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Mike + the Mechanics: Still flying

March 5, 2017


Mike & the Mechanics at Plymouth Pavilions 3.3.17

Great music gigs in Plymouth in the South West of the U.K are like the proverbial omnibus. Nothing for ages and then 2 big shows come along at once.

It’s months since the tickets were booked but now here we are. The calendar in the kitchen simply marked “Ant + Bev’s night out”. Parts 1 and 2 actually.

Mike & the Mechanics this week. Elbow next. Wonderful indeed.

This is the third time that my wife and I have seen the Mechanics. The first occasion was 26 May 1999 with the two Pauls, Carrack and Young promoting the criminally underrated “M6”. Presumably an early birthday treat. My memory is that the sound was not great.

Then again on 15 May 2011 (6 years ago?!) with the new line up including vocalists Andrew Roachford and Tim Howar (thanks to the oracle Alan Hewitt for providing the dates!), touring their new album “the Road”.

My memories of that night are that the band were impressive. The new singers were a good fit, neatly slotting in Roachford for Carrack and Howar for Young. The set list seemed to be on the short side.

What struck me though was the apparent lack of confidence in their new songs. They were touring to promote a recently released album, but played only 2 or 3 songs from the new CD, one of them a totally different interpretation “ I don’t do love”.

The band have been back to Plymouth since but I passed up the opportunity as there was no new material and there seemed to be little point in my mind.

The double header of Elbow and Mechanics seemed too good to miss and, as the date got nearer it also became clear that a new album “ Let me fly” was on its way. A first song “Don’t know what came over me” got a radio premiere a few days before on Radio 2 ( the song did not feature in the set).

This news was greeted online by the inevitable prog snobbery (“it’s not prog!”). As a dyed in the wool all eras Genesis fan, I have found so much to enjoy in the various side projects, not to mention a lot of musical common ground with the wife, which ultimately enabled me to introduce her to the “proper” prog classic stuff.

So I wondered, after 6 years how are this band doing? And are they ready to back their new music before a live audience over a month before anyone will otherwise get to hear it.

Support act Ben McElvey played a 35-40 minute set. A singer songwriter, Ben was ideal. I’m not a fan of support acts as I have said before, but his tunes were catchy, just him and his guitar. He is plainly enjoying the experience of this tour.

As the Mechanics took the stage, my question about the new stuff was quickly answered. The opener “Are you ready?” Was the first of half a dozen new songs exposed to the masses (interestingly nothing featured from “the Road”, “M6”, or the miss hit “Rewired”). As the title suggested it was an ideal anthemic start up number enabling Howar to get into full voice.

Rutherford, suited, was looking in superb shape for a man of 66. My wife and I both commented on a) how slim he is b) what a fine head of hair he has (unlike some of his former working colleagues).

“Another Cup of Coffee” is introduced by Roachford as a song for the band to expresso themselves. Who knew it? Mike’s Mechanics are comedians too!

The tour advertised as the Word of Mouth 2017 tour is not though one of these tours where a whole album is showcased. The first of just two songs from that album is “Get up”. But hey this is Plymouth so nobody did. Andrew and Tim pogo-ed their way through an energetic performance.

“Silent running” followed.

Two more new songs followed, “Save the world” and “The best is yet to come”.

The next song is introduced by band leader Rutherford after a conversation about school bands. Roachford was in a school band called The School Band. “What was the name of your school band, Mike?”

“Genesis”.

Priceless deadpan song intro.

The band launches into an exhilarating rendition of Mike’s 1986 protest song “Land of confusion”, Howar’s vocal really suiting the Genesis songs. As well as the music, I couldn’t help thinking, if he thought this was a land of confusion in 1986, what about now in 2017? Imagine the Genesis video reworked with May for Thatcher and Trump for Reagan!!!!

2 new songs are then given the acoustic treatment. “High life” and “Wonder”.

The title track from the new album is next up, followed by a title track from the archives “Beggar on a beach of gold”, Howar giving it his all.

Time for another tangent as Roachford introduces his own hit “Cuddly toy” It’s a tour de force performance by singer and band alike. It’s also ironically the first standing ovation of the night. Somewhat belatedly Plymouth takes the invitation to “Get up!”

One more Genesis diversion with “ I can’t dance”, starting with just Howar and Rutherford on stage. Mercifully the silly walk is omitted although a short walking routine from Mike sends Tim stumbling backwards into stage equipment. Like a professional he carries on.

“Over my shoulder” is another song to get the intimate acoustic treatment. Keyboardist (and part time bass and acoustic bass player) Luke Juby gets a good reception for the whistling solo. Multi talented musicians!

The band is completed by Gary Wallis on drums and percussion and Anthony Drennan, whose guitar credits include the Corrs and Genesis among others, on guitar and bass.

The set closes with another big number for Howar. A personal favourite from the Paul Young catalogue “All I need is a miracle”. He’s a great showman is Tim, commanding the stage, showing his background in stage and musical. It’s another standing ovation and the band leave the stage to rapturous applause.

2 encores follow. “The Living Years” still hits the emotional spot, with Roachford in fine voice.

Finally “Word of Mouth” which is another crowd pleaser. Whether Howar had his West East North South geography quite correct I don’t know but no one cared.

During this song we’re transported to a full on rock show as each band member is given their solo spot. Roachford gives his rendition of Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition”. In a parallel universe former public schoolboy Rutherford lets rip into “Purple Haze” and Wallis is handed an extended drum solo, before the final audience singalong.

It’s a great night. The Mechanics are still in good health and sounding great. And looking forward to the new album which we are regularly reminded is out on 7 April. My mum will be 88 that day? Maybe an idea for a present. Err no…

A couple of dishonourable mentions. To the chap who had to be escorted out after about 20 minutes of the set, unable to walk in a straight line (hope he thinks he got value for money). And to my neighbour who spent all night texting.

T shirt purchased at the merch stand, on the way out I overheard someone say “we’re back here next Thursday” . Me too!

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From → Rock Music

One Comment
  1. An excellent review, still writing mine for the Birmingham show…. meanwhile if you have any tickets you might like to scan in for use on The Genesis Archive http://www.thegenesisarchive.co.uk as we like to host tickets etc on there.

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