Categories reviews

“Back In The High Life”: Mike + The Mechanics’ End of Tour Party

Photo via Steve Barney.

Alan Hewitt reviews Mike + The Mechanics’ End of Tour Party at the Shepherds Bush Empire London on Tuesday October 10th, 2017. Words and photos by Alan Hewitt.

Having already seen the band twice on their UK tour earlier this year, I was not expecting to get the opportunity to see them a third time, but once again I was made an offer I could not refuse, and so London bound I was…

As had been the case with the British and UK tours, the band were preceded on stage by singer songwriter Ben McKelvey. Ben was in fine form as he ran through a forty minute set comprising numbers from his debut album Life And Love In England, alongside a few new numbers from the follow up album which Ben is still currently working on.  It was great to see him get such a good reception from the crowd, many of whom were evidently familiar with his music.  Ben is a songwriter in the old tradition.  His songs actually tell a story and he is an incredibly strong performer, one whom I would recommend you catch if you can.

We didn’t have long to wait for the Mechanics, who took the stage to open the show with Are You Ready?, an apt opener given that this was a celebration and it was obvious that Tim was definitely in the mood to rev the audience up.  Not that we needed much encouragement, eh?

Another Cup of Coffee and Get Up showcased the two main facets of The Mechanics’ musical style, the former a smoky ballad type song at which Roachford excels.  He certainly hit the spot tonight whilst Get Up demonstrated the rock credentials of the band with Tim taking the lead and gingering up the crowd with his on stage antics.

Things quietened down slightly for the band’s first hit, Silent Running, replete with its deceptively quiet introduction which built to a musical crescendo of musical and vocal excellence.  Here, Roachford proved (if proof were really needed) that he has the pipes to rock out as well as his more usual style.

The first nod to Mike’s other band was preceded by the now standard on stage “joke” about previous bands.  Apparently Andrew’s was simply called “The School Band”, while as Mike wryly announced “mine was called Genesis” to a cheer from the crowd as the band launched into Land Of Confusion.  It’s fun and gets everyone in the mood, but I can’t help thinking that there are better offerings from the band’s canon that they could tackle.  But hey, I was in the minority here as the crowd loved it!

This show was billed as a party and it certainly was a celebration of the band’s ongoing and building success story.   With Let Me Fly achieving chart success here and abroad, it was great to hear the new numbers in all their glory.  High Life, Wonder and Let Me Fly were all delivered with incredible energy by a band brim full of confidence and backed by an audience that were definitely in the mood to celebrate.

Older numbers rubbed shoulders with the new ones equally well with Over My Shoulder, All I Need Is a Miracle and Living Years proving that the Mechanics’ catalogue has strength and depth.  Even Roachford’s evergreen hit Cuddly Toy fitted in seamlessly with the usual audience participation antics.

Here we have a band that have achieved the seemingly impossible.  They have not only survived the loss of two such incredibly strong performers as Carrack and Young but, after six years of recording with this new line up, they are back where they belong as one of the UK’s most popular bands.  That success is a testament to the people in the band and their hard work, and also that of the other songwriters who have contributed to the Mechanics “project”.

That success was celebrated in fine style tonight and once again I have a few people to thank.  First of all to Jo Greenwood for all her help and encouragement.  To Ben McKelvey for being such a great opening act as well as being a damn fine chap in his own right (see you in December, Ben!).  To Mike and the rest of the guys in the band who turn in such amazing performances night after night. To Steve “Pud” Jones and the rest of the road crew without whom… And finally to Kate Green and Gerald Collins for being my partners in crime tonight.  Here’s to the next one!

Editor’s note: The Mechanics’ End of Tour Party was put on in aid of Diabetes UK. For more information about the organisation or to make a donation, visit their website at https://www.diabetes.org.uk/.

