It was hard to know what to expect from last night’s Mike + the Mechanics gig at the Hard Rock Rocksino. It had been 25 years since the group’s last trip to American shores in 1989 when it was promoting The Living Years
album. Also, the version of the Mechanics that made the trip this time had been radically revised — vocalist Paul Carrack is no longer with the group and his counterpart, Paul Young, sadly passed away in July of 2000.
But give Genesis guitarist/bassist Mike Rutherford some credit — he knows a thing or two about successfully weathering lineup changes. He proved that once again with the revitalized version of the Mechanics that he brought to the Cleveland area for a return that was long overdue. The current edition of the group, featuring vocalists Andrew Roachford and Tim Howar leading the way, has been together since 2010, and it was clear that the lineup, which also features keyboardist Luke Juby, guitarist Andrew Drennan and drummer Gary Wallis (in his 21st year with the group) definitely had the goods to lead the crowd that was in attendance on a wonderfully nostalgic trip.
They came armed with a setlist that would cover both deep album tracks and favorites that were more than faithfully reproduced with Roachford and Howar soulfully handling the vocals on songs like “Silent Running,” “All I Need Is A Miracle” and “The Living Years,” a track which still brings goosebumps more than 25 years later. There were even a couple of Genesis tracks tossed into the mix (“Turn It On Again” and “I Can’t Dance”), and while they brought a noticeably positive response from the audience, it seems likely that the set would have held just as much weight without them.
Surrounded by a mix of drum programming and live drums, the synth-driven Mechanics sound did give some of the material a somewhat rigidly dated feel in spots. But the group’s 95-minute set also had a good number of moments that were surprisingly loose and casual, with Rutherford teasing a bluesy chunk of Jimi Hendrix’s “Voodoo Chile" during an encore performance of the title track from the 1991 Word Of Mouth
album (a song which the band dedicated to the late Young as they launched into it) during which each member took one final solo turn. The layers of keyboards and programming were stripped away during a two song acoustic set midway through the show that featured the title track from the group’s 2011 album The Road
paired with “Taken In,” a recent setlist addition pulled from the self-titled 1985 Mechanics debut.
There was also a strong feeling of equality that was spread across the board — Rutherford would take his share of guitar solos throughout the night, but he also was quite happy to just hang back and play the bass. Similarly, Roachford and Howar shared the vocal duties in a fashion that didn’t feel like it had been heavily debated in the rehearsal stages, sometimes trading lines within the same song and with one often adding harmony vocals while the other handled the lead parts. For a band that once began as a project, it now feels quite unified and the group delivered a solid performance that was well worth the gamble. You can check out a slideshow from the concert here