Mama in concert at the Box Crewe 6th December 2013 AKA: “The Very Musical Box!”. Review by Graham Drabble. Photographs by Alan Hewitt.

Having evaded the floods in Rhyl by thirty yards and having negotiated a rail replacement bus as far as Chester I wasn’t too sure about the 6th of December.

Anyway, after a couple of pints in the corner bar I ventured into The Box with my chum Andy. I had never been to the Box before but it is a fine place to rock & roll and recharge your soul. The evening was a totally neutral non-combatant observer seeking an answer as to why “tribute” bands exist and my mate to remind me of the details as old age kicks in here.

Anyway, the house lights dimmed and the stage shone as Mama kicked off with Behind The Lines, thumping drum and bass embellished by cracking guitar work - Mr pseudo Collins appeared and launched into the singing bit - the crowd were up for it!

Duchess and Guide Vocal carried things forward and I was thinking ’mmm, so far so good’. Turn It On Again had the familiar count in intro and all the bluster of the “other band”. To be Phil Collins without being Phil is a bit of a feat but No Son Of Mine had me enthralled, not because Phil was being Phil but because it was clear that there was respect for the music.

Many Too Many was a revelation (that’s an old word) and quite rightly it was pointed out that it had little chart success (being polite there but he was right - it died on its arse) so wonderful to hear it after all these years! I commented to Andy ’I didn’t expect that’, ’neither did I’ or similar. Then a bit of the old stuff as Musical Box closed and a happy version of Misunderstanding with Collins phrasings off to a note but ’with respec’ innit’

Follow You Follow Me had me catapulted back to Knebworth 1978 for my first Genesis gig and my first love (now probably married to an accountant called Rupert with daughters Freya and poppy)… by now the crowd were singing along and rocking the joint.

Ripples was almost as good as Steve Hackett’s revisited version but I have to give Steve the point on that (as an Amanda fan she can walk on water for sure- straight across the Firth Of Fifth!). Solsbury Hill was lovely and a fitting tribute to “our Peter” and crowd participation was in overdrive. Set one closed with Domino and what a set! Spot on - pardon the pun yet again it was utterly brilliant.

A quick interval for toilet visits by band and bar visit by yours truly. Recharged, set two kicked off with a scary version of Mama - more menace than uncle Phil could ever summon! (I will not leave my cat with these guys when I go on holiday - they make Rammstein look like pussies when they do baad!) . Then Dodo and I am thinking will Lurker follow? Yes. Meanwhile, and we’re off… Abacab followed with lots of spirit and the crowd were bouncing along.

BUT WAIT - Spectral Mornings followed as Phil had a well deserved time out. Now that was a genuine ’I never expected that’ moment and given the quality of the playing it was totally deserved. If I had sat in my bedroom fifteen years ago with all the help in the world I couldn’t have come close! And it wasn’t copying Steve , it was respectful and stood up for itself. I take my hat off to Mr Guitar - take it away!

Phil came back on and the intro to Biko /In The Air Tonight kicked in and I looked at my chum and we had both thought it could go either way - either would have been fine (Biko 31st January 2014 Liverpool Cavern I will come for that) In The Air Tonight it was and damn fine it was - tons of bricks dropped metaphorically speaking with THAT moment in that tune.

By now I am knackered after 2AM bedtime watching the storms (gratuitous plug) for real but staggered to bar as the In The Cage medley started all of which was dished up with lashings of musicianship. Afterglow and Los Endos closed the set by which time we were all in Earls Court or Paris or thinking ’what’s for supper?’ (Curfew precluded that and Steve’s doing it anyway). Obviously we know what we like in our wardrobe. I Know What I Like with an inbuilt medley closed the evening and audience participation prevailed again - even mild mannered me was shaking me tail feathers baby!

What amazed me about the evening was the LOVE of music. I am a fussy bugger and until I saw G2 I never accepted tribute bands as worth anything - let alone PAYING to see them but I can declare I had no guest pass or ’incentives’ and no need to write this BUT the band were great, the audience were fantastic and given that we may not see “the band” themselves again it was a valid way for us to remember the past.

I know nothing of music technology or terminology but in layman’s terms it was bloody brilliant , a great night out and a revelation, there’s that word again! Once off stage the chaps came and chatted with the crowd and were thoroughly approachable . In closing I must say that the dedication of bands like Mama, G2 et al COSTS a lot to stage and I am sure that the £10 ticket price was repaid many times over. This week last year I had a slight stroke and I recovered OK thanks to rock & roll , my son and pub pals. I promise, all being well I will drag my weary ass to the Cavern for that gig to show my thanks for this great show.

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