“Hitting The Road To Liverpool” - Mike & The Mechanics in concert at the Empire Theatre Liverpool on Sunday 22nd May 2011. Review by Alan Hewitt. Photographs by Stuart Barnes.
Seven years is a long time in the world of Rock & Roll as anyone will tell
you. Bands come and go in the blink of an eye these days. Not so the Mechanics
whose last outing was back in 2004 in support of the Rewired album. The relative
lack of success of that album led many to believe that perhaps Mike had had
enough of his “other” band. Obviously not the case as the Mechanics
have been completely reconfigured. Paul Carrack has opted not to take part this
time but Mike has managed to find two vocalists who between them manage to capture
the essential dichotomy of styles that marked out the partnership of Carrack
and his much missed partner in crime; Paul Young. Andrew Roachford, whom some
of you will no doubt remember from his success in the ’90’s and
a relative unknown on this side of the pond, Tim Howar admirably cope with vocal
duties on the new album; The Road. Of the band which last hit the road (pun
intended) in 2004, only Mike and drummer Gary Wallis remain. Guitar duties are
undertaken this time round by Anthony Drennan whom some of you may remember
from Genesis’ 1998 Calling All Stations tour.
So, effectively a new band and a new live sound. How does it compare to the previous line ups? Well, we shall see…
The band emerged on stage after an entertaining opening performance from Scarlette Fever who had done their job of warming up the crowd more than adequately and the show proper began with new track; The Road which came across infinitely better than it does on the album. Andy Roachford stationed behind his keyboard gave the song a smooth performance ably assisted by the rest of the band. Beggar On A Beach Of Gold was next. Always a live favourite, I was intrigued to see how the band would deliver it this time. I needn’t have worried, in Tim Howar, the band have found a front man with an uncanny knack for sounding like the late great Paul Young and he belted out this one in just the same fashion - superb stuff!
Get Up too was given a hard rocking treatment and Tim did his best to get an unusually reserved Liverpool audience off their duffs but hey, the crowd didn’t want to peak too early! Nevertheless, the performance was excellent. The grins on the faces of the entire band gave the game away that they were here to enjoy themselves as much as we were.
Back to the new stuff next with Try To Save, another soulful track which Andy obviously relished performing. Nobody Knows and Another Cup Of Coffee were absolutely amazing. A totally enjoyable performance and one which brought back a lot of memories for me.
I Don’t Do Love certainly has all the hallmarks of classic Mechanics ballads of old and in the hands of Mr Roachford, it was delivered faultlessly. If I Were You, one of the better tracks from the Rewired album came over much better with the vocal duties shared by both Andy and Tim giving it a much stronger over all feel and vibe. Only To Be gave Mr Roachford a chance to polish off one of his own compositions and the audience thoroughly enjoyed it too.
A homage to Mike’s “other” band followed with a rock solid performance of the classic Follow You Follow Me and the ubiquitous I Can’t Dance, whish gave Tim a chance once again to rock out with a marvellous vocal performance. Thankfully the crotch grabbing and gurning was kept to a minimum this time round!
By now, the audience were beginning to warm to the band and their part in the proceedings properly and a full-blooded Scouse choir augmented the band as they brought us the emotion-packed Living Years which even in the halcyon days of the band has seldom sounded better to my ears.
The show proper was rounded off with another pairing of memorable Mechanics tracks; Over My Shoulder and All I Need Is A Miracle by which time the audience finally got off their backsides (well, some of us did!). If there were an Olympic event for whistling then Luke Juby would have won gold (off the beach perhaps?) for his performance on the former! The performance just kept on getting better and better as the evening wore on. Kudos to Gary Wallis here too. He had been the backbone of the band all night but here he really too the song to new heights with some impeccable drumming.
Of course the evening wasn’t going to go by without encores but the first one was obviously a surprise to many as Roachford gave us his Cuddly Toy classic which yours truly had seen him perform at this very emporium so many years ago. What else could finish a Mechanics show? Only Word Of Mouth of course. Tim brought the show home with a fantastic rock ‘n’ roll performance which garnered the band a well deserved standing ovation.
That was it. All too quickly the gig was over. Time always flies when you’re enjoying yourself though and tonight’s performance was definitely one to relish and savour. I have to admit I went to this gig preparing to be disappointed. I honestly didn’t think that anyone could successfully replace the two Pauls but I was wrong. Andy and Tim don’t try to emulate their predecessors, they don’t need to either! They brought their own unique stamp to the classics and brought the new material vividly to life. In all of this they were more than ably assisted by new boys Luke Juby and Anthony Drennan while Mike… well what do I need to say about Mr Rutherford?
The gig was even more surprising when you find out that Mike, Andy and Tim had all been suffering from flu for the last few days. Not that you would have known it - the mark of true professionals. The Mechanics are BACK and on this showing they’re on top form - thanks a lot guys!
As usual, there are a few thank you’s attached to this review. My grateful thanks to Doug Wright at LD Publicity Limited and Carol Willis at TSPM for their help in organising the interview which you can read elsewhere in this edition. Special thanks to Steve “Pud” Jones for all his assistance and patience on the day. A big thank you to Mr Stuart Barnes for all his assistance and encouragement. Of course, the biggest thanks has to go to Mike, Andy, Tim, Anthony, Gary and Luke for reinvigorating the Mechanics - here’s to many more nights on the road!