Although he’s gigged in some of the biggest stadiums on the planet, Mike Rutherford’s memories of Glasgow remain crystal-clear.
The Genesis guitarist is bringing his other band, Mike and the Mechanics, to the Clyde Auditorium next Wednesday.
He’ll be expecting a warm reception, but his first trip was touch and go when it came to the reaction he got.
"Green’s Playhouse always stands out in my mind," he says, in his distinctive, mildly aristocratic, accent.
"You’d walk on that carpet and your feet would stick to it. I loved it as a venue though – I remember the first time we played there as Genesis, when we were young, spotty men and we were standing onstage playing our first song, which was about 15 minutes long.
"There was absolute silence as we played – you could see the crowd were deciding ‘Do we like them or not?’.
"Eventually, there was a huge roar of applause at the end. But if someone had shouted out ‘Rubbish!’ that could have swung it that way – that’s how fine the line was."
Genesis, of course, were Mike’s day job for more than four decades, from their formation in 1967. However, Mike and the Mechanics have been far more than a side project since they came together in 1984, enjoying chart hits like All I Need Is A Miracle, Over My Shoulder and their classic The Living Years.
But after one of the band’s two lead vocalists, Paul Young, passed away in 2000, the band struggled. Rewired in 2004 made little impact, and even Mike himself admitted they were finished.
Now, however, they’ve returned, with Mike assembling an all-new line-up, including two new singers in soul man Andrew Roachford and the rockier Tim Howar, as well as a new album, The Road.
For Mike, the decision to come back to the Mechanics was purely due to a desire to write songs again.
"I’m not a huge planner, and I was enjoying the last Genesis tour, and not thinking about anything else" he says.
"But I came to the end of Genesis, and thought, well, I love to songwrite. It’s a like a drug, I can’t do without it, and the Mechanics is a wonderful vehicle to write music for. So I put some ideas down, and thought ‘What the hell am I going to do now?’
"It was the same as with the first album (1985’s self-titled record) – I just wrote a few bits, and thought I’d see where the journey took me and how it works out…
"When Andrew came down he was a great songwriter, and we clicked straight away. You’re halfway there at that point, as it’s all driven by the songs."
From there, Mike assembled a new band, before heading into the studio to lay down the 11 songs that make up The Road. There was an added bonus for the 60-year-old this time, thanks to some family ties.
"A real plus was that my youngest son Harry, who’s 23, recorded the album. To be working with your son for the first time was fantastic because he was very good, and has the talent to make a career in that area.
"He’s been a drummer and guitarist, but his real passion has been recording, which he’s been doing for two or three years."
Mike’s pride in his son’s work is obvious, but his own compositions are worthy of heavy praise, too. This tour will see a few new tunes mixed in with the band’s own classics, while he admits he’ll probably slip in the boppy Genesis number I Can’t Dance too, "just for fun".
"We’ve done a couple of shows already and it’s been fantastic" he adds.
"Having the two lead singers has always a big plus, and obviously we’ve got a big old catalogue that we can play. We’re spoilt for choice. What’s encouraging is that the new songs sound really strong when played alongside the old ones."
The group’s stand-out track, The Living Years will no doubt be performed too. And the song was recently given a makeover when it was used on hit TV show Glee, which Mike was happy to agree to.
"I haven’t actually seen Glee, but I’m always pleased when anyone uses the songs. I’m happy for them to be heard, really. Some bands might not want their songs used, but that doesn’t really bother me.
"The only thing with The Living Years is that occasionally I’ll get requests for certain commercials, and they’re just not right. It’s quite a delicate, special song."
The Mechanics are Mike’s only musical pursuit at the moment, with Genesis in a state of limbo.
Phil Collins’ recent announcement that he’s retiring from music entirely would seen to suggest an end for the prog-pop maestros, but Mike admits he’s unconvinced by his bandmate’s decision.
"There were no plans for Genesis now, anyway" he says.
"I would never say never though. I think time will tell whether Phil’s actually retiring or just having a break. It’d be a big loss to the music world not to have him writing songs, though.
"I’m a great believer in not making huge announcements because things change in four or five years time. It’s his call, but it’ll be a shame if he does. The thing about us is that we’re all still good friends, which is nice.
"The last tour (in 200) was a nice way to finish, although we should have done Europe as the last leg, because the show in Rome had a half a million people, on a beautiful summer’s day, and that would have been a great last show.
"Instead we finished in the Hollywood Bowl, which was still fun. Who knows what’ll happen next, though…"
Mike and the Mechanics, May 25, Clyde Auditorium, Glasgow.
© Evening Times, by Jonathan Geddes
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