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Concert Reviews:
Mike + the Mechanics re-introduce themselves in Ann Arbor
 

By GARY GRAFF
Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

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ANN ARBOR -- Give Mike Rutherford props for not resting on what could be some very easy laurels.

His tenure with Genesis, whose run seems to have ended for good after a 2007 reunion tour, certainly left him in a position where he doesn't have to do anything ever again. So Rutherford has clearly revived his other band, Mike + the Mechanics -- since 2010 in Europe and now making its way back to North America -- out of genuine desire to keep creating music, albeit in a markedly different form than Genesis.

On Saturday night, March 14, at the Michigan Theater, Rutherford and company delivered a solid and often illuminating reintroduction to the Mechanics world with a 15-song, 95-minute show that celebrated the group's pop-with-R&B-undertone rather than Genesis' prog-pop blend. Those coming for complex arrangements and lengthy instrumental explorations may have been left wanting, but the Mechanics still offered a winning and sophisticated brand of melodicism, and the six-piece group still flaunted plenty of above-standard musicianship throughout the night.

And the tiny crowd -- more suited to The Ark nearby -- was a mark of the reclamation job ahead of Rutherford for the Mechanics rather than a reflection of what the group can do in a live setting.

Following Genesis touring guitarist Daryl Stuermer's 35-minute opening set -- during which he previewed versions of Peter Gabriel's "Shock the Monkey," the Police's "Message in a Bottle" and Jeff Beck's "Freeway Jam" slated for a new covers album he's working on -- the Mechanics opened by digging deep, with the anthemic title track from 1995's "Beggar on a Beach of Gold" and 1991's upbeat "Get Up," which showcased lead singers Tim Howar and Andrew Roachford, respectively. Rutherford made note of bringing the Mechanics to Ann Arbor back when he started the group in 1989 and noting he's "very aware we started the Mechanics in the States," making its current "comeback" status somewhat ironic -- then introduced the first Mechanics hit, "Silent Running (On Dangerous Ground)."

From there, however, it was largely a night for real Mechanics fans as the group dug into its catalog for "Another Cup of Coffee," the politically tinged "Seeing is Believing," "Try To Save Me" and unplugged-style renditions of "The Road" and "Taken In," with Genesis' "Turn It On Again" tossed in as an energy boost. But the show really, and not surprisingly, took off towards the end with Roachford and Howar sharing leads on the hard-hitting "Nobody's Perfect," a romp through Roachford's own "Cuddly Toy," Genesis' sinewy "I Can't Dance" and the one-two closing punch of the tear-jerking "The Living Years" and a buoyant "All I Need is a Miracle."

A long encore of "Word of Mouth" let Roachford play a bit of Stevie Wonder's "Superstition" on his keyboard and Rutherford crank out some of the Jimi Hendrix Experience's "Purple Haze," leaving the Michigan Theater faithful charged -- and hopefully vested enough to bring back some friend the next time the Mechanics roll through the area.



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