After the release of the DVD That Night In Leamington (2010, see review) containing the farewell concert of singer Heather Findlay, it was to be expected that Mostly Autumn (MA) would soon release a DVD with their current lead singer Olivia Sparnenn. The present line-up is in great shape which I could notice during the last two concerts they gave at Lakei in Helmond (2011, see review) and at W2 in Den Bosch (2012, see review). Olivia definitely found her place in MA and she doesn't only shine on stage, but also on the latest studio album The Ghost Moon Orchestra (2012, see review). The DVD Live At The Boerderij had already been recorded before the new album appeared. That's the reason why songs from that album are called 'new songs' on this DVD.
People who are familiar with That Night In Leamington know that this was really something special. For that reason expectations ran high for this DVD, because for shooting the gig the band did at Cultuurcentrum Boerderij in Zoetermeer, the same people were involved. For MA this venue feels like coming home since they already performed many times on this Dutch number one stage for progressive rock. Mostly these performances were outstanding sometimes lasting for three hours. Unfortunately I hadn't been able to witness the DVD shoot, so I was curious to find out whether they again had set the stage on fire.
Since Live At the Boerderij contains two discs I knew they had given a lengthy performance again. The first disc includes all songs performed during the first set, but strangely enough King Of The Valley, Never The Rainbow and Changing Fast played during that set were added as bonus tracks. I think this has something to do with technical problems of getting the first set on one disc in its entirety. But anyway, I'm very positive about it, because everything has been filmed excellently and also the sound is great; I didn't even miss the 5.1 surround sound. The band members have been filmed with lots of good close-ups and from different angles.
Right from the start the band appear to be in great shape again and willing to give their Dutch fans a wonderful performance. They open with the usual instrumental Distant Train, but my first highlight is Unquiet Tears, the opening track from The Ghost Moon Orchestra. As on the album Olivia Sparnenn sings this piece wholeheartedly. Other highlights are unmistakably the classic MA pieces Evergreen and the Breathing Space cover Questioning Eyes. On both tracks guitarist Bryan Josh and Olivia have a leading role. Josh plays some excellent guitar solos while Olivia, clothed in a long dress, showed again why she was the right person to replace Heather Findlay. She leaves the audience just speechless while singing those strong emotional parts of Questioning Eyes. After this breathtaking song the first set ends with a break.
To me this is the right moment to view the DVD extras. First the aforementioned bonus tracks. These songs are just a continuation of what I already had seen during the first 46 minutes, followed by a way too short item of Behind The Scenes. The footage shows the musicians and roadies on and off stage to get ready for the show. Furthermore you can watch the band's entire performance in a nutshell. What remains are some funny parts that probably were shot with a handy cam. You can see the band counting the money they earned: a couple of Euro coins... The last feature is a rather long photo gallery, something which doesn't always get my attention on a DVD. But this time I was impressed by what I saw. The pictures were very good and most likely shot by a professional photographer.
Well, after this well-spent break it's time for the second disc containing one hour and a half of great entertainment. Again a fantastic sound is coming out of the speakers and the perfect light show makes everything even look better. Many highlights are to be passed in review. The first one is a strong version of Passengers with an amazing guitar solo by Josh. The Last Climb is another highlight that has to be mentioned especially because multi-instrumentalist Anne-Marie Helder gets a solo spot playing the flute at the centre of the stage. The classic MA pieces The Last Bright Light and Heroes Never Die are highlights as well with special intros. The first one features an excellent e-bow solo by Mr. Josh; the second holds a splendid instrumental part mainly performed by Bryan Josh and keyboardist Iain Jennings.
The first encore The Spirit Of Autumn Past (part 2) has again a different intro compared to the original version. During this song Liam Davison always gets the chance to show that he's an excellent guitarist as well, but before he starts his solo he gives away two bottles of beer to some people in the audience. For the second time Anne-Marie Helder convinces the audience of being a great flutist while walking on stage. During the second encore And When The War Is Over the leading roles are once again for Sparnenn and Josh. They lift the song to a high level with their strong vocal and guitar performances. The final song is Tonight in which Olivia for the last time gives everything she has. Goosebumps!
After watching this stunning DVD, I can only say that the people behind the cameras captured Mostly Autumn just the way they are live on stage. Therefore I have to compliment the team that was responsible for this awesome record. They succeeded in recording an even better DVD than That Night In Leamington already was. It certainly deserves the highest rating of five stars which is a lot for a live recording! Who could ask for more!
***** Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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