“Looking back over the live shows” - Mike & The Mechanics’ live performances examined in a selection of live recordings by Alan Hewitt.
As has already been remarked elsewhere in this edition, it is amazing to think that The Mechanics are 34 years old this year! Not bad for apart-time effort put together in Mike’s spare time between Genesis projects. During that time, the band have performed hundreds of gigs and this feature tells the tale of those performances in a select few of them…
With two unexpected hit singles under their belts in the USA and with a chart album here in the UK, the Mechanics had just enough time to get their touring debut done before Mike had to return to duties with Genesis and so in the summer of 1986, the band took themselves off for a jaunt around some of the less than salubrious clubs and small theatres that the USA has so many of. Fortunately for us, several of those shows were recorded for posterity including the one performed at the Tower Theatre Upper Darby PA on 2nd June 1986. Here we have a beautiful radio recording of the band in full flow and get the chance to hear the magic the band generate each and every time they hit a concert stage. With only one album to play stuff from, Mike was forced (somewhat reluctantly I bet) to include a couple of tracks from his second solo album, Acting Very Strange and here we get a rare performance of Maxine from that album. With Paul Young at the helm, this one is a bona fide rocker as is Hanging By A Thread which sets the tone as rcording opener. Silent Running and All I Need Is A Miracle, those two unexpected hits are here present and correct too and both in excellent versions. This is a superb recording which any Mechanics fan should have in their collection…
Track Listing: Hanging By A Thread/Silent Running/Maxine/Taken In/A Call To Arms/Tempted/I Get The Feeling/All I Need Is A Miracle.
It was a further two years before the band returned to the spotlight with 1988’s iconic Living Years album, the record which catapulted the band to the top of the charts here and elsewhere. The band toured extensively during the year and once again their shows have been documented in several excellent recordings. A brace of these I will talk about here, beginning with an early show from the UK and a visit to the City Hall in Newcastle hoke to many memorable nights with Mike’s “Other band”. This is a very bright audience recording and is complete thankfull so we have the full set getting under way with the then new single, Nobody’s Perfect. Sound is excellent throughout even to the mad Geordie who calls out for “Working In Line” on several occasion, much to Mike’s amusement as I recall as I too was at this gig. Here we get pretty much all of the new album and live it stands up remarkably well and is altogether rockier than you might expect. Tracks from the first album such as Silent Running and A Call To Arms are greeted like old friends, which by this stage I guess, is exactly what they are. The entire band were thoroughly enjoying themselves at this gig and it shows.
Track Listing: Nobody’s Perfect/Seeing Is Believing/Silent Running/ Don’t/Nobody Knows/Hanging By A Thread/Why Me/Taken In/ Beautiful Day/Black & Blue/Par Avion/A Call To Arms/The Living Years/I Get The Feeling/Take The Reins/All I Need Is A Miracle/Poor Down.
The band took themselves to the USA again twice during 1989 capitalising on the success of the album and the Living Years single The first tour, in April saw the band performing the same set they had done in the UK and mainland Europe but the August tour saw a litle surprise. The show at the Concord Pavilion Washington DC on 24th August 1989 is our subject here and a delightful recording it is too. Sadly not complete, bit what there is of it more than gives a flavour of the show as the band treat the audience to the usual selection of tracks from both their albums. The rockier stuff such as Poor Boy Down and All I Need Is A Miracle get a great reception but it is the encore which is the real gem here. The band had been asked to record a cover version of a Beatles song for a film by US comedy duo, Cheech & Chong and the resulting recording of Revolution was performed as the encore during the US gigs. Here we have it for our delectation and it is surprisingly good!
Track Listing: Nobody’s Perfect/Seeing Is Believing/Don’t/Beautiful Day/Nobody Knows/Silent Running/Taken In/The Living Years/I Get The Feeling/Poor Boy Down/All I Need Is A Miracle/Revolution.
Unfortunately, the band did not get the opportunity to tour in support of the Word Of Mouth album and so fans had to wait until 1995 and the enormously successful Beggar On A Beach of Gold album to get the chance to see their heroes again and during 1995-96 they toured the UK and Europe extensively in support of that album and the equally successful Hits album. Here we have a pair of recordings which bookend those tours quite nicely.
