“Gremlins at the Gate” - Mama live at the Moses Gate Bolton on Saturday 8th September 2012. Review and photographs by Alan Hewitt.

Mama have only been in existence for a few months but already they have undergone personnel changes as I was to discover tonight. Having emerged out of the ashes of Face Value at the end of last year, they have acquired a new guitarist, or should that be not so new guitarist in the shape of Mark Comish whom some of you may remember had a brief stint in Face Value himself. Mark has stepped in to fill the gap left by Chris O’Connell who has left the band due to other commitments.

Anyway, on with the show… As usual, mine host Ray and his good lady made us all welcome prior to show time and the tasks of setting up and sound checking went ahead. This is usually the point where any technical issues are addressed and problems put right - sometimes by the application of the band’s favourite hammer! Tonight there seemed to be more “issues” than normal and they weren’t all resolved by show time.

Nothing daunted, the band emerged on stage at 9.15 to a packed house and got the evening’s entertainment under way with the Duke’s Medley culminating in an impressive Turn It On Again which got things off to a suitably up beat start. As usual, The Gate was rammed with enthusiastic fans and they were determined to give the band a great welcome and they were not in the slightest bit bothered by the band’s evident technical issues.

Classic followed classic throughout the first half of the show with Abacab threatening to tear the roof of the Gate from its foundations, with Mark “the Beast of Beijing” Conroy on bass. Not so new boy Mark Comish got to grips with the intricacies of the In The Cage medley with aplomb while the combination of Many Too Many and the segue into the closing section of Musical Box worked a treat. Here it was Mark’s brother; John who took the plaudits for an excellent performance and the first half was brought to a close with a wonderfully emotive performance of Ripples which still send s the shivers up and down my spine whenever I hear it.

A short and well deserved break (for both band and audience) was followed by the second half which got under way with the band’s signature tune; Mama. Always a treat to hear and tonight it was an incredibly dramatic performance with Mr Wilkinson giving 110% on the vocals. He teased the crowd “about these Gabriel songs” before the band launched into the evergreen Solsbury Hill, complete with audience participation. Once again the beast was unleashed as Mark’s bass threatened to bring the place down about our ears aided and abetted by some excellent percussion from James Cooper with an incredibly meaty Squonk and with the band expanding the envelope to include classic slices from the solo members’ catalogues it was time next for Spectral Mornings. Unfortunately, it was here that Mr Comish’s nerves got the better of him (it was only his second gig with the band) and his solo came ever so slightly unglued.

Redemption was soon on the way though as a couple of songs later he absolutely nailed the part in All I Need Is A Miracle aided and abetted by Mr Conway once more before the show concluded with a stunning trio of Genesis “longs”; Domino, Los Endos and Tonight, Tonight, Tonight all of which stretched the band’s capabilities to the limit but they rose manfully to the challenge and brought the show to a close in emphatic style.

Of course, the crowd weren’t going to let the band get away without an encore or two so they gave us two marvellous classics. First of all, a suitably respectful and emotional Carpet Crawlers before the night’s entertainment ended with a singalong I Know What I Like which sent everyone home happy.

It is always a pleasure to see the band here at The Gate, the welcome that mine host Ray and his good lady, Mags put on for us is always top notch. Okay so tonight, there were some problems which might have stopped a lesser band in their tracks but not these guys, and credit must also go to Andrew and Kevin who between them managed the sound and lights superbly well - another excellent evening, here’s to the next one!

Editor’s note: Some of the more observant among you may notice that these photos are not from the Moses Gate gig. Technical problems meant that none were available to us from that gig so we had to substitute these from a previous performance. Normal service will be resumed next time - honest!

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