Celebrating The Living Years with Mike & The Mechanics in concert at the Parr Hall Warrington on 23rd February 2014. Review and photographs by Jill Walker.
Is it really 25 years? Do you remember where you were when you first heard Mike & The Mechanics perform The Living Years? I was driving to work with the radio on, and then arrived there in tears, it got me at first listen! So, tonight, 25 years later, was to be a chance to celebrate the album again, played live with Mike and the current line up of Mechanics. Also to remember original singers; Paul Carrack and the late great Paul Young.
First up though was something different with support act Sadie & The Hothead. A familiar face fronting the band. If you are a fan of Downton Abbey, Lady Grantham herself - Elizabeth McGovern. A very tight band and a unique sound. Hard to pin a genre of music to them as the songs are very varied with wide ranging influences. I can’t pretend this is my type of music but an enjoyable start to the evening anyway.
Now for the main part of the night, and it was clear from the start that this was going to be a full-on, high energy, non stop performance from the band. Mike hit the stage with the Mechanics - Gary Wallis on drums, Luke Juby on keyboards, saxophone and guitar, Anthony Drennan guitar and bass, Andrew Roaschford on vocals and keyboards and Tim (I’m Canadian not American!) Howar on vocals. Tim bounded on stage with such enthusiasm and joy, we knew we were in for a great night.
First up was Beggar On A Beach of Gold with Tim taking the lead vocal and he soon got the audience joining in. Tim is such a charismatic performer and sounded more confident than ever with his rich powerful voice doing the song justice. Next up and from the same album was Another Cup Of Coffee with Andrew taking the helm. It is hard not to compare his voice with Paul Carrack, he has the same smooth, soulful tone and tells the story so well. The pace was cranked up a notch as the fast and intricate piano intro from Luke heralded Get Up from Word Of Mouth. Energetic performances from the whole band on this one and some wicked guitar. My only complaint was having to sit down through this! It was a bit early to start blocking people’s view as we were very near the front. There ’s a lot to be said for standing venues!
I was hoping that we would hear the entire Living Years album along with a few extras, however Mike announced that they would be playing songs from various albums and next up was Try To Save Me. Not one of my favourites from The Road but well received by the audience. A track from the Living Years album came next: Seeing Is Believing. A vocal challenge as Mike explained with some unusual lyrics to get your tongue round. Tim had no problems with this and the energy levels rose again with this fast paced crowd pleaser. Time to breath now as the quiet, haunting keyboard introduction to Silent Running changed the mood. A great song with some menacing guitar sounds and driving drums. An excellent vocal from Andrew creating the urgency of the message in the lyrics. One of my favourite songs from The Living Years came next: Don’t a bouncy beat from the drums throughout and some fantastic guitar with an almost funky feel.
A couple of songs from previous bands came next. Roachford fans in the audience made lots of noise as he sang This Generation. He was really on form, getting lots of audience participation. Mike’s familiar guitar for the next song grabbed me instantly. It was “Genesis Time” and Turn It On Again. No sitting down now, this was magic and Warrington responded accordingly. Thanks for that one, Mike. A very new song came next, Whenever My Feet Don’t Touch The Ground . Only written a few weeks ago according to Mike, and certainly one that I look forward to hearing again. Melodic, and in a similar vein to The Living Years.
This band make playing these wonderful songs seem effortless and most of all, fun. A good sign that this is a well rehearse bunch of musicians. Mike in particular looked so relaxed with a big smile on his face for most of the night, enjoying every minute. The hits continued with Everybody Gets A Second Chance from Word Of Mouth and then Nobody’s Perfect from The Living Years. Audience participation was getting louder with each and every song.
Andrew’s turn in the spotlight again with probably his best known track: Cuddly Toy. He really let rip owning the stage and really selling the song, what a performer. Mike’s reply was to lead the band into a second Genesis song: I Can’t Dance. As the choppy chords began and Tim came forward to the microphone, Andrew got to the back of him and began the most hilarious stint of body popping, making sure we all knew he could dance. The crowd loved it and went wild prompting Tim to turn round and catch him at it. A great performance from all.
At last, the celebratory song of the night as the soft intro began and Tim announced The Warrington BSL Signing Choir would join the band on stage for Living Years. Magnificent and so emotional. Andrew’s voice really captures the raw feeling that make this song so special to so many people.
The show was nearing the end now as one of the Mechanics’ oldest and most loved songs began: All I Need Is A Miracle, a song requiring a vocalist with a good range and originally sung by Paul Young. Andrew showed his expertise again from this and produced a rousing version along with Tim and the massed choir of Parr Hall. A perfect finale. Tim introduced individual members of the band and suggested we should hear a short solo from each. Luke obliged with a stunning piece of keyboard wizardry. Anthony wowed us on guitar, Gary gave us a thumping good drum solo Andrew also on keyboards launched into his best Stevie Wonder impression with Superstition which I would have loved to have heard more of. Then it was Mike’s turn - wow! I don’t think I have ever heard mike play like this before. Jimi Hendrix’s Purple Haze which totally took me by surprise. He just let rip and obviously was in his element. The rest of the band joined in and Andrew sang the famous line… ‘scuse me while I kiss this guy’ Magic!
The band left the stage to tumultuous applause and it wasn’t long before they returned for the encores and two great crowd pleasers: Over My Shoulder first and a big mention for Luke at this point, as he stepped to the microphone for a very proficient whistling section! Finally a rousing chorus of Word of Mouth to round off an amazing night. This is the point where you wish the magic would go on and on. Mike and The Mechanics give a wonderful live performance, full of energy , fun and superb music and pure entertainment. A great night, thanks Mike, and come back soon.