Setlist:

Are You Ready?
Another Cup of Coffee
Get Up
Silent Running
The Best Is Yet to Come
Land of Confusion
High Life
Wonder
Let Me Fly
A Beggar on a Beach of Gold
Cuddly Toy
I Can’t Dance
Over My Shoulder
All I Need is a Miracle
Encore:
The Living Years
Word of Mouth

Categories live photos reviews

A Stranger in a Strange Land: Mike + The Mechanics in Copenhagen – September 1, 2017

 

Photo © 8By10ByScott

Words by Scott Saldinger, photos by 8By10ByScott

Dallas, Texas is home, but when the chance to divert on vacation to see Mike and the Mechanics on opening night of their European tour at the Amager Bio in Copenhagen, Denmark there was no way I would miss out! It’s always a different experience seeing musicians perform outside of the U.S. so for this show, I was a stranger in a strange land…

My first Mike & the Mechanics show was June 20th 1986 on their first U.S. tour at what is now CMAC (Constellation Brands-Marvin Sands Performing Arts Center), in Canandaigua, NY and then on The Living Years tour April 13th 1989 at the Auditorium Theater in Rochester, NY. During the gap between those early performances and seeing them live once again in the U.S. on The Hits Tour 2015 in Chicago, I continued to follow the progression of the band that was now firmly planted in the U.K. and Europe, but holding out hope to one day experience them live again.

Seeing them in Chicago, after all those years, where they were somewhat strangers in a strange land, was interesting. Reintroducing yourself back to an audience from which you’ve been away for a long time can be met with both excitement, but also disappointment if a band does not stand up to the memory. With a smaller crowd than they would typically have in the U.K. and Europe, who came out decked in more Genesis shirts than MATM wear, would the show live up to my memories of a small, but dedicated audience? This audience was clearly experienced with the music, though this lineup was new to them. As one would hope and expect, the performance was top notch, as though Mike and The Mechanics hadn’t missed a beat through changes and over time! I did realize though that the audience was subdued compared to what you would see from a home audience on a YouTube video. Even the recent U.S. shows in New Jersey and New York, which I also attended, had that same feel as Chicago. What would it be like seeing them in Copenhagen where the fan base has been sustained over the years?

Photo © 8By10ByScott

With Mike Rutherford back at the helm of his “side project” and with welcome additions to the lineup, they don’t need a “miracle” to reclaim the excitement of their music and performances, just a legion of loyal fans willing to spread the Word of Mouth!

An interesting fact about Amager Bio is that it was never built as a concert hall. Originally it was the community movie theater. The venue has since been stripped of seats, screen, and original soundproofing. The walls are now corrugated sheet metal. You can feel them vibrate and resonate with every beat of the bass drum, cymbal crash and power chord. Not the best scenario to hear music that has highs, lows and points where it just needs to breathe in between, but surprisingly once the room was filled, the music enveloped the audience, benefactors of the good vibrations emanating from the stage.

Amager Bio was packed before Ben McKelvey took the stage. He quickly proved worthy of the audience’s attention. Any musician who can draw in an audience with just a voice and guitar deserves the praise he receives. Let’s hope the Mechanics find Ben available to open on next year’s U.S. tour.

While the setlist (see below) was pretty much intact from recent shows, with the exception of Don’t Know What Came Over Me, let’s focus on the performance and not the choice in material. With the size and quality of the band’s catalog, sans any Genesis or solo material, no one will ever hear all they want, but should never walk away unsatisfied with the song selection. There is plenty sprinkled throughout the set for old and new fans to appreciate a Mike and The Mechanics performance.

Photo © 8By10ByScott

As the lights went down the audience’s excitement and the band’s energy was palpable as they launched into Are You Ready, immediately setting the tone for what was to be a superb performance! Tim Howar quickly proved he had earned his introduction as “The Power”. As a set opener, this song proves its worth and should be cemented in the set for tours to come. Andrew Roachford then takes over for three MATM classics – Another Cup of Coffee, Get Up (on which he duets with Tim) and Silent Running. These two superbly talented singers easily step up, putting their own signature on songs performed by the original lineup.

