“Tempus fugit in castrum deva” (or: time flies in Chester) - Mama in concert at the Forum Theatre, Chester on Saturday 24th January 2015. And at the Cavern Club, Liverpool on Friday 30th January 2015. Review and photographs by Alan Hewitt.
It’s been a while hasn’t it since we last carried a review of a Mama gig in the pages of TWR so, new year and the first tribute band gig review to boot. And what a splendid way to start!
Mama have improved commensurately since they emerged tentatively out of the ashes of the much loved Face Value and it has been a delight to follow their progress and tonight was no exception. The surprisingly bijou setting of the Forum Theatre reminded me somewhat of the Bray Film Studios rehearsal for the Calling All Stations tour in so much as it was a compact room with a lucky audience of about 200 who trouped into the theatre shortly before show time.
With changes promised, I was surprised to hear the band open the show with their signature tune: Mama but hey, it doesn’t matter where this classic slice of latterday Genesis is in the set it is always delivered in suitably dramatic fashion by the band and so it was tonight and with a lack of lighting due to space restrictions the emphasis tonight was on the MUSIC itself and this one came across superbly well, setting the scene for the rest of the evening.
Dancing With The Moonlit Knight segued into Carpet Crawlers and once again, the band demonstrated their consummate musicianship with a performance which Genesis themselves would have been proud of. John Comish in particular emulated Mr Banks’ finest arpeggios in fine style here. Contrasting that with a rambunctious version of Land Of Confusion only served to emphasise the sheer breadth and depth of Genesis’ music and the audience enjoyed every minute of this one in their own rather restrained way.
The Duke Suite rattled out of the traps next and was absolutely stunning. Each and every element of it was perfect tonight and although a couple of pieces from it are currently missing in action, from what I heard on the sound check they will soon be present and correct but here we had Behind The Lines, Duchess, Guide Vocal and Turn It On Again served up extraordinarily well with the entire band evidently having as much of a blast playing this as we were listening to it.
No Son Of Mine has always been a favourite of mine and the band did not disappoint tonight with an impeccable reading of this classic. John Wilkinson managed to generate just the right amount of drama in his vocal delivery while the Comish brothers brought Tony and Mike’s parts vividly to life while new boy David Jones’ meaty bass lines threatened to raise the roof.
The band have evidently referenced the classic Seconds Out album ( and why not I hear you ask) as The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway segued into the closing section of The Musical Box all done superbly well and kudos here to the rhythm section of David Jones and James Cooper who underpinned it all with panache.
Ripples has long been a favourite whichever tribute band plays it and tonight Mama brought it to life beautifully with Mark and John Comish in fine form and Mr Wilkinson delivering a perfectly balanced vocal making this yet another highlight in a show packed with them. The first half of the show was brought to a conclusion by Domino and although this lacked something in the visuals department, that really didn’t matter as the music more than compensated for that and here once again it was James Cooper’s astonishing drumming that drove everything along aided and abetted by the rest of an incredibly confident band - great stuff!
The second half got off to a rockier start with Dodo/Lurker and Abacab where once again, James and David rocked out with some seriously heavy riffs and paradiddles. The pace hardly let up with Misunderstanding in which Mr Wilkinson engaged in some corny hamming up which Phil Collins would have been proud of!
Spectral Mornings is now the only representative from the band’s solo careers but hey, I am NOT complaining as tonight Mark Comish delivered a performance which would have made Mr Hackett proud.
Back to the “longs” for a classic (and exhausting) pairing of Home By The Sea/Second Home By The Sea and the evergreen In The Cage Medley (you know what I mean don’t you folks?). This was simply amazing and I don’t know where the band got their energy from as they did not flag for a single moment during this marathon of musical drama in which each and every member of the band played their hearts out.
Los Endos would normally signal the end of the show but not tonight oh no! James’s two minutes of thunder was followed by a master class in percussion in which James made it look oh so easy (which it ISN’T by the way!). No need for double drumming here when you have a drummer who must have been cloned from an octopus! The rest of the band soon joined him for a marvellous reading of this vintage track before the show proper ended with the exhausting pairing of Tonight, Tonight, Tonight and Invisible Touch once again delivered superbly well, even the odd fluffed note during the former didn’t matter in fact, they strangely seemed quite appropriate for some reason!
Only one encore but after a show like this no one could complain as once again we were taken for a trip back to the dank dark Seventies for I Know What I Like and some seriously over the top antics from Mr Wilkinson bringing what had been an already excellent night to an even more enjoyable conclusion.
Less than a week later I found myself at what has become a regular stomping ground: The Cavern Club in my own home town of Liverpool for what would prove to be an even more enjoyable gig than the one that had preceded it. Mama have already gained a devout following in the ‘Pool and it seemed as if most of them were here tonight. I have seldom seen the Cavern quite so packed as it was tonight so we were off to a good start before the band even took the stage!
The show drew on all of the strengths of Genesis’ best material including superlative renderings of the “Duke Suite”, Mama, Abacab and for some reason even Throwing It All Away (usually pee break time for yours truly) was extremely enjoyable.
Augmented by some serious audience participation from some of the usual suspects (OK, it’s a fair cop, Guv’nor!) the entire evening was one which ended all too quickly - tempus fugit indeed! And this was one gig where the band proved me wrong and upped the ante even more with an even more impressive show all round. If the band maintain this level of energy and momentum then the big time (pun intended) must really be only round the corner for them and deservedly so!
And there you have it, Mama’s first gigs of 2015, and on this showing, the new year is going to be a BIG one for this band. They have set the bar extremely high for themselves here but I have no doubts that they will surpass it with ease and I am sure that the band will be gracing the pages of TWR for some time to come - well done all round!