Art-rock juggernaut’s celebratory homecoming

Charlie WPAn overblown, pompous, backslapping homecoming for Scotland’s biggest stadium export of the eighties, and on the guitarist’s birthday. Brilliant!

No, really it is.

Here is a band at their professional peak, after many internal upheavals, Simple Minds are a continuing live powerhouse.

The deluxe thrills and spills box set book edition really is supreme, yet perhaps only of note to fans. The film inside is what counts to the wider market, and Simple Minds deliver.

The dry ice and the intro music add to the already anticipatory atmosphere, then the band pound into Waterfront.

With the prerequisite 1-2-3-4 count in, singer Jim Kerr has the partisan crowd in his hands as they sing in unison. He doesn’t rest on his ageing laurels, consistently cajoling the crowd to join in at regular points throughout.

His signature ‘Let me see your hands’ does become a little wearing after a while, but in Kerr, Simple Minds have a front man who knows how to work the crowd, to make them feel a part of the show in a genuine and personal manner.

It’s a greatest hits show, in support of their latest compilation, Celebrate, and, for better or worse, the set list is familiar; the crowd know every word, handclap and gesture to the rundown of hits.

When you are playing solid gold tunes to a converted crowd it is easy to be blasé about the whole event. But the changing line up over the years has given new impetus to the Kerr/Burchilll axis.

This is mainly in part to Andy Gillespie on keys, who not only reproduces Mick MacNeil’s compositions impeccably, but adds his own tinkering to the ivory tinkling, giving something new to what could quite easily be a retread of easy to deliver songs.

Sarah Brown steps into the shoes which have not been filled successfully since Robin Clark packed her trunk when the Once Upon A Time tour wrapped in late ’86.

Brown has been a fixture for 18 months and knows the interplay with Kerr intimately, his introduction bringing her to centre stage, her heels and legs towering over Kerr bring some soul and glamour to the mainly rock visuals.

Steve Pollard, the long term lighting producer, again creates innovative lighting to an arena stage to create some togetherness for a band who like to interact throughout the set.

Simple Minds headlining at the Hydro at the SECC in Glasgow on 27th November 2013.On bass, Ged Grimes doesn’t just excel in poses, his playing is fluid and flawless. There are rumours within the fan base he’s better than you know who.

With the show being cut to CD as well, there is the chance to see which songs work well visually and those which shine through audio.

Hunter and the Hunted is a stand out on the DVD, it is almost as a perfect example of modern Simple Minds as you can get. Then the band up the ante further with The American. A slice of 1981 club music with a chilling vocal and throbbing bass with squealing guitar showcases the power Simple Minds had in their early days and what a guitar hero Charlie Burchill is in 2013.

Love Song follows but works better as an audio track, the space Brown moves into as she intertwines with Kerr and the steady beat with propulsive bassline line allows Burchill to almost become funky. Skinny white boys from Glasgow with a European leaning hooking up some funky, soulful girl vocals? Yet, Love Song is a matchless example of Simple Minds musical breadth, which unfortunately doesn’t always get the recognition it deserves.

See the Lights works better with footage, but here the band reach their crescendo; from clubland dance floor filler through to emotional rock classic with searing solo, then topped with über-hit Don’t You (Forget About Me). We have witnessed a band on the up, setting the pace of their set to perfection.

Simple Minds don’t get much higher, and bring the tempo down a notch with oft forgotten single Let It All Come Down. This creates a breather for the now heavily sweating Kerr, and a chance for the crowd to gather thoughts.

Certain fans may grumble it slows the set down, but it’s a vital part of the planning to offer the best show possible for the punters on the night.

Former contemporaries U2, modern stadium heroes Coldplay and perennial US rock luggers Bon Jovi should watch this and take notice. This is how to play to thousands, keep it entertaining and intimate without a side order of flamboyant distractions, all while showing your back catalogue has a diversity to be envied, which sounds as fresh and vibrant as anything else on the concert circuit this year.

Further Simple Minds features can be found here.

One Response to “Art-rock juggernaut’s celebratory homecoming”
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  1. […] my contacts up and down the east coast of Australia, I searched for my beloved Simple Minds Live at the Hydro double LP on transparent vinyl, and the rather superfluous ‘Waterfront’ 7” picture […]

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