There will always be discussions contrasting previous and current lead singers in the Mechanics, so it’s important to keep the perspective that Mike didn’t set out to hire carbon copies of the irreplaceable Paul Young and Paul Carrack. He found voices that could respectfully portray the original versions while at the same time bringing their own unique qualities to make them their own. Both Andrew and Tim are worthy and have accomplished this goal while having the talent to raise the bar for new Mechanics songs.

You could hear a pin drop as Andrew led the band into Save The World. His voice filled the space of the room perfectly and my concern over the vibrating walls was unwarranted.

Photo © 8By10ByScott

With the first third of the set delivered brilliantly, launching into The Best Is Yet To Come took the performance to a whole new level, further energizing the enthusiastic audience.

Land of Confusion, poignant when released in the 80’s, still resonates with the politically charged and divided world we live in and retains its big “Stadium Rock”, to quote Tim Howar, feel from the Genesis days. You could literally feel the song as the crowd sang along with the corrugated walls vibrating in unison throughout the song.

The continued inclusion of an acoustic break in the set is an appreciated respite from the fast moving first half. When reaching this break, you don’t realize you’re heading toward to end of the set. And of course, who wants it to end?

High Life and Wonder, two new songs, stand up well, and really allow for Tim and Andrew to show off their vocal talents. It’s also a great time to give the drummer a moment to breathe. Steve Barney came on board as the newest Mechanic just before the tour and fit in easily, coming well prepared with the tools of the trade. The audience was treated to Steve’s brilliant drumming prowess late in the show with a solo during band introductions that certainly proved that he’d passed muster as a Mechanic.

Photo © 8By10ByScott

If you’ve seen early videos of Let Me Fly performed before the release of the album, you really get a sense of how the song has matured and improved over time. Close your eyes and you can feel the experience of releasing yourself of whatever holds you back and soaring toward new horizons in Andrew’s soulful voice. Let Me Fly takes on a new life performed live, filling the venue and leaping from the stage.

No Mechanics show would be complete without paying homage to the late Paul Young. Tim Howar has done a fantastic job replacing an unreplaceable, distinctive voice in the band and makes songs like Beggar On A Beach of Gold familiar, yet new. A treat would be if Mike chose to put Taken In back in the set. If you’ve ever heard Tim perform this, you’ve been blown away as he captures its original feel, but takes it to a higher emotional level as his voice breathes new life into this classic and makes it shine on a whole new level. A lost gem in the Mechanics catalog.

As Beggar drives the audience into a frenzy, the Mechanics launch toward the finale of the set keeping the audience in constant motion as they build with Over My Shoulder, featuring the youngest, yet no less seasoned, Luke Juby, grabbing a bass and taking over as master whistler!

All I Need is a Miracle caps off the set and keeps the audience wanting more. This song has never lost its energy or message and resonates to this day.

Photo © 8By10ByScott

If you’re a longtime fan of any of Mike’s work, you know many of his songs have the staying power to remain timeless and new, resonating with audiences who connect with the feelings and thoughts.

With an encore of Living Years, topped off with Word of Mouth, poignant not only for its original message, but for highlighting the fact that in today’s music business it’s necessary to cut through the clutter of constant media and deluge of information that we all face . Fortunately having a loyal fan base such as the Mechanics do, they oblige by spreading the bands “Word of Mouth” via social media and attending performances. This song also allows both Mike and Anthony Drennan time to show off their guitar chops with crowd-pleasing solos that don’t disappoint.

Photo © 8By10ByScott

Seeing how this audience embraced and reacted to this performance was so different than shows in the States which made it a very special night, not only for myself, but for many in the audience who traveled from places beyond Copenhagen for the first night of the tour. With audience enthusiasm like this throughout the European tour and a U.S. tour on the horizon, fans will be satisfied having a band who is “all in” and looking to keep bringing fresh versions of old hits as well as new music for a long time to come!

