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Mario Giammetti
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The Last Domino? Tour


Mike + The Mechanics live in Germany 2011

Do You Really Wanna Dance?

It was quite a sensation when it was announced that Mike Rutherford would revive his Mechanics. Rutherford and “the two Pauls”, Paul Carrack and Paul Young, have been very successful for many years and reached a kind of cult status that is hard to ignore. None of the Pauls is in the band anymore, but the new guys sort of follow in their footsteps. The biggest coup is that Mike Rutherford could win Andrew Roachford for his project. Roachford fills the gap Paul Carrack left, albeit in an idiosyncratic way. His counterpart Tim Howar is largely unknown and has worked for several musical productions in Canada. With a couple of other old and new faces the three recorded an album called The Road and announced they would also tour with it.

Seven shows took place in Germany in early June after a gig in Switzerland and a full UK tour in May. The concerts took place in theatres, only two shows were standing only: Fans in Munich (Tonhalle) and Leipzig (Parkbühne) could celebrate the band merrily and without chairs. Later the Mechanics played a couple of radio concerts and festivals. It therefore makes sense to examine two different shows of the tour, for example Leipzig and Berlin.

1Parkbühne Leipzig is quite close to the city centre in Clara-Zetkin-Park. It is a smaller area with a capacity of 2,500 which makes for an intense atmosphere. The sun shone all day for the Mechanics, and so it was very warm even late in the evening. The fans listened to the soundcheck in the Glashaus, the beer garden just outside the park. Later the band (sans Mike) came out to have a pre-show beer. The Admiralspalast Berlin is a completely different venue that resembles British theatres with balconies and baroque designs.

Entrance was smooth and took place rather shortly before the show began. The first thing we heard was Mike playing the first chords of the title song from off-stage, then he took the stage amidst raucous applause and was quickly followed by the band. Andrew Roachford sat down at his keyboard on the left, while Luke Juby did his keyboard work on the far left. Gary Wallis, an old hand in the Mechanics, played the drums while Anthony Drennan played both guitars and bass on the far right. Drennan was the live guitarist on Genesis’ Calling All Stations tour. Tim Howar stood in the middle of the stage and sang the backing vocals. Roachford showed right from the start, i.e. The Road, why he was a most fortunate choice. Like Carrack he plays the keyboards, but you immediate feel that he sings in a different league.

2Mike speaks up before the second song. He explains that he is still same old Mike, but that he has brought new Mechanics and is really happy to be on stage again. Then they play A Beggar On A Beach Of Gold and Tim Howar has a go at it. It becomes instantly clear why Rutherford chose Howar. His slightly smoky voice fits perfectly to the songs Paul Young used to sing, and as a performer he really gives everything. Gary Wallis hits the skins, and Howar goes all out, bonds with the audience from the word go and gives a really good and strong performance of the Mechanics classis. The audience would already follow him everywhere.

Next is Get Up, which was never really a hit, but a song they liked to play live and fits the beginning of the show. It keeps the song in the mood for clapping and dancing (the latter only in Leipzig, though, because it was standing only). The second new song of the night was introduced as Try To Save; Rutherford and Roachford politely disposed of the “Me”. The song is a bit slower in the live version; it is given a kind of intro and really gets going only towards the end. Another Cup Of Coffee is one of the huge Mechanics hits, hard to go wrong with it. It is sung by Andrew Roachford. After that we heard what was probably the only real surprise in the set. Nobody Knows from Living Years is performed but, according to Roachford, only because Tim Howar and he talked Mike into it. Roachford sings the verses while Tim Howar takes care of the strong chorus that shows how much fun Gary Wallis has on the drums. Mike frequently leaves the lead guitar work to Anthony Drennan, but he obviously already did that on the Calling All Stations tour.

3I Don’t Do Love is the third song from the current album The Road. Mike jokes that you could buy the album in a record store if you could find one, and Roachford points out that there are only few discs around these days and you could buy them from iTunes. The live version of I Don’t Do Love is very reduced; Howar sings along in the chorus, but apart from that it is another opportunity for Roachford to shine. The verses contain the motto of the show and the tour, as it were: Do you wanna dance? Do you really wanna dance? Well, yes, if you let us...

The next song is from Rewired, an album Rutherford has mixed feelings about. If I Were You is announced as a duet, and it ought to be sung by a man and a woman, but for lack of the latter Howar sings the female part. Remarkable how much better the song sounds only because Roachford and Howar sing it.

