Die
Never The Rainbow
Mother Nature

Performance 8/10
Production 6/10

Read all of my DVD concert reviews at Roy’s Reviews

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