Setlist:
Are You Ready
Another Cup of Coffee
Get Up
Silent Running
Save the World
The Best Is Yet to Come
Land of Confusion (Genesis cover)
High Life
Wonder
Let Me Fly
A Beggar on a Beach of Gold
Cuddly Toy (Roachford cover)
I Can’t Dance (Genesis cover)
Over My Shoulder
All I Need Is a Miracle

Encore:
The Living Years
Word of Mouth

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Categories live VIDEOS

Mike + The Mechanics on Berlin Live

Mike + The Mechanics did a special show for a live recording of arte’s Berlin Live on October 2nd. The entire concert is available for streaming from the Berlin Live website until November 1st.

Set list:

Are You Ready
Another Cup of Coffee
Get Up
Silent Running
Don’t Know What Came Over Me
The Best Is Yet to Come
High Life
Wonder
Let Me Fly
Beggar on a Beach of Gold
Over My Shoulder
All I Need is a Miracle
The Living Years
Word of Mouth

Categories live

Mike + The Mechanics to play series of Florida shows in March

Mike + The Mechanics will be playing a series of dates in Florida this spring, coinciding with their participation in The 80s Cruise.

16 March 2018 – Parker Playhouse – Ft Lauderdale, FL
19 March 2018 – Plaza Live – Orlando, FL
20 March 2018 – Capitol Theatre – Clearwater, FL
21 March 2018 – Ponte Vedra Concert Hall – St Augustine, FL

Tickets for all three shows go on sale this Friday, June 16th, at 10am EDT.

Prices range from $33.92 – $192.50 in Ft. Lauderdale ($192.50 tickets including a Meet and Greet), $39.50 – $194.50  in Orlando ($194.50 tickets including a Meet and Greet), $45.50 to $129.50 in Clearwater ($129.50 tickets including a Meet and Greet), and $63-$73 in St Augustine.

The band will also be headlining The 80s Cruise along with Rick Springfield, Loverboy, Billy Ocean and others, which runs from March 17 to March 24.

No further US dates have been announced at this time.

Categories articles

Article: In Conversation: The Waiting Room talks to Mike Rutherford about new albums and life on the road

Photo © Stuart Barnes

This article originally appeared in issue 99 of The Waiting Room fanzine, and is reproduced here with their kind permission.

Interviews conducted by Alan Hewitt and Katherine Stratton on Tuesday 21st February 2017. Photographs by Katherine Stratton, Alan Hewitt and Stuart Barnes.

KS: Obviously we have not heard the new album yet, what can you tell us about it?

It’s fabulous [laughs]. It’s kind of like the first two Mechanics albums, I think. There was a nice start to this thing. Brian Rawling who runs Metrophonic, the production studio, he’s got these sort of good ears, you know what I mean? He’s a songwriter, he’s mad about music and songwriting, and he said: look, let’s go back to how you started, where you start with your sort of quirky demos, and I’d do these weird little loop things, and sound effects, an atmospheric style, and then get another co-writer. He recommended Clark Datchler, who was Johnny Hates Jazz. He was a songwriter before he ever started doing the band thing, and we got together and it kind of clicked again, really. A bit like B.A., in a sense. He brought something very different to the table, and then Roachford obviously. Roachford’s involved in the songs and Tim [Howar], and so rather than go in to record a dozen songs like we used to, I didn’t record anything until I had actually written four or five songs. Then I wrote them a lot more. I rewrote them, threw some out, I changed some choruses and some verses, you know, all that sort of stuff. Until we were happy with the songs, we didn’t go near a studio. And then when we got happy with the songs, we didn’t really get them through like we used to. I did my demo at home with Harry, engineering, and then I sent that to Brian with a good guide vocal. They work on the track, send it back. I liked some things, threw some things out, we sort of just back and forwards, slowly building the song up. After we did four, we did another three, bit by bit, but it was the songwriting that we spent more time on this time.

KS: There was one song I remember reading about, “When the World Stops Loving You”, what happened to that one? Did it become something else?

