Gig review by Zyllah Moranne-Brown with photography by Ken Harrison

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The Symphony Hall and surrounding area is a very busy place tonight. Ant and Dec (not in person) are filming a fling thing in Centenary Square, while there’s a posh black tie do on in one of the halls. But we’re here in the lovely Symphony Hall auditorium to see Mike Rutherford’s ‘side project’ Mike and the Mechanics.

This little off shoot of Rutherford’s hasn’t done too badly. Releasing 7 albums and selling more than 10 million records, they be here tonight celebrating 25 years since the release of ‘Living Years.’  His other band didn’t do too bad either, notching up over 130 million record sales, making Genesis one of the biggest selling bands ever…

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That doesn’t mean to say, it’s been easy. The sudden death of one of the original singers, Paul Young, left Paul Carrack as the only vocalist in a band that featured two lead vocalists. So after quite a hiatus, Rutherford had a swap-around and setup a second incarnation recruiting two new singers. So to confirm these days, Mike and The Mechanics are: Mike Rutherford (Genesis), Andrew Roachford (solo performer, known in his own right, especially for ‘Cuddly Toy’), Tim Howar (musical stage performer who’s recently appeared in the West End rock musical ‘Rock of Ages’), Anthony Drennan (guitarist with The Corrs, Genesis, Clannad and many more), keyboardist Luke Juby (Leona Lewis, Delta Goodrem, Olly Murs and as part of the band for both XFactor and Britain’s Got Talent) and drummer Gary Wallis (Nik Kershaw, 10CC, Il Divo, Westlife and longest serving member of Mike and The Mechanics with 21 years by Rutherford’s side).

Tonight’s audience is tad older and more refined, but no less enthusiatic. Before the gig we’re chatting to some lovely people from Tamworth and Bristol who tell us Mike and The Mechanics are really good – having seen them many times. So we have a positive prognosis for tonight then.

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First up Sadie and the Hotheads. Conceived in 2007 when Elizabeth McGovern took guitar lessons from Steve Nelson. He encouraged her to begin to write her own songs and they put together a band of musicians to support the project. Just to clarify, Elizabeth McGovern is better known as an actress, notably as Cora, Countess of Grantham, of Downtown Abbey fame. There a band of seven on stage, McGovern dressed in sparkly silver top and tiny black skirt. The band are an eclectic mix blues meets country with traditional folk mix coming from a left-field stance. She tell’s us she happy to be here tonight and are indeed going down well with the audience. “This track may be familiar…” and as McGovern dances a bit like a zombie; it’s an alternative folky, slowed down version of The BeeGees ‘Staying Alive.’ It’s a bizarre yet surprisingly good take on the track.

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She works with a charity called World Vision*, for which she sponsors a child called Justina in Sierra Leone, and she’s keen to promote what they do and the band are indeed at merchandising stand with the charity after their set. Sadie and the Hotheads are interesting, featuring harmonised vocals in an alternative folk way. Check them out, when McGovern and co. next pass by.

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And so in the interval we get a bit of Hall and Oats (they’ll be playing here later in the year), ‘Cry Wolf’ by A-Ha and a smattering of The Clash – ‘Should I Stay Or Should I Go.…’

And just around 8.30pm, the lights go down, intro music starts and on they come, big cheers and wave to Rutherford. “Hello Birmingham…”

First track ‘A Beggar on a Beach of Gold’ gives us Roachford on keyboards and taking the vocal lead Howar, who has a surprisingly powerful voice and already he’s clearly having a blast fronting the band, there’s a cheeky impish quality about him.  Howar: “Thank you. Anyone for a cup of coffee?” and we indeed go into ‘Another Cup of Coffee’, this time with Roachford on vocal duties.

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The band are clearly already enjoying themselves, Howar sings and grins from ear-to-ear, with cheekily infectious enthusiasm in his delivery; Roachford plays keyboards with huge style and accomplishment and his vocals too soulfully soar.  This is already a gig that makes you smile. For ‘Get Up’, there’s is a great camaraderie between the singers and band; the singers just having fun, with one another taking vocal lead from one another and harmoniously duelling.

Rutherford: “Birmingham, it’s Saturday and it’s great to be here…”  There’s cheeky banter between the band as Rutherford implies they’ll deliver their entire back-catalogue tonight…‘Try to Save Me’ was written with Roachford who vocally delivers, before Howar takes duties with the lyrically challenging ‘Seeing is Believing.’ As Rutherford introduces the band, Howar is introduced as delivering ‘vocals and visual interpretation’, which we get – while Roachford delivers in great style, Howar not only brings his powerful voice, but the over emphasised display, akin to musical stage performances. ‘Silent Running (On Dangerous Ground)’ is delivered with a great rendition by Roachford taking the lead.

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And then to a Roachford track ‘This Generation’ given in all it’s energetic glory, a total clap along – and as the band stop and we continue to clap; Roachford: “Who needs a band? We’ve got the best clappers in the world here….”

Big cheers as crowd recognise the next track, this time a Genesis classic: ‘Turn It On Again.’ Wow! Our jaws drop as Howar, who has a tenor-like voice so far, turns vocal chameleon and sounds uncannily like Collins. He hits the mark and then some. It’s unlikely you’ll ever see Genesis do this (Collins officially retired a few years ago, although is threatening to re-appear, Banks recently killed off any suggestions of reformation) and so it is a pure treat in all its glory.

