Mike & The Mechanics – York Barbican – 12th April 2023
Let’s skip the lengthy and potentially heated debate that could ensue the spelling accuracy of the ‘Refueled’ (US) or ‘Refuelled’ (UK) tour tagline and cut to the chase. “Refueled, recharged and reconditioned,” is Rutherford’s comment. Maybe a few more ‘re-‘s will be added during the course of a lengthy MATM tour across the UK over the next few weeks. The opening night of the Mike & The Mechanics 2023 tour saw their four-year absence broken in historic York.
We’re promised “all the hits plus a drop of Genesis.” And be sure that the Mechanics have enough hits to cherry-pick from half a dozen albums to form a crowd-pleasing set; you can probably name many of them or recognise the tunes. As for the drop of Genesis – don’t expect any Gabriel-era or mid-period bangers; go to a Steve Hackett Genesis Revisited gig for that. However, be prepared for a gentle twist.
Together and apart, the vocal talents and sparring (not to mention frontman prowess) of Andrew Roachford and Tim Howar provide the focal point. Howar makes the night for several front-row ticket holders with a bit of showmanship from the lip of the stage. The personal touch is always a winner and several of the ladies he charmed will be heading home with a nice phone video to show to their pals at work. And, whenever Roachford gets on the case, you’re guaranteed a whole stack of soul and style in his delivery. He gets his own showcase in set 2 with his own big hit in Cuddly Toy that goes down a storm.
The rest of the band is made up of repeat offenders and musical mates in Luke Juby on keys (bass and Over My Shoulder whistling) and 1998 Genesis touring guitarist Anthony Drennan. A strong ‘Genesis’ feel to the Mechanics lineup is of course Rutherford himself and the new drummer for this run of shows Nic Collins (who starred on the final Genesis tour). Nic plays a starring role here too. Rutherford notes how he brings a new energy to the band “No idea where he gets it from,” he deadpans predictably – while Nic also adds a fair share of power and finesse too.
Amongst all the hits that basically see the setlist almost pick itself – Get Up, Beggar On A Beach Of Gold, Another Cup Of Coffee…etc – that promise of “a drop of Genesis” may have added a bum or two on seats. Jesus He Knows Me might not have been one of the more obvious choices but was a welcome one (and a chance to compare with Ghost’s imminent version). Rutherford, switching between acoustic, bass and guitar, finally gets as guitar solo moment as Silent Running closes the first set
A second half flew by, opening with an acoustic set (not quite ‘unplugged’ with the electronic drum pads playing their role) that gently medley-ed a few Mechanics snippets including Invisible Touch and Follow You Follow Me. Clearing the acoustic kit away left Mr Rutherford alone on the stage accompanied by a drum machine, Tim Howar and the more predictable Genesis I Can’t Dance riff as the band gradually added themselves back to the number – although thankfully didn’t attempt the (in)famous walking dance…
Roachford channels some Aretha in the intro to Living Years, and the sucker punches of All I Need Is A Miracle and Over My Shoulder guarantee the tour has genuinely kicked into life. Honouring the Mechanics tradition on Word Of Mouth, aside from the obvious ‘point in the right direction’ audience participation of the chorus, saw each take a brief solo spot. Roachford again on point with a burst of Stevie Wonder’s Superstition and Rutherford himself rolling back the years with his nod to Hendrix’s Purple Haze
With the covers to the book of Genesis now firmly closed, reviving the Mechanics sees Mike Rutherford coming full circle. Cue the wibbly wobbly lines of time travel back to his formative days as a musician back in Charterhouse with lofty but rebellious ambitions to become a songwriter. It’s been quite some journey.
photo selection courtesy of iphone.cam