“Hitting the road with the Mechanics” - Mike and the Mechanics in concert at the Venue Cymru, Llandudno and Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool on Monday 20th and Tuesday 21st February 2017. Review by Alan Hewitt. Photographs by Stuart Barnes and Katherine Stratton. Memorabilia: TWR archive.
As soon as these gigs were announced, I realised that yet another member of Genesis had done me the kindness of performing a gig on my birthday (thanks chaps!) and so it was with the usual sense of excitement that I made my way to the first of this brace of shows at the Venue Cymru in Llandudno in the company of TWR’s webmaster, Stuart Barnes and equally crazy fan, Katherine Stratton who had come all the way from Nova Scotia for these shows (see I am NOT the only crazy one around folks!). Unlike the band’s previous UK tour in 2015, this gig was not blighted by bad weather (remember the gales folks?).
|Ben McKelvey, the band’s support act for this tour was known to me via Facebook and radio and so I was more than keen to take my seat early for a change and take in their performance too. I was not to be disappointed. With a new album to promote (see review and interview later in this edition) Ben and his percussionist cohort Marc Danecker took the stage and for the next thirty or so minutes regaled us with a selection of songs from Ben’s debut album, Life & Love In England. I was extremely impressed by how well these songs sounded stripped down to simply Ben and Marc’s vocals, acoustic guitar and percussion in the shape of a Spanish tuned percussion, instrument, a Cajon… Last time I saw The Mechanics with a support act as good as this was back in 1995 and I was greatly impressed by the material but the highlight for me was a track of the forthcoming One For The Road EP, Curse Of A Town, a superb slice of storytelling which had me enthralled and I was not the only one if the audiences reaction was anything to go by! Taking the chance to have a brief chat with Ben and Marc at interval, an interview was duly set up for the following day in Liverpool.|
We didn’t have long to wait for The Mechanics to take the stage and the show got under way with a song from the forthcoming album, Are You Ready is an impressive slice of rock Mechanics style with a superbly impressive vocal from Tim Howar, which got the show off to a great start. One thing that ws evident immediately was how confident and relaxed the band appeared this time round. Their previous outings in 2011 and 2015 were slightly nervous ones but not tonight folks!
The band mixed up the selection with a trio of classics Another Cup Of Coffee complete with the usual bad espresso jokes from Roachford leading into Get Up and the evergreen Silent Running. This gave both Tim and Andrew the chance to flex their vocal muscles ably accompanied by some superb guitar and keyboard work from Anthony Drennan and Luke Juby … oh and not forgetting Mr Rutherford himself too, of course!
Back to the new stuff next with another two offerings from the new album. Save The World featuring another superb vocal performance from Roachford, and The Best Is Yet To Come giving Mr Howar another chance to impress. The new material is definitely a step up from the tentativeness of The Road. These songs are brim full of confidence and were delivered in the same fashion by the band who were evidently having a great time playing them which is always a good sign.
Mike’s nods to his “school band” took the shape of fun versions of Land Of Confusion and I Can’t Dance at different points in the show. From my perspective I could have lived without either of these in favour of other Mechanics tracks or perhaps other Genesis ones, no… not Supper’s Ready… this is a MECHANICS gig after all!
More new stuff was delivered with a beautiful acoustic setting for High Life and Wonder which saw drummer Gary Wallis come forward from his kit to perform alongside the rest of the band and be subjected to some good natured banter from Mike. We also got the new album’s title track too, and Let Me Fly is equally as impressive. The rest of the show drew upon some of The Mechanics’ best known moments including a truly uplifting Living Years and of course, the nod to the “Roachford Files” in the shape of an extended Cuddly Toy with full audience participation.
One show down, and on to my home town for the second gig. After lunch and some sightseeing, we arrived at the venue, the marvellous Philharmonic Hall in time to conduct the interview with Ben and Marc which had been organised the day before. Then enter the hallowed hall to watch the Mechanics’ sound check which is always an interesting (and amusing) experience before being ushered backstage to chat to Mike about the new album and you can read all of this elsewhere in this edition folks.
Showtime arrived and we took our seats and for the next two hours we were treated to another high octane show. Once again Ben and Marc got the audience warmed up with another excellent performance before the Mechanics took the stage. Set wise, the show was the same as it had been the night before and it has to be said once again that it was the new stuff which impressed the most once again. In particular Are You Ready and High Life and the new album’s title track, Let Me Fly all of which augur well for a successful album when it is released on 7th April…. Make a note of that date folks! Creating moods and atmospheres has always been the band’s trademark and at both of these gigs, they managed to conjure the whole range of emotions from the music and the audience’s reaction to it. With such a cast of characters in the band, it is not surprising that mechanics gigs are always a mixture of drama and melodrama and these were no exception… here’s to many more!
(That's all the gig photos from Liverpool, folks. The venue staff 'caught' me and asked me to stop! - SB)
Once again, a few thank you’s have to be made so here we go… First of all to Joanne Greenwood for organising everything for us in the first place. To Steve “Pud” Jones and to Mike the concert promoter for the extra unexpected surprise which was waiting for us at the Liverpool gig. To Ben McElvey and Marc Danecker for being such a great opening act and for giving up so much of their free time to talk to us. And of course, thanks to Mike, Tim, Andrew, Gary, Luke and Anto for the music… oh and for the beer! Finally thanks to Katherine Stratton, Stuart Barnes and Geoff Davvis for being such great company and for helping me celebrate another birthday in such fine style!