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Brand X Special: An Urorthodox History

I was deeply saddened to hear of Paul Young’s death, because he was the Mechanic whose energy and enthusiams had impressed me most. It was therefore very important for me to fly to Manchester to see the Forever Young show and so say goodbye to him.

When I entered the venue I was uncertain of what to expect. The first band did not bode well. It was the Toggery Five with whom Paul Young had played several festivals in 1965. They played a couple of Rock ‘n roll pieces (a la Johnny Be Good), but the audience awoke only when they played a rousing version of Route 66.

Then The SAS Band took the stage. I only knew that this had been Paul Young’s last project, so I was curious to hear their music and was not disappointed. I was particularly happy to see Jamie Moses again, who, as I found out later, has been a permanent member of the band for years. The SAS band was supported by many musicians who had previously worked with them: Chris Thompson (Manfred Mann’s Earth Band), who sang songs like On The Road Again and the famous Every Day Hurts, Mark Shaw (Then Jericho), Roger Taylor (Queen), who sang, too, Paul Young (ironically) and Fish. The highpoint of the show was an instrumental called The Twenty Riff Overture; they had played this in public at the Party In The Park show to close a fifteen minute gap. It consisted, as the title indicates, of 20 guitar riffs played in an arbitrary order, amongst them famous ones like Satisfaction, 1999, Walking On The Moon, Living La Vida Loca and We Are The Champions.

After these breathtaking two hours a reunited Sad Café took the stage and played three beautiful songs from the band’s early years: Black Rose, I Believe (Love Will Survive) and My Oh My.

The last band of the evening was the one I had been waiting for, The Mechanics. They played a perfect show, but the melancholy mood in the band reminded everyone of the reason for the show. They first played five “Carrack pieces”: Get Up, Another Cup Of Coffee, Silent Running, The Living Years and Over My Shoulder, which were followed by All I Need Is A Miracle and Word Of Mouth. Chris Thompson sang the latter song with lots of verve and a strong voice.

It also became clear that Paul Young is irreplaceable. Between the bands the screens showed parts of the SAS live video, An Evening With Sad Café, a 1999 Mechanics show and private photos from the last 45 years. What was particularly (bitter)sweet were the little stories that were told between the songs and gave the whole show an even more personal note.

The evening gave a very accomplished overview of the musical oeuvre of Paul Young. It also left enough room to offer us a glimpse at his private life. It was an experience I would not want to miss.

by Sylvia Engel

English by Martin Klinkhardt