To most people, the news of Heather Findlay leaving Mostly Autumn came as a real surprise. I wouldn't say that it shocked the prog world, but it came pretty close. Heather decided to go solo and granted her place as first lady in Mostly Autumn to background singer Olivia Sparnenn, who's a good and logical replacement. Before this all took place the band gave a farewell concert for Heather at Leamington Spa on April 2, 2010. Dutch filmer John Vis offered the band to shoot this special performance. If he hadn't done that we couldn't have seen Heather's farewell concert. Now it's available on the double DVD That Night In Leamington. Lead guitarist Bryan Josh logically gave John Vis a warm 'thank you' on the credits of this release. What Vis and his crew achieved is outstanding if you take into consideration that everything had to be arranged at short notice and only three cameras were used; a big hand for John Vis! During the interviews with Bryan and Heather - which were added later on - it became obvious that the band didn't have a special set list for this final gig. The songs performed are almost identical as the ones on the two live CD's Live 2009 Part 1 & 2 (see review) and during the live concerts in 2009 and 2010 they almost played the same set list. These concerts featured a lot of Heather Findlay's personal songs, so a different set list wasn't necessary.
The opening tune of the first DVD is a well-known piece. The band started with Fading Colours during all performances I witnessed the last couple of years. Indeed, it's is a great piece to begin with. At the sound of impressive Mellotron samples the band members enter the stage. Next are a couple of rather new pieces before we can enjoy the first old song. The Spirit Of Autumn Past, part 2 has a few new guitar lines played by Liam Davison. After Simple Ways - with a perfectly filmed synthesizer solo by Iain Jennings - another fine oldie finds its way to the audience. The Last Bright Light is very well performed and the band members show no traces of nervousness; it's probably too early in the set to think about the last goodbye for Heather. However, Shrinking Violet, the final song of the first set must have moved her somehow. In the interview she states that the band perform a number of songs for the last time, because these songs are too much related to her. We know now that we will no longer enjoy Shrinking Violet during a concert. Just too bad, but instead I'll probably play this song more often at home, because for me it's one of the band's best tracks ever and a personal highlight for Heather Findlay.
The break is announced as a 15-minute pause for the band and the audience. According to the reactions of the musicians it will take a bit longer than announced. However, after the break the engine is still warm and they start the second set with a strong version of Carpe Diem. Unfortunately, a guest appearance of Troy Donockley on the Uillean pipes and the low whistle had been prevented. For me, the second set is a trip down memory lane since it features a lot of classic Mostly Autumn tunes. You can enjoy splendid versions of Winter Mountain, The Dark Before The Dawn, Nowhere To Hide, Half The Mountain and my all time favourite Mother Nature. This long piece is the last song of the regular set and Heather's first goodbye.
The first encore is Above The Blue, another song we'll never enjoy again during future performances. It's a track about the loss of some of Heather's relatives and thus very personal. Apart from Heather only two musicians remain on stage to perform this piece: Anne-Marie Helder plays the acoustic piano and Iain Jennings provides this song with an impressive string arrangement on the keyboards. The last two tracks, Heroes Never Die and Evergreen, belong to the oldest of the band's back catalogue. Both have a very recognizable intro and are true classic Mostly Autumn pieces. They just sound excellent with this line-up. Evergreen is the final song on which Heather sings together with the band that she joined for more than ten years. She must have felt tears in her eyes while singing the lyrics. It's nice to see that she gets flowers from her replacement Olivia Sparnenn afterwards followed by many embraces from the other band members and accompanied by the music of Say Goodbye from Roger Hodgson's Open The Door album. The last famous words from Heather end this amazing concert that has been filmed perfectly for the release of the first Mostly Autumn DVD since The Fiddler's Shindig (2005). Hopefully we will soon enjoy a DVD with Olivia Sparnenn as the front lady. Don't let it be another farewell performance. Thank you, Heather for all those beautiful years with Mostly Autumn...
**** Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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