"All I need is some hubcaps" - Mike & The Mechanics in concert at the Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool on Thursday 9th April 2015. Review by Alan Hewitt. Photographs by Stuart Barnes.
Well, after playing smaller rooms here in the UK over the last few years to re-establish the Mechanics “brand” with the new line up, I am pleased to say that the band are back in the kind of halls that they deserve to be playing. And even more delighted that they are back in what for me is my musical spiritual home: the Philharmonic Hall here in Liverpool which is where my adventures in music began all those many years ago!
Having had the good fortune to be allowed to sit in and listen to the sound check prior to interviewing Mike (the interview you can read elsewhere in this edition of TWR) we took our seats and readied ourselves for tonight’s entertainment which soon got under way as a synth intro announced the band on stage to begin the show with the evergreen Silent Running. Every time this one is performed it is different somehow and this time the emphasis was definitely on the keyboards and vocals as Tim Howar belted out the song as if his very life depended on it.
With the title of the tour being “Hits 2015” we were not short-changed in that department as A Beggar On A Beach Of Gold and Another Cup Of Coffee followed in rapid succession both of which were greeted like old friend by the sell-out Liverpool crowd.
Get Up does not necessarily come into the category of a “hit"; in fact the single never had the chance to gain that status as it was withdrawn from the shops back in 1991. A pity really as tonight, we got a rip-roaring performance with some incredible vocals once again from Mr Howar ably assisted by some equally excellent guitar work from Anthony Drennan and some particularly tasty licks from Mr Wallis who provided superlative percussion throughout the evening.
The Road album failed to set the world alight when it was released back in 2011 but the first of two representatives from it tonight; Try To Save Me took the pedal off the metal for a short while (excuse the pun) and gave Andrew Roachford a chance to shine. The contrast between Tim’s rock ‘n’ roll approach and Andrew’s more soulful one re-emphasised just how fortunate Mike has been in his choice of vocalists and this was another delight.
Back to the rock and roll next with Seeing Is Believing which definitely brought back happy memories of the 1989 Living Years tour and Tim did a superb job of filling the shoes of the late great Paul Young on this one. He even managed to put some magic into “Mujahadin” - no easy task I can tell you! As you will have read in the interview with Mike, the band are in the process of working out new material and they tried one of these new numbers out next. Let Me Fly is another of those ballad-styled songs which the Mechanics excel at and this one has all the makings of becoming another favourite with fans if its reception here tonight is anything to go by.
The Road, title track to 2011’s album by the band has definitely gained in performance. Roachford and Howar traded vocal performances off each other here with evident glee while the rest of the band were enjoying themselves equally as much if the smiles on their faces were anything to go by!
Back to the first album by the band for a laid back Taken In which led to an irrepressibly funky Everybody Gets A Second Chance which once again everyone participated in with relish.
Nobody’s Perfect contrasted nicely with Roachford’s Cuddly Toy emphasising , if any emphasis were needed the two sides of Mike & The Mechanics - atmosphere and fun both were here aplenty.
The band’s first nod to Mike’s day job came next with a raucous I Can't Dance. OK, I would have preferred something with a bit more substance here but I think hearing the Mechanics performing the likes of In The Cage would have been a step too far, don’t you? As it is, the band gave it their all and kudos in particular to Gary, Antony and Tim for really letting their hair down on this one and especially to Tim who thankfully refrained from re-creating Phil’s crotch-grabbing antics!
Living Years and I admit it, my stiff upper lip didn’t just tremble it dissolved! This song has an emotional resonance with anyone but if you have lost a loved one then it takes on just that little bit more and for me this was the beating heart of the show and delivered without a trace of sentimentality or bathos - superb stuff!
The band obviously were not going to leave the audience on an emotional downer however, so All I Need Is A Miracle closed the show in suitably rambunctious fashion. With Mr Howar conducting the Scouse choir, here the audience finally connected with the band and got up and danced and who can blame them as this is a bona fide tune to boogie to - or in my case try to so there!
The band then took their well deserved bows, but we all knew that encores were still to come and Over My Shoulder got them off in fine style. Luke Juby deserved the best whistler award here but his performance throughout the evening on keyboards, bass and saxophone had been nothing other than superb - don't you just hate people with talent eh? The show was eventually brought to a close by Word Of Mouth with full audience participation even if most of them got the moves wrong who cared it was just great to see everyone having fun.
Time flies and in the blink of an eye it was all over for another show. Here is a band that is drawing on its not inconsiderable legacy of great music but also creating a new one in terms of no nonsense performances which delivered the goods on every level in a show which ranked up there with many of the best from the previous incarnations of this wonderful band - here’s to many more!