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Progressive Rock DVD/Video Reviews

Mostly Autumn

The V Shows DVD

Review by Josh Turner

This DVD was my first encounter with the band, and I must say it had really impressed me. Now I can understand all the hype around this band. They are a great selection to headline the first night of ROSFest 2005, but before we look to the future, let's look to the spirit of Mostly Autumn's past. The V Shows will take you back to a miraculous and storied night that took place at the Astoria Theater is London.

It comes in an excellent package, which was edited in a doting manner by the editor of Autumn Leaves (the official Mostly Autumn Magazine). It comes as a two-disc set with an extensive booklet and hardcover. This is one of the best packages I have ever seen. Think The Flower Kings DCD/DVD, but thicker and sturdier.

The first disc is their newest material, the Passengers album, played in its entirety. To keep it fresh, they've cleverly rearranged the track listing. I have to concede that this new order is more fitting for the live concert format.

The opening credits roll while the band warms up and tune their instruments. Shortly thereafter, we are brought to the concert. There is no gimmickry or fluff as we get right down to business. They start the pace off right with a short tune called Caught in the Fold. This is followed by Something in Between, which is an early highlight. Afterwards, we are treated to a handful of opulent and ornate pieces: Another Life, First Thought, Pure White Light, Simple Ways, and Bitterness Burnt. Each piece is less tame than the one that precedes it. The tension and energy gradually builds over the course of the night. It is obvious they are in it for the long haul.

Distant Train is when the concert really picks up. The keyboard playing by Iain Jennings here is quite extraordinary. Answer the Question comes next and it's the perfect match to follow. The exhilarating energy doesn't let up for a single second. When it finishes, the crowd's approval is more than apparent. They show their exuberance with a wave of complementary claps. This is trailed by an acoustic, but aggressive piece entitled Pass the Clock. We get more fancy frills from Iain's fingertips as well many dainty decorations from Troy's pipes and mandolin. This works as an effective segue before we become acquainted with the first set's fantastic finale.

The title track from the Passengers album is used to round out the first flavor in this double scoop. It is easily the finest piece on the first disc. There is something elegant and refined about their performance on this particular song. It actually improves upon the artistry of the original.

Working up to this track works very well, building the suspense and bracing the fans for their best and most brilliant work. Mostly Autumn keeps the momentum going for a very long time. You get the impression the band was working up to this song with much anticipation. When they ultimately reach it, they put everything they have into it. No wonder they needed a breather between sets. Well, that and the fact they have over two hours of material.

The material breaks at just the right moment. After a short reprieve between sets, you will find yourself fidgeting for the next disc. We open the second half with a suitable and sufficient song called The Night Sky. It's an Iona instrumental overlaid with hungry and overly eager harmonies. When we arrive at the second song of the second set, Spirit of Autumn Past, we encounter what may be the best song in the entire package. This says quite a lot considering all the good material they've laid out up until this point and all the great songs to follow. There's no doubt they've had much practice playing this piece as their execution is exceptional.

It is easy to see the Pink Floyd comparisons in the subsequent songs, Evergreen and Never the Rainbow. Yet, like RPWL, they seem to have no trouble putting their own spin on this style of music. Each is simple and straightforward. The first being still and serene, the second being rocking and racy. Each touches upon a different facet of Pink Floyd. Evergreen has one of the crowd's most enthusiastic applauses. Afterwards Heather states, "It's time to rock." At this point, the second half of the concert kicks into high gear.

Heroes Never Die comes next in line. It's another terrific track. While it's long, the construction remains intact. The composition is very well-constructed and remains rigid while it weathers the storm. We are treated to several substantial harmonies by Heather Findley and Bryan Josh. They also trade off taking the lead. No hesitation is shown when it's either of their turn to take the helm. Each works well with the other in tandem.

The guitar playing here is very Gilmour-like in places. You will wonder if RPWL is really the truest reincarnation of Pink Floyd. After hearing this piece, you could be convinced to cast your ballot in favor of Mostly Autumn. Tom Petty and the Bo Deans are other influences that come to mind too. Heather's singing along with the orchestrations of the flute and violin make this style of music quite unique.

This song is yet another highlight in the package if we have not already had enough to indulge in. Aspects of the track are balladic while others are just plain ballistic. The guitar playing alone is extraordinary as Bryan effectively handles the highs and lows. This should be on his highlight reel for all he puts into this particular song. This also features Andrew Jenning's most delightful drumming. The images of astronauts and other such heroes in history that flash on the screen are another nice touch as well.

The next song Mother Nature starts as a simple ballad, detached and diffident in a way not too much unlike Pain of Salvation. As most of their songs, it breaks away into territory that is more assertive. The opening is peaceful as it presents Heather's playful, but passive side. Bryan is less docile as he backs her with his gritty voice and the strumming of an acoustic guitar. The keyboards are set to sound like a classical piano. This all works well together. A moment later, the guitar tech hands Bryan an electric guitar, and the music treks off into a completely new direction. This is intriguing how many of their songs go both ways, lulling their audience into a trance and then snapping their fingers for them to come abruptly out of it. This part of the concert is where we experience the most diversity. While the band is in the zone and finds their groove, the audience finds themselves in a psychedelic haze.

Heather Findley steps off stage later in the song and Bryan takes the time to introduce several band members (Iain Jennings, keyboards; Liam Davison, guitar; Andy Smith, bass; Angela Goldthorpe, flutes, recorder; Andrew Jennings, drums) as they play on through a serene sequence. Each member acknowledges this cue with a simple solo. Then, Bryan invites Heather back on stage for the song's conclusion. This is where Heather does her most angelic singing. Heather introduces Bryan and they do a quick close with all the members' participation. This gives the DVD a nice live feel to it. This song headlines the event, and it's a great choice for a closer. The crowd is left exasperated at the concert's alleged ending. Bryan even goes so far as to say good night before giving the infamous guitar finish.

One last song, Afterglow, comes as a timely encore. It is a song borrowed from Tony Banks Music Ltd. The crowds cheering left no question that Mostly Autumn was not leaving without one last hurrah and it does not take the band long to make this decision. Actually, it comes no more than a split second later. The lights are already on when Bryan gives the signal to do one more (he holds one finger high) while Heather slips on an acoustic guitar. The song is incredibly short, but the surprise bonus makes for one great finish. The band takes their bows (Bryan even raises a glass of beer in salute). The audience continues to beg for more; however, this is the evening's ultimate end. As quickly as it began, it's over and the credits roll.

Overall, I think I prefer the second disc, but to be honest and sincere, every song is spectacular. The packaging in nice, there is a lot of material to offer, and the production is spot on superb. Their execution of the music is precise and the audience is with them every step of the way. You could tell everyone was enjoying this special event. It was a meaningful and momentous concert to attend, but for those who couldn't, the DVD does a great job of taking you there. This quality product would be welcome in any progressive fan's personal library. You can bet I will be keeping an eye out for their next release as well as backtracking through their back catalog.

The V Shows were originally planned to promote a fifth studio album. Yet, I feel the title represents not a number, but a letter instead. In my book, the DVD is vacant of very little. It's a concert that's vibrant, valiant, and vetting. It shows a band that's viewed venerably by many progressive rock enthusiasts of today. The band set out to satisfy the voracious appetite of this vast fan base. Simply put, V stands for victory.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2005 Year Book Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.
You'll find concert pics of this artist in the Music Street Journal members area.
 
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