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


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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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
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

The Living Years
Word of Mouth

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