After that there is a short break in which Roachford sings one of his own solohits. Even if you do not know his music right away you will very likely have heard Only To Be With You before. The song fits in well with the up-tempo feeling of the night Roachford then takes a break, the question is raised whether any Genesis fans are present and there is the inevitable: Follow You Follow Me in a decent version, then I Can’t Dance in a rather straightforward manner. Tim Howar sings both the songs and does a good job of Follow You Follow Me. I Can’t Dance has always divided the audience on previous tours, and it does so in 2011,too.

The finale of the regular set begins with a grandiose The Living Years – Roachford’s peak vocal performance of the night. The audience gives him a long and strong applause. Spirits rise even more with an easy-going Over My Shoulder, where Luke Juby is the man of the hour. Howar revealed in the GNC interview that nobody except Luke can whistle well. After that Tim Howar grabs the mike again and brings all his qualities as a performer to bear on All I Need Is A Miracle. The song has actually finished when he brings it back through his interaction with the audience – and the band resumes playing. A brilliant live version!

5The band returns after a short break to play another Roachford classic, Cuddly Toy. The band even begins to improvise in this song and Roachford plays a couple of counting games with drummer Gary Wallis and the audience.

The final song this night, as it was so often with Paul Young, is Word Of Mouth. Tim Howar dedicates this song to his predecessor. As on previous tours the song is drawn out and Tim Howar goes hell for leather. The song is also used to introduce the band. Each of them has a solo spot for this. Mike jammed a bit when he was introduced, usually the Turn It On Again riff. A brief but entertaining show ends amidst immense applause as the band take their bows.

Mike + The Mechanics in Leipzig and Berlin – the sets were identical but the shows were different. Sunshine and the small open-air stage in Leipzig drew some 2,500 fans into its amphitheatrical round; there was no seating and the band began to play while the sun still shone onto the stage. Still there was a terrific mood right from the start. In Berlin things were a bit more restrained, the Admiralspalast feels more like a cinema auditorium with a balcony. Therefore it took a bit longer until people got off their feet. The sound was excellent in both venues.

The band itself surpassed expectations. The Road was not be expected to be a huge commercial success, but the live shows were well-received and most people were enthusiastic rather than content to see and hear the new guys who rejuvenated the line-up. Andrew Roachford and his voice are much more than just a replacement for Paul Carrack. His precision, clarity and soulful side produce many great moments even with the old Mechanics hits, most of all in The Living Years. Tim Howar’s task was far more difficult as he had to replace or rather succeed the late Paul Young. One cannot praise him enough for what he does. He thrives on the live situation. His vocals are those of a real performer – there is, after all, a reason why he has sung in musicals and plays in an alternative rockband called Van Tramp.

4Roachford and Howar sang two songs in a duet. One was Nobody Knows, perhaps the only real surprise in the setlist, the other was If I Were You. Both were fantastic and received well-deserved applause. The only point of criticism is the setlist: Too short, too predictable and no less than two Genesis songs in the set, of which at least Follow You Follow Me can be called interesting. The two Roachford songs were also received warmly, but it would not have hurt if they had played another two or three Mechanics songs. Fans for many years have been demanding songs like The Ghost Of Sex And You, Nobody’s Perfect, Why Me or A Call To Arms, which might work very well as a duet. Surprisingly, they did not play their popular Silent Running. We can only surmise that the song was geared too much toward Paul Carrack or that it was left out of the rehearsals because of other circumstances. There was also no song from the 1999 album M6, though When I Get Over You could have been a good choice for Tim Howar.

After the indoor tour in summer (exception: Leipzig) the band played various festivals such as the Isle Of Wight, Hyde Park London, in Eastern Europe, but also in Germany again (Warburg and Wedel), where they played brief sets of around 60 minutes and were very well-received. Interestingly, Warburg was listed as Cologne on the tour shirts.

The Mechanics have had a first-rate comeback. They underlined this impression in the open air shows in late summer, and we have reason to look forward to 2012. There is still potential and because the band still gets everybody on their feet there will be only no-seating venues in the 2012 shows. The Mechanics live party will go on.

by Christian Gerhardts, English by Martin Klinkhardt
photos by Peter Schütz and Bernd Zindler

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