"Begging In Steeltown" - Mike & The Mechanics Live at Sheffield City Hall, March 11, 1996 reviewed by Richard Nagy. Photos courtesy of Alan Perry/TWR.
It was 1982 the last time Genesis or one of its three members did tours back to back with no other projects in between, and so it was a very welcome surprise that last year Mike & The Mechanics announced that they would hit the road again in 1996. To coincide with a Greatest Hits album release, a theatre tour unfolded and I managed to catch up with them at the Sheffield City Hall on March 11, 1996.
Much discussion was made prior top the show as to how different the actual set list of songs would be in the light of there being no actual "new" material to promote. As it transpired, on the night only two different tracks were introduced in place of two of the "Beggar..." tracks. They were the covers "You Really Got A Hold On Me" and "I Believe". Taking their place were "Seeing Is Believing" and the excellent "Nobody's Perfect".
The show began to the building tonal layers of "Silent Running", a much more powerful version than last time and a preferred version to the softer acoustic version performed then. Next came "Get Up", "Seeing Is Believing" and "A Beggar On A Beach Of Gold". It was noticeable at this point that the audience were taking some getting into the show and an air of predictability was present over the proceedings.
More material from "Beggar..." appeared and it was a little disappointing that other songs from that album weren't played such as "Something To Believe In" or "A House Of Many Rooms". It wasn't until the band played a soothing "Eyes of Blue", the recent Paul Carrack hit, that a bit of genuine emotion and interest was created. Maybe it was because this was the only real brand new song played in the entire set, it had a certain immediacy to it, lacking in some of the other selections from "Beggar..." (almost a year old, already).
Nevertheless, this seemed to kick start the finale to the show as "Nobody's Perfect" powered along followed by the now customary "other bands we're in" three song medley: "How Long?" having slightly more of a back beat to it this time. The audience converged on the front of the stage area for "I Can't Dance" and "The Living Years" before the '96 version of "All I Need Is A Miracle" draws the show to an upbeat close.
The first encore is "Word Of Mouth" with audience participation and sing-along. The audience reaction had improved quite considerably by now and when the band returned one final time to play "Over My Shoulder", everyone in the hall was whistling along with home town boy Paul Carrack on his return to Sheffield.
All in all, there were too few changes from last time for my liking, but what was played was well-drilled and concise. But it almost feels too basic now, even for halls. I could well imagine this outfit and these songs being performed in small clubs and country pubs. There is so little drama and impact. I would like to wish all of the Mechanics well for the future, and congratulate them on producing such a great album in "Beggar..." but I do feel that the live show is, on occasions, too well rehearsed and calculated.