"Have Toolkit Will Travel " - on tour with Mike & The Mechanics. Tour overview by Alan Hewitt.
Once again, your roving reporter has taken to the highways and byways of England (and Wales this time) to follow the unfolding success story that was Mike & The Mechanics' recent UK tour. With a number three album under their belts, the "Hits" tour by the group took them out on their biggest ever UK tour. In fact, it was probably the biggest UK tour by any member of Genesis past or present since "Duke" back in 1980. Thirty one dates spanning the entirety of Scotland, Wales, Ireland and England. If you wanted to see the band , there was no shortage of opportunities on this tour!
Before I get on tot the review, there are a few thank you's I would like to make. First of all, to Mike and the band for their help and patience especially during the interview! My continuing thanks to Carol Willis for organising everything with her usual consummate skill, and to Tim Bricusse for putting up with me! To the following TWR readers for various contributions (mainly in the alcohol department!) Jon Guntrip, Matthew Skelland, Frederic Martin, Phil Myland, Peter Gozzard and family, Mike Jackson and to anyone else I may have forgotten, you know who you are, and thank you!
My first visit was to the Manchester Apollo Theatre where I took in the first of my six shows. I was thrilled to see that the proper version of "Silent Running" was re-instated as the set opener, and it still raises the hairs on the back of my neck, even now. "Seeing Is Believing" and "Get Up" followed, and the latter reinforced my opinion from last year's tour that the "Word Of Mouth" album was greatly underrated. Paul Carrack's vocals were stunning. "Beggar On A Beach Of Gold" was the first serving from the most recent Mechanics album and if anything, it has grown even stronger in performance. "Someone Always Hates Someone" drew an emotional response from the crowd; all too well aware of the effects when "someone always buys a gun" after recent events in Dunblane.
Throughout the show I was greatly impressed by the new improved light show which added to the drama of several songs. However, the band could have played lit by two spotlights, it's the music that counts and this show finally confirmed that the Mechanics have arrived on the UK music scene. Not that the capacity crowd had any doubts about that anyway!
In view of the fact that this was a hits tour, it should come as no surprise that we were treated to exactly that: a selection of the band's finest moments. One surprise remained, however - the inclusion of Paul Carrack's solo hit "Eyes Of Blue" from his new solo album. The medley of oldies grows more enjoyable with each outing and honours were equally shared by Paul C and Paul Y. They simply poured their hearts into their respective tracks before Mr Young stole the show with a raucous version of "I Can't Dance".
Musically, the show was tasty and tight and impeccably aided by the other band members: Tim Renwick and Gary Wallis, both of whom seemed to be enjoying themselves more than they did on their recent foray with Pink Floyd. The show ended in typically barnstorming fashion with Mr Young exhorting us to participate in "All I Need Is A Miracle", leaving the exhilarated crowd baying for more. "Word of Mouth" and "Over My Shoulder" comprised the encores and left everyone suitably hoarse and wanting more, which is always the best way to end a gig. The show, as many people have already commented; was on the short side; but it was better than many longer shows I have seen by other bands and I looked forward to the remaining five shows that I would see on this tour.
Two weeks later, I was ensconced in one of my favourite venues, the Civic Hall in Wolverhampton, for two consecutive shows. Having seen the Manchester show, I was not surprised that the set remained the same apart from the dropping of "Web Of Lies" which was not played at any other shows I attended. Special commendation here must go to the crowd on the first night who almost tore the roof of its foundations, and I think even Paul Young was amazed by the audience reaction.
Another Manchester show followed that and I must admit, after the first one, this was the only disappointment of the tour. Neither the band or the audience seemed to be up for it; and with the prospect of a lacklustre show in either Liverpool or Cardiff still to come, I was a little worried.
Fortunately, my fears proved groundless: Liverpool's show was another emotional high; taking place as it did on the seventh anniversary of the Hillsborough tragedy. Liverpool's singalong crowd gave Manchester a run for their money in the "All I Need Is A Miracle" stakes and it certainly did my heart good to see the band in my home town after all these years. The final show of the tour took me down to Cardiff for my second visit to the brilliant Saint David's Hall in less than six months. Seated on the second row I was treated to a marvellous show although the set remained the same, there was a passion and soul to the last two shows that had been lacking elsewhere.
And so there it is; another tour over. Great shows by a great band finally achieving the success that they have worked so hard for. The tour may be over but the story for Mike & The Mechanics is far from ended - here's to the next chapter!