I couldn’t make it work. Funnily enough, I think the lyric actually might be re – I don’t normally reuse things – I don’t really reuse music, the next time around I won’t reuse the same songs. Lyrically it was quite interesting and quite strong, but the music didn’t quite work. I think the level of quality of songwriting [on this album] is a lot, lot better than we’ve done for a long time. Bringing Clark in was very good, he’s a sort of bona fide songwriter and it made a big difference, I think.

KS: Which ones are your favourite tracks?

Probably “Let Me Fly” is the favourite track. It’s about four and a half, five minutes long, and they asked recently to do a radio and TV edit to three minutes, three and a half and I thought “F**k knows, I’ll let Brian do that” and we’ve got this big choir that comes in in the end, gospel choir, and we brought it in in the first and second chorus, and actually it’s rather good! So it works, sure, but I mean, yeah, that’s my song. “Don’t Know What Came Over Me” is a song I really like. It’s got a same sort of feel as “Coffee”. It’s a nice idea about this chap, you know, he’s got a perfect life, he’s married or with somebody, and life is good. He goes out one night and it ends up being a huge, large night out, he doesn’t know what happens, and he misbehaves and he wakes in the morning and is a bit like “what came over me?” That sort of feeling of “why?”, it’s such an unimportant thing, but he did it. So that was not autobiographical… [laughs]. Then I wrote “High Life”, which is a little acoustic song, with a guy called Ed Drewett who Brian recommended. He’s actually done some One Direction hits, but he’s a very nice, quirky guy too. And Fraser T Smith, who is a bit on a roll these days, but he’s a friend more than anything. Actually we were going to do some more, but he got locked away with Gorillaz and Stormzy, so we didn’t have enough time. But I definitely think that the standard is pretty good.

Continue reading Article: In Conversation: The Waiting Room talks to Mike Rutherford about new albums and life on the road

Categories articles

Article: Chief Mechanic (Gearphoria Magazine)

Photo via Gearphoria.

Mike was interviewed by Alison Richter for Gearphoria volume 5, number 5 (May/June 2017).

Mike Rutherford is backstage in an arena in a “very cold, wet Scotland,” calling before show time to talk about the new Mike + The Mechanics album, Let Me Fly. It’s the band’s first new project in six years, and he is quite satisfied with the results. “I’m pleased with the album,” he says. “I think it’s got a strength to it. How it does, we’ll see.”

Rutherford began thinking about a new album while The Mechanics were touring their 2011 release, The Road. “On that album we didn’t really know each other,” he says. “We were sort of feeling our way. This time it was a lot easier because I knew Andrew and Tim’s voices and I knew the kind of songs I wanted them to sing – or I had an idea, anyway.”

[continue reading – outside link]

Categories live photos reviews

Review: Mike + The Mechanics in New York City

Andrew Roachford and Tim Howar at the Highline Ballroom.

Review by Katherine Stratton for MR Net, photos by Scott Saldinger.

Mike + The Mechanics made their first appearance in the US since their 2015 tour at the end of April, playing two shows in and around New York City. The first, a television taping for the series Front and Center, took place on April 21 as a part of the Asbury Park Music and Film Festival at the House of Independents in Asbury Park, New Jersey. The second show on April 23 was at New York’s Highline Ballroom, an intimate venue which has previously featured artists such as Adele, Stevie Wonder and Rihanna.

As opposed to the theatres the band had been playing on their UK tour in February/March, these venues were much smaller, with capacities of about 250-400 people and a mix of seated and standing room. An interesting aspect of the Highline Ballroom show was that in addition to sections being seated, there was also a dinner service. Between the television taping of the first show and the dine-in experience of the second, it was going to be interesting to see what effects those would have on the shows overall.

Mike + The Mechanics at Asbury Park’s House of Independents.

The Front and Center taping began with an introduction by one of the show’s producers, letting us know what we were in for and about the potential for having to stop and start the show in order to get things just right. The audience were also asked to do a few reaction shots before the band even came out, applauding as if the band were on stage and between songs.