First up is the show from Nottingham’s Royal Centre, always a great venue for a show, once again, I know, I was at this gig. This is another of those complete audience recordings which you will either like or loathe depending on which end of the audiophile spectrum you inhabit. For me, this is a thoroughly enjoyable recording, clear throughout and managing to capture something of the magic and excitement of the evening. There is a healthy dose of new material on both this recording and the next one as you might expect and the new songs fit seamlessly in alongside the established classics . We even get a couple of solo offerings in the shape of Every Day Hurts (Sad Café) and How Long (Squeeze) as well as the band’s first nod towards Mike’s then day job in the shape of I Can’t Dance.
Track Listing: A Beggar On A Beach Of Gold/Get Up/Silent Running/ Plain And Simple/Over My Shoulder/Another Cup Of Coffee/Someone Always Hates Someone/You Really Got A Hold On Me/Web Of Lies/Every Day Hurts/How Long/I Can’t Dance/The Living Years/All I Need Is A Miracle/I Believe (When I Fall in Love It Will Be Forever)/Word Of Mouth.
Moving on a few months we have the second of this pairing, and the band’s first visit to my home town of Liverpool. Once again, the recording is from a member of the audience and so it is not to everyone’s taste but it is a clear and enjoyable one nonetheless, featuring most of the tracks which the band had performed the year before but also including a performance of young Mr Carrack’s latest single: Eyes of Blue as well. Another very enjoyable live document.
Track Listing: Silent Running/Seeing Is Believing/Get Up/A Beggar On A Beach Of Gold/Someone Always Hates Someone/Another Cup Of Coffee/Plain And Simple/Eyes Of Blue/Nobody’s Perfect/Every Day Hurts/How Long/I Can’t Dance/The Living Years/All I Need Is A Miracle.
|Mike reconvened the Mechanics in the aftermath of the Calling All Stations album/tour which marked Genesis’ finale as a recording band if not (unknown to us at the time) touring one and May 1999 saw the release of the band’s sixth album, the humorously titled, M6. These gigs were to prove to be pivotal in the band’s story as they were to be the last to feature Paul Young before his untimely death in 2000. Here we have another audience recording from their gig in Manchester. Once again, this might not be to everyone’s taste but I find it an enjoyable document of yet another show I was lucky enough to attend. The band mix up a healthy dose of new and older material for the eager audience all of which is greeted enthusiastically as you can hear!
Track Listing: A Beggar On A Beach Of Gold/Get Up/Ordinary Girl Now That You’ve Gone/Another Cup Of Coffee/Always Listen To Your Heart/Whenever I Stop/Silent Running/My Little Island/If I Could See You Now/Every Day Hurts/How Long/I Can’t Dance/The Living Years/ All I Need Is A Miracle/Over My Shoulder/Word Of Mouth.
With the death of Paul Young in 2000, the Mechanics went on hiatus until 2004 when they reconvened for the somewhat lacklustre Rewired album. No tour as such followed the release of it but the band were enlisted to help Mr Collins out on his First Final Farewell Tour and so several recordings from those gigs are available. Here we have the one from the Amsterdam Arena on 19th June. With only forty five minutes to play with, the band still managed to cover a fair amount of ground with three (the best) tracks from the new album featuring alongside some of the more classic Mechanics cuts, which, sadly, throws the mediocrity of the new material into sharp relief.
Track Listing: Falling/Now That You’ve Gone/Silent Running/If I Were You/One Left Standing/The Living Years/Over My Shoulder/Word Of Mouth.
With the relative failure of Rewired and Paul Carrack’s burgeoning solo career, the Mechanics once again went on indefinite hiatus and in fact, most fans (me included) thought that the band had called it a day. Of course, as we now all know, that was to be a totally wrong assumption.
The band reconvened in the autumn of 2010 and released their second debut if you like, in May 2011 - The Road, an apt title as the band were soon on the road again to promote it. Thankfully there are several recordings documenting this tour of which one, the show from Nottingham will suffice for the purposes of this feature, The new look band gave us a selection of cuts from the new album which, if truth is told, were still gelling at this time and don’t sound as confident as the established songs but everyone gets a second chance as someone (can’t think who…) once a said and the band were prove their bona fides with rock solid performances here of the established classics. The pairing of Andrew Roachford and Tim Howar was to prove to be an inspired one as both of them slotted into the gaps left by Carrack and Young quite effortlessly as you can hear on this thoroughly enjoyable recording.
