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

MATM-6

Tonight the traffic into Birmingham is dire – clearly something has occurred to snare up the road system terribly as we make our way into town. But it’s okay, we know the short cuts. We’re making our way to the delectable Symphony Hall to see a ‘side-project’ that has done very well, thank you every much. This chap may have been in another band that did a tad better – but tonight we’re here to see Mike Rutherford and his band of brothers that make up Mike + the Mechanics.

This little off-shoot of his hasn’t done too badly. Releasing 7 albums and selling more than 10 million records, tonight’s gig is part of the ‘The Hits Tour 2015’, somewhat of an extension of the 2014 tour celebrating the 25 anniversary of the release of ‘The Living Years’. Rutherford’s other band didn’t do too bad either, notching up over 130 million record sales, making Genesis one of the biggest selling bands ever…

MATM-10

As a side project it aint been an easy journey. 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. After quite a break , Rutherford had a swap-around and setup a second incarnation recruiting two new singers. Mike and The Mechanics ala 2015 are: Mike Rutherford (Genesis), Andrew Roachford (solo performer, known in his own right, 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 well over 20 years by Rutherford’s side).

MATM-1MATM-2

Tonight’s audience is once again, a tad older and refined and after battling the traffic chaos we arrive as support act, Starsailor frontsman James Walsh doing a solo acoustic set, is already on stage. As I walk in the venue is streaming Starsailor hit ‘Alcoholic’ and I catch it ‘live’ as he completes the song. Just him and his falsetto voice and guitar deliver well in the acoustically perfect Symphony Hall. Unfortunately, it’s doubtful that most the audience would have heard of his Brit-Pop band, and while  I’m singing away – not too many others are. Something he acknowledges himself before taking us into a song many people will know – a cover version of  Rod Stewart’s ‘I Don’t Want to Talk About It’ which haunts through the hall in it’s melancholy approach. He’s a talented dude – just standing there singing, with voice that draws you in – as his final song of the night morphs into Starsailor’s biggest hit that made #9 in the UK charts – ‘Silence is Easy’. Again I’m one of the few people singing along. He has a new solo album out  ‘Training Point’ and by the sound of tonight’s performance it will be well worth checking out. Check out Gig Junkies review of Starsailor was back in 2009.

MATM-3MATM-8

Twenty minute break and then the main act takes to the stage. Tonight’s set is effectively piles of rigging and touring boxes covered with stickers. The one that the drummer resides on cheekily has Phil Collins (Genesis drummer and vocalist) emblazoned on it. Crowd applaud as Mike and the Mechanics take to the stage – and the band scoot into first track of the night ‘Silent Running (On Dangerous Ground).’

‘Birmingham – How are you?” yowls cheeky chappie Howar, before next track  ‘A Beggar on a Beach of Gold’ gives us Roachford on keyboards and taking over the vocal lead Howar.

Rutherford informs us he’s delighted to be back, especially in this amazing venue. The set, he tells us, will be back-catalogue of hits and a couple of newbies.  ‘Another Cup of Coffee’,  with Roachford on vocal duties, harmonised on the chorus by Howar. Roachford plays keyboards with huge style and accomplishment and his vocals all to soulfully soar.  ‘Get Up’ sees Roachford on his feet – chatty and engaging before the track, and bopping his way soulfully through it.

MATM-4

One from the last album, 2011’s ‘The Road’ –  ‘Try to Save Me’ written by Roachford and Rutherford – as the set goes all spooky with red lights streaming over the set. And now to one of the new ones; Rutherford asks us to let them know what we think, and it we like it they’ll record it for us. Entitled ‘ Let Me Fly’ this rising, soulful ballad features Roachford on vocals, Howar accompanying on the chorus, the track is probably the most polished of the night so far. ‘Seeing is Believing’,  track about love not war, sees Howar take the vocal lead, before another new track, the second of the evening. This track ‘Not Out of Love’ sees Roachford on lead again, but as a newbie, has all the choral similarities of  ‘Another Cup of Coffee’ and during the chorus I find myself singing the word to the later, in place of the new.

MATM-7

So go back in time. Rutherford’s ‘other’ band. Genesis. As we’re taken into ‘Turn It On Again’ Howar does his best Phil Collins impression. A reminder of what a great band Genesis in their prime were, Howar an awesome vocal replacement. It get’s the seated crowd clapping and finishes to huge applause.

Now back the the last album with title track ‘The Road’ – it’s soft and acoustic as opposed to full on band, and another track ‘Everybody Gets a Second Chance.’ Time to introduce the band, as Rutherford gives his thoughts on the talent in the band, multi-instrumentalist Juby; the pocket rocket whose batteries never run out Howar and acknowledgement to the others too. The set goes all sparkly as the mesmeric ‘Nobody’s Perfect’ with the commercial chorus is delivered by the duo vocalists.

Roachford time with the Roachford classic ‘Cuddly Toy’ which features not just 5 (times) but 25, as the band go dadadadadadadadadadadadadadadadadadadadada – every band member bang on time, Roachford giving it his all.

MATM-9MATM-13

And back to Genesis. Rutherford starts that riff, Howar taking on Collins, as we get ‘I Can’t Dance’. The track starts with just Howar and Rutherford facing off, as other members retake to the stage and Rutherford and Drennan start to do the classic band walk (check out the original video) across the stage. And we’re singing loudly… “No, I can’t dance, I can’t talk, Only thing about me is the way I walk… No, I can’t dance, I can’t sing,… I’m just standing here selling everything….”
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 before Howar and  ‘All I Need is a Miracle’.

MATM-11

Quick break for an encore, and ‘Over My Shoulder’ is all acoustic guitars,  whistle duties to the bass, sax playing keyboardist Juby.  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. And we’re introduced to 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’, and behind them the drum kit gets fixed as Wallis has managed to go through the skin of his bass drum. Fair play to the roadies, they get it fixed just in time for his solo.

MATM-5

Set over,  the band members bow. 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.

We 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 ?I guess everyone has their off days, ‘nobody’s perfect’ to coin the song of the same name – and the hyper-energetic Howar seemed muted, not quite as bouncy, his epic vocals not quite reaching the dizzy heights they did last year. However, that doesn’t mean to say – with Howar on true form I’d love to see his take on Genesis’s ‘Mama.’ 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. New tracks are coming and they will undoubtedly return. And probably to great success – no miracle needed.

MATM-12

Mike and The Mechanics setlist:
A Beggar on a Beach of Gold
Another Cup of Coffee
Get Up
Try to Save Me
Let Me Fly (New)
Seeing is Believing
Not Out of Love (New)
Turn It On Again (Genesis)
The Road
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

Leave a Reply