The first main stage act for the year was Mike + the Mechanics, best known for their hits, “All I Need is a Miracle” and “Silent Running (On Dangerous Ground).” The group was initially formed in 1985 by Genesis bassist, Mike Rutherford, as a side project away from the multiplatinum group. After racking up a number of chart successes, the original Mike + the Mechanics lineup disbanded in 2004. Rutherford revived the name in 2010, bringing in an entirely new set of musicians including two new singer-songwriters, Andrew Roachford and Tim Howar.
The band’s 15-song set broke with 80s Cruise tradition by incorporating only a few songs from the namesake decade. The band was on the Cruise as a part of a tour in support of their latest album, 2017’s Let Me Fly. The audience may not have recognized the new songs, but they felt familiar. Rutherford teamed up with several different songwriters to write the album, including Roachford, Howar, and Clark Datchler, singer and songwriter best known for his work in Johnny Hates Jazz. The collaboration resulted in an album that sounds contemporary, yet clearly evokes the earlier incarnation of the band.
Rutherford’s greatest talent may be his ability to bring together to perfect collection of musicians to realize his vision. Rounding out the band was guitarist Anthony Drennan, drummer Gary Wallis, and Toby Chapman on keyboards. Together they played a flawless show full of lush arrangements, but the show would have been too restrained had it not been for the dynamic between Roachford and Howar. The pair traded off lead vocals and harmonies, which worked particularly well with the band’s new songs, such as “The Best is Yet to Come” and “Wonder.”
The two singers brought a new energy to older Mechanics and Genesis tracks. Howar’s vibrant take on “All I Need is a Miracle” had the audience out of their chairs and singing along. The cold war themed Genesis single, “Land of Confusion” was even more impassioned under Howar’s guidance, while the monotonous, “I Can’t Dance,” was invigorated by the playful interaction between the singer and Rutherford.
Roachford’s rich, soulful voice was the perfect match for the songs initially helmed by Paul Carrack. Like Howar, he elevated every song with an expressive performance and brought the right emotional resonance to the powerful ballad, “The Living Years.” Prior to joining Mike + the Mechanics, he fronted a band in the late 80s that had a moderate hit with 1988’s, “Cuddly Toy.” It was a welcome surprise to hear the funky track mixed into the setlist.
Rutherford was as unflappable on the smaller stage as he was when he was performing in stadium shows with Genesis. He was the counter to the more excitable Phil Collins in those days. The Mike + the Mechanics show highlighted his ability to refashion that success by assembling a group of musicians that complimented his musical style while balancing his more sedate tone. It may not have fit into the perfect 80s mold, but it made for a memorable night in a week of memorable nights.