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So to a plug on Mike and The Mechanics retro stuff that’s just been released (quite a list, to which a band member retorts they’ll probably be a pizza too), before new track off said singles collection, ‘When My Feet Don’t Touch The Ground’ – delivered by Roachford. We’d already been told keyboard player Juby is a talented multi-instrumentalist (as well as providing backing vocal duties) as he has indeed taken up bass guitar and by the following song, ‘Everybody Gets a Second Chance’, clearly still bored with keyboards – he’s on sax .

And as the tracks flow, the two singers, swap and intermix, a vocal joust, before we’re given the Roachford classic ‘Cuddly Toy’ which features not just 5 (times) but 21, as the band go dadadadadadadadadadadadadadadadadadadadada – every band member bang on time, an expert musical delivery.

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And now to another Genesis classic – once again with Howar taking on Collins, as we get ‘I Can’t Dance’ and Howar, Rutherford and Drennan start to do the classic band walk (check out the original video) across the stage. Roachford takes us on the vocal journey for the tour titled ‘The Living Years’, an anthemic prayer and audience arms start to sway from side to side. We’re in full on party mood now, as they deliver ‘All I Need is a Miracle’, Howar giving it his full vocal range… ”sing-a-long-a-Birmingham – cos this is the home of Led Zeppelin” as he get’s us to repeat “all what, all I need, give it to me baby.”

Quick break for an encore, and ‘Over My Shoulder’ is all acoustic guitars, whilst Howar brings the mike stand to the front of stage to give whistle duties to the bass, sax playing keyboardist Juby. Ridiculously talented bunch this lot are and by god it shows.  But there’s no ego’s on stage tonight – these guys are clearly having great fun, a total blast, and it’s totally infectious too – we are very much at their party. Final track ‘Word of Mouth’, starts with a drum solo – we’re all now in full on party mode in the glorious hall, as Howar gives us semaphore arm gestures to copy far to more than just swaying side to side. Howar: ‘I love you…you guys can sing…’ As this cheeky imp introduces the band for a second time, guitarist Drennan gives us a solo, with amongst other the theme to the Birmingham-based soap ‘Crossroads,’ Roachford gives us a bit of Stevie Wonder’s ‘Superstition’ on his keyboards, Rutherford receives a huge cheer and delivers us Hendrix’s ‘Purple Haze’.

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Set over, they’ve had a blast, we’re in party mood and in a line the band members bow, clearly on a high from their reception tonight. Rutherford maybe one of the biggest selling artists ever, but as he departs the stage last, he bows down in acknowledgment to the crowd. Respect.

Mike and The Mechanics, a bit like Genesis, weren’t exactly my cup of tea. But their music, permeated the airwaves, and it’s surprising just how many tracks you know. Rutherford has amassed a hugely talented group for his new Mechanics, the expectation of quality was there; but the truly amazing level of talent, musically and vocally in the cascading soul range of Roachford and powerful soaring vocal ability of Howar, took this gig to another level. Wow! is the word tonight, and we leave with big grins and are totally blown away. For around £30 in the best live venues in town, it was a total treat. If you get the opportunity to see them, grab it with both hands, no miracle needed.

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World Vision (every child free from fear) is the world’s largest international children’s charity, working to bring real hope to millions of children in the world’s hardest places.  Their local staff work in thousands of communities across the world to free children from fear. They live and work alongside them, their families and communities to help change the world they live in for good.

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Mike and The Mechanics setlist:
A Beggar on a Beach of Gold
Another Cup of Coffee
Get Up
Try to Save Me
Seeing is Believing
Silent Running (On Dangerous Ground)
Don’t
This Generation (Roachford)
Turn It On Again (Genesis)
When My Feet Don’t Touch The Ground (New)
Everybody Gets a Second Chance
Nobody’s Perfect
Cuddly Toy (Roachford)
I Can’t Dance (Genesis)
The Living Years
All I Need is a Miracle

Encore:
Over My Shoulder
Word of Mouth

4 Responses to “Mike and the Mechanics + Sadie and the Hotheads at The Symphony Hall, Birmingham, UK – 1st March 2014”

  1. Mandi Says:

    I really enjoyed reading this review. sadly I missed the Warrington Parr Hall show. But I’ve read reviews in both shows and really wished I’d bend able to see at least one of them.
    The last time I saw them play was just before Paul passed away – must have been 1999/early 2000 – up in Newcastle Upon Tyne.

    Fabulous photos by Ken Harrison too!

  2. Mike and The Mechanics + Sadie and the Hotheads @ The Symphony Hall, Birmingham, UK, 1st March 2014 » Musings of a Creative Mind Says:

    […] for Gig Junkies; Pictures by Ken […]

  3. Ken Harrison Says:

    Many Thanks Mandi, glad you enjoyed our coverage of the show. A terrific show in a great venue:)

  4. Gig Reviews | Gig Photography | Interviews | Competitions from Gig Junkies » Blog Archive » Mike + The Mechanics + James Walsh at The Symphony Hall, Birmingham, UK – 27th April 2015 Says:

    […] got to see Mike and the Mechanics a year ago in the same venue. They were on fire. Tonight, they’re a tad muted in comparison and we can’t quite work out why […]

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