Concert Review: Mike and The Mechanics
Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow
1st March 2019
Review and Images by Gavin Ross
Glasgow Royal Concert Hall seem a strange venue to hold events in which are more associated with pop and rock events than the classical events that often take place in this huge venue, but it is here we are tonight to see Mike and The Mechanics play as part of their ‘Looking Back (Over My Shoulder)’ tour.
Mike + the Mechanics are a British supergroup formed in 1985 by Mike Rutherford as a side project of Genesis, the band he made his name with. Having went through a few line-up changes and, with the death of one of the original members, Mike and The Mechanics was mothballed for a few years and resurrected in 2010 with Andrew Roachford and Tim Howar sharing vocal duties.
Many of us will remember Roachford, with his hits ‘Cuddly Toy’ and ‘Family Man’ from the late 80s propelling him forward as star in his own right. Tim Howar, having been born in Canada, has spent much of his career starring in West End and Broadway productions and, before returning to his duties with Mike and The Mechanics he was the male lead in Phantom of The Opera.
As we enter the Concert Hall to take our seats for what is a sell-out performance, you cannot help but be impressed with the stage set that has been laid out. With four very large hot air balloons straddling the entire stage from front to back, each bearing witness to the history of this band, with familiar images of album cover emblazoned on them, you are instantly reminded of the fantastic testament of the back catalogue of hits this band has.
With no support act to entertain us before the main event, Mike and The Mechanics take to the stage to a huge applause and cheers from the packed auditorium and waste no time in opening the proceedings with ‘The Best Is Yet to Come’ from their 2017 album ‘Let Me Fly’. I have no doubt that the tie in with the album title and the hot air balloons above the stage has not gone unnoticed by most of us in the audience.
This opening track sets the scene for what is about to come, and it is already clear that we are witnessing one of the best live acts of their generation. The crowd are appreciative in a manner that can only come from a Glasgow audience and, as Andrew Roachford, quietly sitting behind a keyboard at the front of the stage, introduces the next song by saying that he really wants ‘Another Cup Of Coffee’. I am sure I saw the hot air balloons moving a little higher with the warmth of the reception this song receives.
For most bands, where the main member is an internationally recognised superstar with a band who are considered legendary, you would perhaps expect this person to take the spotlight. Nothing could be further from the truth with Mike Rutherford and he quietly and studiously remains in the background, occasionally taking a solo or switching from lead guitar to bass guitar with ease, as he allows the other band members to shine.
This is very evident with Howar and Roachford who share vocal duties perfectly, not one trying to outshine the other, instead in perfect harmony with each other and evidently very happy.
As ‘Trying to Save’ is announced, Roachford comments that this is amongst the first songs that Rutherford, Roachford and Howar worked on together almost 10 years beforehand. The song starts with a slow keyboard and guitar introduction before a lovely piano kicks in and Roachford take the main vocal duties on the track.
It’s hard not to notice how much effort the band have put into designing the set for this evening with everything from the song selection to the stage set, lights and sound being immaculate. It is also hard not to notice just how good the sound in this venue is compared to some of the other main venues in the city where it is often a case of listening through an echo. Tonight, the sound is perfect. You can hear every note and it is not deafening.
On a personal aside, I am more than made aware of how crystal clear the sound is when the four drunken women, who arrived late and are sat behind me, begin chatting their way through each song and appear oblivious to the absolutely outstanding music being played live in front of them.
Announcing that the show is split into two sections, with a short break in the middle, we are instantly treated to the first of this evening’s nods to the past as a fantastic rendition of the bands ‘Land of Confusion’ is given an airing. This is the first of this evening’s tracks that really get the crowd on their feet and singing along in perfect time and the only thing that could be construed as confusing would be how anyone could not possibly be enjoying this.
Rutherford steps forward for one of his few forays into the main spotlight to play the guitar solo on this track and we are immediately taken back to the mid-eighties when this was first released. I suspect that many of us in the crowd, myself included, are also taken back to the Genesis gig at Glasgow’s Hampden Park, where they first saw and heard this played live. It has not lost anything over the years and remains as brilliant and relevant today as it did back then.