Once the show actually got underway, it was relatively easy to forget the cameras were there for the most part. The only time the taping interfered was when band had to do ‘Over My Shoulder’ a second time in its entirety, which was a nice treat for us if not for them.

The set list did not differ too heavily from the UK tour, with the absence of ‘Cuddly Toy’ and the addition of the single ‘Don’t Know What Came Over Me’ (the latter was performed at a few dates on the UK tour, but was not a regular fixture). The band also forewent the solos they had been including during the encores. Perhaps it is the nature of recording something for the small screen that means the sound and performances are necessarily a bit more contained, but the small size of the venue meant that that did not feel out of place and indeed I did not even truly notice a difference until I heard them again on Sunday.

Andrew Roachford at the House of Independents.

Apart from the need to do another take of ‘Over My Shoulder’, the show flowed as well as it had during the tour. The acoustic interlude for ‘High Life’ and ‘Wonder’ remains a high point of the show for me, and worked especially well in the intimate setting, a setting which later lent itself just as easily to the intensity and energy of ‘I Can’t Dance’ and ‘All I Need is a Miracle’. By the end of the set, those who were seated weren’t anymore and ended the show by enthusing to those next to them about the performance. It bodes well that among those being very enthusiastic was the show’s producer.

Tim Howar at the Highline Ballroom.

The show at the Highline Ballroom was next on the agenda, and I will admit that I did have some reservations about how it might turn out due entirely to the impending dine-in experience. It was difficult to imagine being able to completely get into the show while someone was leaning over you to ask how you wanted your steak cooked, but in the end those worries were ill-founded. At least at our table much of the ordering and eating were already finished by the time the band even came onstage and the staff did a good job of not disrupting views later on.

Mike Rutherford and Anthony Drennan at the Highline Ballroom.

In contrast to the Asbury Park show which was more contained and polished, this show felt more relaxed.  All of the members of the band had an amazing energy for this show, letting loose more than they had even during some of the UK shows, and being a bit more improvisational. The sound was incredible, both from the band and from the audience reactions. I had never heard Tim so dynamic, which is saying a lot. One of the best things about this band is how much fun they seem to have together, and on this night it really felt as if we were also a part of that camaraderie as an audience. There were the usual shouts for ‘Supper’s Ready!’ but it was nice to hear a shout in there for ‘The Letter’ as well.

The only down side to this show was the time constraint (there was an event taking place directly afterwards), which perhaps led to the need to cut ‘Another Cup of Coffee’ from the set. All in all, though, for a Sunday night, it was an intensely good time.

The Mechanics’ episode of Front and Center is set to air in January (source). You can see the band supporting Phil Collins this summer in Dublin and Hyde Park, and they will be on the road in Europe this September. For all dates and tickets check the tour tab or visit mikeandthemechanics.com.

Asbury Park set list:

Are You Ready?
Get Up
Silent Running
Another Cup of Coffee
Save the World
The Best is Yet to Come
Land of Confusion
High Life
Wonder
Let Me Fly
Don’t Know What Came Over Me
I Can’t Dance
Beggar on a Beach of Gold
Over My Shoulder
Over My Shoulder take 2
Living Years
All I Need is a Miracle
Encore: Word of Mouth

Highline Ballroom set list:

Are You Ready?
Get Up
Silent Running
Save the World
The Best is Yet to Come
Land of Confusion
High Life
Wonder
Let Me Fly
Don’t Know What Came Over Me
I Can’t Dance
Beggar on a Beach of Gold
Over My Shoulder
Living Years
All I Need is a Miracle
Encore: Word of Mouth

Categories tours

Ben McKelvey to support Mike + The Mechanics on their European tour in September

Ben McKelvey will be joining Mike + The Mechanics on tour once more this September!

Ben has recently released his new EP ‘One For the Road’, which is available now on his website and on iTunes.

The tour kicks off on September 1st in Copenhagen and runs for the entire month with dates in Germany, Poland, Austria, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, and France. Check out the tour tab for dates and tickets.