Mike and The Mechanics live at the Apollo Theatre, Manchester, Friday 14th May, 1999. Review by Matthew Isaacs.

Apart from the recent "Now that You've Gone" single, I hadn't heard any of the new album. Two questions came to me just before showtime. Will the new material stand up alongside the favoured classics and will they prove as energetic and entertaining as last time? The answer to both those questions is a unanimous "Yes".

With the ever brilliant Gary Wallis and Brian May band mainstay Jamie Moses on board, I knew I wasn't going to be let down when the group commenced with the haunting rendition of "Beggar on a Beach of Gold" and brisk and energised "Get Up". Out of the seven new songs which all stood their ground, "Always Listen to Your Heart", "Did You See Me Coming" and "Whenever I Stop" were the ones that came across the strongest live. Even the more delicate numbers like "My Little Island" and the beautiful "All The Light I Need" stood admirably well next to established warhorses such as "Another Cup of Coffee "and "Silent Running".

The remaining half of the show hasn't changed since the previous tour, and probably doesn't need to. The "Other Groups and Outfits" section was lapped up right to the last drop by the Manchester audience. The crowd sang like a choir to "Everyday Hurts" and clapped and swayed along to "How Long?" And when THAT drum machine that opens "I Can't Dance" kicked in, the place went berserk! After an emotive but powerful "Living Years" it was time to party the night away. Paul Young had the whole crowd in the palm of his hand during "All I Need is a Miracle." Not bad for someone who was considering dropping the song from the set list due to a sore throat! Even the normally static Paul Carrack came out from behind his keyboards to start a crowd singalong to "Over My Shoulder".

The best came last when maestro Mike Rutherford riffed in to "Word of Mouth". The sight of all those hands waving in time would make even the Queen smile! All the members left the Apollo stage to momentous applause. Some cynics would say that the concert was too safe and unadventurous, but that is something to be proud of when you have a catalogue of well crafted, unusual but commercial classics, two superb frontmen with belting voices; and an enthusiastic audience with a huge appetite for top quality songs and high value entertainment. In Mike Rutherford's case, predictability CAN be a good thing!

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Mike on stage
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The lucky ticket