“So long… farewell…” - Mama in concert at The Citadel St Helens on Saturday 25th November 2017. Review by Alan Hewitt. Photographs by David Broome.

It’s been a long time…hasn’t it? Indeed it has been quite a while since I took in a gig by Mama and so I wended my merry way to a blustery St Helens, thinking I was avoiding the Saturday mayhem of a Liverpool/Chelsea match only to catch up with it at the pub selected for pre-gig drinkies as the match was on multiple screens therein. Oh well, you can’t have everything I guess. Anyway, on with the review…

It has been so long since I had seen the band that they had a new face in their midst tonight: Tim Rothwell had taken up the drum stool replacing the awesome talents of James Cooper. The only other new “face” was a rather magnificent Rickenbacker twin neck which was parked conspicuously slightly stage left… Enough of this carefully rehearsed ad-lobbing as someone once said.

The show got under way with a personal favourite of mine: Deep In The Motherlode and the band simply nailed this one. The organ sound from John Comish’s keyboards was to die for and the rest of the band were in equally fine fettle, Tim had no trouble with the tricky time signatures on this one and delivered a flawless opener!

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The current Mama set is a bit like a box of chocolates; your favourite centre is bound to appear at some point and there were enough oldies and not so oldies here to keep even the most ardent fan happy. With a first half which switched from the majesty of Carpet Crawlers to the pop glory of Follow You Follow Me there really was something here for everyone. Highlights of the first half for me were the extended magnificence of the “Duke Suite” in which each and every member of the band excelled and kudos once again to new boy Tim Rothwell and Darren Dean who between them caught the drama and majesty of this set of songs superbly well - almost as good as the real thing!

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The first half closed with another personal favourite of mine: Ripples, here guitarist Darren Dean really shone with a superb reading of Mr Hackett’s part while vocalist John Wilkinson nailed Phil Collins’ vocal making it all look so easy (which it isn’t, by the way!)

The second half got off to an altogether darker and more dramatic start with the urgent drum beat of the band’s signature tune - Mama, once again, flawlessly delivered with some exceptional keyboard work and a toe massaging bass line from Dave Jones who really put the Rickenbacker to good use here! A healthy slice of Abacab next with a rocking Dodo-Lurker-Abacab triptych which worked remarkably well, almost like being back at the NEC in 1981 and just as enjoyable!

Another favourite next : Squonk, and here Dave Jones and Tim Rothwell’s performances were stunning as they gave the rest of the band a rock solid platform on which to rock out on this wonderful slice of mid Seventies Genesis.

Time for Messrs Wilkinson, Dean and Comish to shine next on The Lamb… complete with the now traditional segue into Musical Box which just gets better every time I hear it. Following this with Home By The Sea was a masterstroke as once again it served to showcase the fact that the band lost none of its drama once Peter left and the show was brought to a close by a wonderful reading of the now ubiquitous In The Cage- Afterglow medley and of course, Los Endos with the Apocalype In 9/8 section from Supper’s Ready tagged on all of which were performed faultlessly by a band evidently having as much fun on stage as we were in the audience - always a good sign!

Encore? Of course, there was the usual round of audience participation driven by I Know What I Like and singalong chorus which is something of a Mama tradition these days and there’s nowt wrong with that, is there? That brought the evening to a suitably ecstatic but slightly sad note as John had announced earlier that tonight’s gig was to be Darren’s last with the band which is a great shame as he is a phenomenal musician as well as being a top bloke into the bargain - good luck with your future endeavours Darren!
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And that was it, another thoroughly enjoyable night out with one of the best tribute bands around. I may not get to as many of their gigs as I used to these days but those that I do see are always a joy and this one was no exception - thanks again guys!