Mike & The Mechanics in concert at the Royal Albert Hall on Sunday 26th March 2017. Review and photographs by Andrew Ward.
For a combination of financial and logistical reasons, we had decided that we were going to have to miss out on seeing The Mechanics on this current tour. However, when I won two tickets to the Royal Albert Hall gig, via Absolute ‘80’s Radio on Twitter, that soon changed!
Hopefully you can tell from the associated photos that we had pretty good seats. We made ourselves comfortable in time to see Ben McKelvey. He seemed like a nice chap (top bloke - AH) albeit completely overawed at being on the stage at the Royal Albert Hall. I must admit that I am not a huge fan of his sort of singer/songwriter/guitarist although he did a pretty good job, especially when dealing with an amp problem and starting one song again. My own view is that he was rather a weak and unmemorable support for Mike & The Mechanics, unlike the excellent James Walsh whom we were lucky enough to see on the 2015 tour. BM has just been confirmed for the European tour dates later in the year, too.
Anyway, Ben and his sidekick hadn’t left the stage long before the lights dimmed and Mike and his Mechanics too their place and launched into a rocking Are You Ready? This was a great opener and was followed by Another Cup Of Coffee. Now, unfortunately, two morons behind us, one of whom had allegedly been an official photographer with backstage access at the show the previous night talked throughout the two of these first two songs. At the end of the latter I turned and asked them if they were planning to talk throughout the whole of the set or if they were only going to spoil the first two. One of them apologised but sadly it continued intermittently throughout the evening, in spite of repeated glares. Needless to say, they bolted off before the end of the gig before I could have a real go at them!
Anyway, Get Up and Silent Running followed and really kept up the pace and quality of the opening part of the set. The Royal Albert Hall was a sell out and it seemed clear that this was a special night for the guys on stage too, as well as the audience. Save The World and The Best Is Yet To Come were next and went really well together leading in to a rocking Land Of Confusion. The audience had now been perfectly set up for the acoustic High Life with Gary Wallis coming to the front of the stage for percussion s duties and the new song section continued with Wonder, Let Me Fly and I Don’t Know What Came Over Me.
|I think it was at this point that it occurred to me how Tim Howar has developed as a rock front man. He certainly seemed to have toned down the (over) exuberance of his “Duracell bunny” energy from when I saw them in 2015 and his addressing the audience as “London” (insert whatever city they happen to be in) was much more measured than previously. He now has exactly the right touch and approach and his voice has never been better. This is also true of the more R & B influenced tones of Andrew Roachford who sounds better now than when I first started listening to him in 1985 - when he used to live not far from me in East London. Anyway, I digress, Mike has proven the value of the two singers approach and the Roachford/Howar axis is one of great warmth, dept, power and passion - entirely fitting, given their esteemed forebears in this group. There was also a nice passage where Andrew recounted that he had been in a band called The Strobe Lights but they had had to stop playing because audiences kept having epileptic fits…|
We then moved to the last five songs of the main set: A Beggar On A Beach Of Gold, Cuddly Toy, I Can’t Dance, Over My Shoulder and All I Need Is A Miracle. Just read that list and listen to them in your head. This is quality song writing from three different acts and in the live context, it rocks. This band is so tight from the amount of r touring they have done and the Royal Albert Hall was lapping it up - there were parts of the crowd seemingly delirious with the whole experience! The roar as the guys left the stage was quite something and , thankfully it wasn’t long before they re-emerged to treat us to the encores of The Living Years and Word of Mouth.
All in all, they had played for virtually two hours and the set was a wonderful combination of emotions and tempos with none of the awkward lulls that can beset so may artists. Mike lingered longest to take some richly deserved solo praise. Anto got plenty of pics on his mobile ’phone (can we get hold of any of them?) and the evening was over; gone but not forgotten, never to be forgotten (although I CAN’T remember during which song Anto played a few bars of Firth Of Fifth - was it I Can’t Dance?) And this was just round one….
Thanks Andrew… Round Two of Andrew’s report can be read elsewhere in this edition, folks.