Mike + The Mechanics US Tour Review by Katherine Stratton. Photos by Scott Saldinger and Katherine Stratton.
When American tour dates for Mike + The Mechanics started to pop up last autumn, I decided to wait for an official announcement before making any ticket purchases in the hopes that the band would come a little bit closer to me (so far, all of the dates I had seen were in the Southern US, which is a bit far from where I am in Canada). As time plodded forward, however, it soon became clear that those were likely going to be the only dates. Though I did consider sitting this one out (I considered it for an entire afternoon), the thought that they might not tour for another year or more, coupled with a longing to trade the snow for the sunshine, meant that I couldn’t really resist. It also helped that a family friend has a house in Ponte Vedra (Florida), which, coincidentally, was where one of the shows was going to take place.
Ponte Vedra itself is an interesting little community, comprised mainly of luxury beach resorts, multi-million dollar houses, a rather large iguana sanctuary, and the famous golf club at Sawgrass. The venue itself was originally a Baptist church, repurposed into a performing arts facility in 2011. Of the 450 seat capacity, I would guess that between 300-350 of them were occupied on the night.
All of the US shows included the option to purchase a meet and greet package, which included seating in the first four rows and the chance for a photo and a quick word with the band. Due to an error with the ticketing system at the venue, the meet and greet packages hadn’t even been on sale until about a week before the show, meaning that there were very few people who had been able to get one (perhaps only about seven of us).
As such, they ended up bringing us backstage to the band instead of bringing the band to us. I am not sure how the other fans felt, but I didn’t think that it was particularly rushed. Perhaps it was the luck of us being so few in number. The people in front of me seemed to get a decent amount of time to share their stories with Mike and to have a few items signed, as well as having a photo taken. I didn’t have anything with me to sign, but the folks at the venue took a picture with my phone and I got the chance to say hello and have a quick chat. All of the guys seemed to be in good cheer, which set us all up nicely for a fun evening.
It was then soon time for the show to begin. There was one change in line-up for this tour as keyboardist Luke Juby was replaced by Toby Chapman due to Luke being on tour with The Script.
The show kicked off with Get Up, always a great, rousing starter, which I always think does a great job of introducing the audience to Andrew Roachford and Tim Howar as shared vocalists, as well as to Anthony Drennan’s incredible guitar skills. They may no longer need an introduction in the UK or Germany, but their presence in the US still feels somewhat foreign to me.
From there we went straight into the new material with The Best Is Yet to Come. Tim has a great presence for these kinds of uplifting songs, something which always helps when an audience might be unfamiliar with them. While Let Me Fly has been out for a year now, it did not have the same degree of publicity over here, so I was keen to see what the audience reaction would be, and so far it seemed very positive.
The cheers really began, though, as the band started into Silent Running, always a very popular one. Are You Ready is another of Tim’s great moments, and it only served to solidify the momentum that the band had built up by this point.
When Over My Shoulder started next, my first thought was “I wonder if Toby can whistle?” as that particular solo was usually inside of Luke’s purview. In the end, though, it was Tim who drew that short straw. You could tell from his laughter that he was perhaps not completely confident in this new role, but he did a very good job.
Next up was the first cover of the evening, Land of Confusion. All of the audiences I’ve known are always excited to hear a bit of Genesis, and this one was no exception.
The next segment has always been my favourite part of this tour, no matter how many times I see the show. Having Gary Wallis come forward from behind his drum kit for a little ‘unplugged’ segment creates an intimacy that is a perfect break between the faster paces of the first and second halves of the set. It is also an ideal way to showcase these three songs from the new album. Tim has a lot of power in his voice, which is obvious in the bigger songs like The Best Is Yet to Come, but High Life lets us hear a softer, more nuanced side of his voice too. Wonder is just Andrew at his best, and the song remains a favourite of mine. The trio of new songs is then closed out by the title track, Let Me Fly, which is the kind of stirring, emotional song that the Mechanics do so well.
From here on out, the band delivered big number after big number, starting with Beggar on a Beach of Gold, dedicated as always to the memory of the late Paul Young.
I was pleasantly surprised by the inclusion of Cuddly Toy in the set, as while it is a staple of any Mechanics show in the UK and Europe, I feel that it was not a song that was particularly well-known in the US. Either way, it is a song that is very difficult not to love.
One cover led to another, and the next offering was from the Genesis back catalogue – I Can’t Dance. There was a brief moment of technical difficulty with Mike’s guitar at the start, but that only makes an audience cheer even louder once everything gets back on track. For me, Mike’s guitar on I Can’t Dance is the best part of the song, and it’s even better live.
Last up before the encore were the two big ones: The Living Years and All I Need is a Miracle. Andrew’s way of leading us slowly into The Living Years demands a certain silence from the audience, as some seem unsure of exactly where he is heading, but as soon as the realisation sets in alongside the telltale guitar, the audience erupts. Miracle is another show-stopper, though I was surprised to see that it took a bit more persuading than is usual to get people up and out of their seats.
Finally, we were treated to the traditional encore, Word of Mouth. At last the audience really seemed to completely let loose and get involved. The band also retained their extended solos for the final portion of the song, which is one of the most fun parts of the evening.
All in all, while the set on this tour was ordered differently from that of last year’s UK tour, the main essence of those shows remained. The set takes you on a tour of The Mechanics’ strengths, from the positivity and energy of songs like Get Up and The Best is Yet to Come, through fan favourites like Silent Running and Over My Shoulder, to the poignancy of The Living Years and Let Me Fly. The set was perfectly paced, with a demonstrably even distribution between vocal duties. Everyone was on form, and while Luke was missed, Toby was a fabulous replacement. My only disappointment of the night was that they didn’t do Taken In, though again in Luke’s absence (as he usually contributes the saxophone part) perhaps it was never on the cards.
In total, this was my sixth time seeing the band on this tour, and I imagine the last given that there are no more dates announced in the coming months. After each show my excitement for the band’s future increases, and I can guarantee that wherever they go from here, I’ll be buying a ticket.
Setlist: Get Up, The Best Is Yet to Come, Silent Running, Are You Ready?, Over My Shoulder, Land of Confusion, High Life, Wonder, Let Me Fly, Beggar on a Beach of Gold, Cuddly Toy, I Can’t Dance, The Living Years, All I Need is a Miracle. Encore: Word of Mouth