Track Listing: The Road/A Beggar On A Beach Of Gold/Get Up/Try To Save Me/Another Cup Of Coffee/Nobody Knows/I Don’t Do Love/If I Were You/Only To Be With You/Follow You Follow Me/I Can’t Dance/The Living Years/Over My Shoulder/All I Need Is A Miracle/Cuddly Toy/Word Of Mouth.
The years since that debut have seen the band return to concert stages on a regular basis re-establishing the Mechanics “brand” and fortunately for us once again, many of those performances are documented by live recordings. from the following year’s tour I have chosen a rather nifty recording from the gig at The Picture Dome in Holmfirth (home to long lasting UK comedy series Last Of The Summer Wine) . The difference a year makes is instantly noticeable as the band here are a totally different beast to the tentative one of the year before. Howar and Roachford have got their feet under the Mechanics’ table and grab the set with collective glee making songs such as Get Up Another Cup Of Coffee and Over My Shoulder their own. We even get two Roachford classics in the set this time: My Generation and the massive hit Cuddly Toy both of which are greeted enthusiastically by the crowd.
Track Listing: A Beggar On A Beach Of Gold/Get Up/Try To Save Me/Another Cup Of Coffee/Throwing It All Away/This Generation/The Road/A Time And Place/Everybody Gets A Second Chance/Silent Running/Cuddly Toy/Follow You Follow Me/I Can’t Dance/The Living Years/All I Need Is A Miracle/Over My Shoulder/Word Of Mouth.
2014 saw the band back out on the road again for an extensive batch of shows promoting both the 25th Anniversary edition of Living Years but also the expanded Hits set. Of course, all of this meant that what we got was pretty much a hits show as this recording from Birmingham’s Symphony Hall shows. The set has not really altered that much from the ones which had preceded it and here we have just about all the songs you would expect from a Mechanics show and all delivered piping hot.
Track Listing: A Beggar On A Beach Of Gold/Another Cup Of Coffee/ Get Up/Try To Save Me/I Believe/Silent Running/Don’t/This Generation/Turn it On Again/When My Feet Don’t Touch The Ground/Everybody Gets A Second Chance/Nobody’s Perfect/Cuddly Toy/I Can’t Dance/The Living Years/All I Need Is A Miracle/Over My Shoulder/Word Of Mouth.
2015 saw the band once again on the road for yet another even more extensive round of touring including their first proper tour of the USA since 1989. Fortunately these US gigs (and the rest of the tour) are documented by a variety of recordings from which I have selected he recording of the gig from The Wilbur Theatre Boston MA. A somewhat shorter set but one which manages to cover just about all the familiar (to us at least) bases. The band are evidently having a good time and so thankfully are the audience and why not? When you are hearing classic cuts such as A Beggar On A Beach of Gold, Silent Running etc performed by a band whose mojo is definitely back, what is there not to enjoy?
Track Listing: A Beggar On A Beach Of Gold/Get Up/Silent Running/ Another Cup Of Coffee/Seeing Is Believing/Try To Save Me/Turn it On Again/The Road/Over My Shoulder/Nobody’s Perfect/Cuddly Toy/I Can’t Dance/The Living Years/All I Need Is A Miracle/Word Of Mouth.
2017 saw the band release their second album under the new line up and Let Me Fly certainly proved to be another success story for the band reaching the top ten in the UK charts. The band toured extensively in Europe and the UK again including yet another slot on the same bill as Mr Collins as the latter returned to the concert stage for his on going series of “Not Dead Yet Live” gigs at the enormously successful Hyde Park event.
Here however, we have the recording from a few months later in Paris. Once again, this is an audience recording and lacks the bite that a radio broadcast etc might have but it does capture the essence of the gig and in excellent quality. By now the band were totally on top of their game and it shows. Opening with Are You Ready which is almost a challenge to the audience, we get a marvellous selection of old and new material. Unlike the material from the previous album, the tracks from Let Me Fly exude confidence and they are already part of the canon of established Mechanics classics fitting easily alongside older ones such as Get Up, Silent Running and All I Need Is A Miracle.
Track Listing: Are You Ready/Another Cup Of Coffee/Get Up/Silent Running/Don’t Know What Came Over Me/The Best Is Yet To Come/Land Of Confusion/High Life/Wonder/A Beggar On A Beach Of Gold/Let Me Fly/Cuddly Toy/I Can’t Dance/Over My Shoulder/All I Need Is A Miracle.
And there you have it, a brief look at the Mechanics ‘ live performances. Obviously, the band are currently out on the road again and you can read more about those gigs elsewhere in TWR!