Remaining firmly rooted in the eighties we are transported to the pop side of that decade with Roachford, now front and centre and out from behind his keyboard, taking lead on his hit ‘Cuddly Toy’.
The reception for Roachford, and this track, is incredible. The crowd are cheering and singing along, almost everyone is on their feet dancing along as Roachford bounces up and down in time.
There is some amazing crowd interaction and humour during this song as Roachford, and band’s drummer, tease the crowd with an extended version as Howar is over by the keyboardist sharing vocals with him. The remaining band members, including Rutherford back on bass, take the song towards its conclusion with an amazing guitar solo.
I feel that it is sometimes easy to forget how well-crafted some of the music from the eighties actually was and we have certainly been well reminded of that during this song.
Bringing the first half of the evening to its conclusion is the new song ‘Out of The Blue’ from the forthcoming album of the same name. This track is a slow, but none the less upbeat song, with Roachford back behind his keyboard and Howar back to front stage as they again share vocals.
With the interval over, we retake our seats to be treated to an acoustic section for the opening of this part of the show. Consisting of 4 tracks it gives a taster of the afore mentioned ‘Out of The Blue’ album which features reworked acoustic versions of some of Mike and The Mechanics hits along-side some newer tracks.
First up was a Genesis cover of ‘Follow You Follow Me’ which had the crowd singing along instantly. The absolute standout from this section is the acoustic version of ‘Don’t Know What Came Over Me’ though the saxophone solo in ‘Everybody Gets a Second Chance’ gave it a run for its money. This lovely version had many of us singing along and it really set the tone for the rest of this short section of the show and for the release of the new album.
With the end of the acoustic tracks began the ‘play the big hits’ section as we head towards the climax of the show.
First up is ‘Silent Running’ which gets most of the crowd on its feet before ‘Get Up’ from the 1991 ‘Word of Mouth’ album completes the circle and gets the remaining members of the crowd on their feet.
The hits keep coming with the absolutely outstanding, and also heart wrenching, ‘Living Years’. I am sure I was not the only one in tonight’s audience who had a little tear in their eye as they reflected on the lyrics of this particular song.
Returning to the treasure trove of hits that Rutherford had with Genesis we are in awe at the rendition of ‘I Can’t Dance’ from the ‘We Can’t Dance’release from 1991. As soon as this track started members of the audience were doing the ‘dance’, that slow robotic walk that accompanied the video of the track. You can imagine the absolutely huge applause this track received at its conclusion, I can almost still hear it.
By now we all realise it’s almost the end of the evening and the dancing and, as if even possible, crowd participation reaches a higher level as ‘All I Need Is a Miracle’ is played.
This show has become the party to be at and we are all reminded again just how good Mike and The Mechanics are as recording artists, and as a live act. The crowd are singing, dancing in the aisles and cheering along and the look of enjoyment on people’s faces, band included, is the only evidence needed to tell you how good this is.
It is only fitting that with the tour being billed as the ‘Over My Shoulder’ tour that the last song of the set proper is indeed ‘Looking Back (over my shoulder)’. The lyrics fit perfectly as we don’t really want to say goodbye to this evening. I suspect most of us want this to go on forever.
The fun of this track continues with the band’s keyboard player being pushed to the front by the band members to undertake the ‘whistling’ part of the track though he may have been drowned out by the crowd who were whistling along in support.
The band leave the stage only to return for the last song of the evening, another stand up and join in song, ‘Word of Mouth’. Suddenly it’s all over and as we filter out the venue the smiles on people faces tell the story of a great night out listening to great music from a group of musicians who are still at the top of their game.
The moral of this review is, to paraphrase the last song of the evening, spread by word of mouth, or by any other means, just how good a night out a trip to see Mike and The Mechanics actually is – you won’t be disappointed.