“All in a bassist’s night” - Mama live at the Thwaites Empire Theatre, Blackburn on Saturday 20th September 2014. Review and photographs by Alan Hewitt.
It has been a while, hasn’t it? Yes it seems like a lifetime since I last saw Mama in concert but anticipation is half the fun or so they say. So, here I was back at the Thwaites Empire Theatre in Blackburn which I had last visited with Mama’s previous incarnation: Face Value. The theatre is a lovely place, the likes of which are sadly becoming rarer these days and so, if you have such a venue in your locale - use it or lose it!
Anyway, after watching the band set up and sound check overcoming the usual round of technical gremlins with the swift application of someone’s favourite hammer it was time to repair to the bar for some refreshment where I encountered fellow web site organiser, Simon Funnell whose marvellous The Movement site is a must for all fans. Catching up and chewing the fat about all things Genesis Simon and I then took our seats along with the rest of the crowd eager to see what Mama had in store for us tonight.
The band emerged on stage including a new face this time but more of him later, folks. The usual opener of Behind The Lines/ Dukes Travels and Turn It On Again were all delivered in suitably impeccable fashion with the band evidently in fine form and enjoying themselves.
A Mama gig these days bears little relation to what you might have expected had you ever seen face Value. The emphasis now is placed firmly and squarely on Genesis’ music and as such we were treated to a show of two halves comprising some of the finest music from the band ’ s incredible career. The band have extended their reach even further back into the dim and distant past and tonight we had such hoary classics as Carpet Crawlers, Dancing With The Moonlit Knight and I Know What I Like rubbing shoulders with latter day ones such as Home By The Sea, Abacab and No Son Of Mine all of which merely served to reiterate the sheer depth of Genesis’ back catalogue.
Ask any group of Genesis fans what their favourite tracks are and you will get enough answers to fill a book but the band gave it their best stab to bring something to everybody and once again even included a few non-Genesis moments including a masterful reading of Spectral Mornings which guitarist Mark Comish delivered with aplomb, augmented by that new face I mentioned - yes, Mama have a new bass player: David Jones and this was his first gig with the band and if he was experiencing any first night nerves they certainly didn ’ t show as his playing brought a new depth to the band’s performances.
Vocalist John Wilkinson took evident delight in winding up the crowd over the subject of songs which Peter Gabriel used to sing before the band gave us a delightfully playful reading of Solsbury Hill in which honours were shared by the entire band and to the crowd’s evident delight.
For me though the highlight of the evening was what has now become a standard part of the Mama set; an impeccable performance of the underrated Many Too Many in which keyboards man John Comish and the rest of the band really excelled themselves. Phil Collins got his moment too as drummer James Cooper unleashed the dynamic In The Air Tonight which was extremely well executed by all and he reprised his superlative drumming during the evergreen Los Endos where the entire band took evident delight in flexing their musical muscles.
And there you have it, a polished and professional performance from a band who enjoy themselves and entertaining their audience in equal measure making for an extremely enjoyable night out all round.
My thanks once again to the guys in Mama, to Andrew, Mr Broome and Julie without whom etc … and to the members of the Thwaites Empire staff who were both welcoming and eager to offer assistance and for their superlative tea/coffee making skills - here’s to the next one!