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Review: Mike & The Mechanics, Royal Concert Hall

New Theatre, Oxford New Theatre, Oxford Dazzi

Rock stars' side projects don't come much more successful than Genesis founder Mike Rutherford's outfit, which has sold an incredible ten million records since the mid-1980s.

I say "incredible" because it's genuinely baffling what people find so irresistible about the music. It's all perfectly pleasant and the choruses are really catchy but all the songs seem to slip down too easily without touching the sides, lacking any sign of genuine passion.

At the Royal Concert Hall, the band put on a very technically impressive show, superbly lit with a crystal-clear sound mix. The musicianship was superb, with singers Andrew Roachford and Tim Howar and thunderous drummer Gary Wallis especially impressive.

Oddly, Rutherford himself looked a little out of place. Never the showiest of musicians, and looking a bit like somebody's posh uncle in the midst of all the younger players, he was promoted from bassist to bassist-and-guitarist when Steve Hackett left Genesis in the late Seventies. A lovely bassist, but his guitar playing always seems rudimentary and conventional. Here, with Corrs guitarist Anthony Drennan and keyboard man Luke Juby often taking the bass parts, he probably took on too much of the six-string work. Drennan effortlessly outclassed him as a soloist, making him look like a sideman in his own spin-off band.

And so, the singers dominated. Roachford, a considerable chart star in his own right, brought more feeling to this relentlessly slick MOR pop than it perhaps deserved while Howar, whose ebullience grew as the evening wore on, provided a rockier edge.

When Rutherford played bass, things picked up. Get Up brought the audience to its feet and the bland sentiments of the likes of A Beggar On A Beach Of Gold, Nobody Knows and Another Cup Of Coffee were greeted ecstatically. And Roachford sang big hit The Living Years with admirable restraint.

Trouble is, Rutherford's main band used to make genuinely interesting music. I've seen this venue crammed to the rafters for mere tribute bands. But the only two Genesis songs we got – Follow You Follow Me and I Can't Dance – were from the group's ultra-safe years. No chance of Supper's Ready, The Colony Of Slippermen or Get 'Em Out By Friday from this lot.

In the encores, the band upped the volume and stridency for AOR earworm All I Need Is a Miracle. An ironic ending, perhaps, for an evening that shunned the miraculous in favour of moderation in all things.

© This is Nottingham, by Sean Hewitt

Last modified on Monday, 20 November 2017 09:23

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