27th March 2015
When stadium rock legends Simple Minds rolled into town we were lucky enough to have two reviewers present. Here’s what they had to say about a great night at the Auditorium.
Simple Minds reviewed by Tracey Edges
An eighties soundtrack, which has been playing in the background, suddenly turns to a dramatic, brooding version of Ravel’s Bolero and an expectant hush transforms a noisy and amiable audience, as all turn to face the stage in anticipation.
I had been expecting a quintet of men-in-black suits to appear on stage but that was left to Andy Gillespie on keyboards. Ged Grimes, on bass, was in traditional rock uniform of leather jacket, t-shirt, jeans and baseball boots. Founder member, and guitarist, Charlie Burchill in similar with cotton jacket. Drummer, Mel Gaynor was only visible by his face, with the rest wearing a mountainous, and impressive, drum kit.
However, the sartorial award of the evening went to frontman Jim Kerr in a red tartan, ¾ length jacket, white shirt with dandyish cuffs and a black scarf, with tight black trousers and glossy black boots. Vocalist, keys and additional guitar player, red-haired, Catherine AD was absolutely stunning in a red, sleeveless, glossy PVC dress and red tartan leggings with black glossy boots. They accessorised each other, perfectly.
The first half, centre back stage, proudly raised, was owned by Catherine AD aka The Anchoress, who also happens to be a university lecturer. Catherine has written a book about, and lectures on, gay poetry, has given social media lessons to Chrissie Hynde and is also a participant in a joint venture band, The Dark Flowers, founded by Paul Statham, alongside Jim Kerr and others.
The line-up complete for the first set, the lightshow began, the smoke machines whirred but this was no smoke and mirrors ‘vintage’ tour. This was a band still relevant, fresh and still able to turn out Big Music. As Jim Kerr said, “It’s not us who’s coming back. It’s you”.
They were alive and kicked off with (sorry – but best to get that inevitable one out of the way!) with a track off the Big Music album: Let The Day Begin. The crowd didn’t need a warm up – they were off – straight into the big sound, the arm waving, the bouncing up and down.
I would guess a fair percentage were Simple Minds fans from the glory years and the odd screeched out “I love you Jim” floated around, hung in the air and fell like a thud from a bygone era.
Grimsby was the first gig of the 30 date UK tour and as a smaller town, and as the warm up – was it going to be a bit pedestrian? Not at all.
Jim Kerr had a twinkle in his eye, was relaxed, looked like he was really enjoying the show, was happy to pose for the multitude of photographs and had a bit of a banter. He mentioned Hull and got a loud boo and then mentioned Cleethorpes to a humongous cheer. Asked how the local football team was doing, he got a groan and responded “Oh, not that well then?!”
Promising to “Play Everything”, a bit difficult with a back catalogue of 18 studio albums, spanning 35 years from, Life In A Day, released in 1979 to, Big Music in 2014, they managed to produce a well balanced show of old favourites and new material.
The combination of electro and big stadium sound made an accessible listen even to anyone who hadn’t been previously familiar with their whole canon of work. I was pleased that I had managed to listen to some of Big Music as I recognised some tracks and Honest Town, the first single release off the album, was a particular favourite of mine, both recorded and live.
There was a change to acoustic guitars for The American Home medley, which was full of life.
Catherine AD was allowed to shine with a solo track, when she put down her guitar, sang and played keyboard to an entranced and appreciative audience. The first set ended with the two big anthems; Waterfront and Don’t You Forget About Me leaving the crowd high and happy, waiting in anticipation for the second set.
Before I heard Catherine perform I had been disappointed to think that Sarah Brown wasn’t singing with Simple Minds for this tour but as the Auditorium lights went down and the stage lights went on, Sarah was there all impressively massive hair and zebra striped dress with bright red tights and killer heels.
She strikingly dominated the stage with her presence and her voice until, after holding the audience for a good session, she was joined by Jim and they were off again. I was unfamiliar with a few of the first tracks of the second set so just floated along with it. A change of pace was invoked with a version of The Doors’ classic, “Riders On The Storm”.
Unfortunately, from then on I was trying to outride my own storm with the only trouble-causer I saw, of the entire evening, who decided to pick on me (but that is a whole different story). I stood my ground, determined to enjoy the brilliant performance right up to the final encore which was, of course, the roof raising, guaranteed crowd pleaser, Alive and Kicking.
Many happy faces left Grimsby Auditorium that night, after a brilliantly entertaining show from Simple Minds who are simply, in my mind, still at the top of their game. Excellent.
Simple Minds reviewed by idp
We can be a mardy lot up in here in Grimsby. We think nobody loves us. We feel neglected. Apart from having Channel 5 poverty porn film crews on every street corner we don’t feature much in the mainstream media, unless we’re a key marginal with at least one candidate with alleged links to the far right. (Mentioning no names.)
We don’t get many visits from big name bands either and when we do it sometimes feels like they only bring half their kit and only really give it half their usual effort. “It’s only Grimsby lads, save some energy for Wolverhampton,” we can almost hear them say as they wait in the wings.
So when a band of the calibre of Simple Minds decide to open their UK tour here it’s a big deal and the Auditorium is appropriately packed for the show well before kick off. From the moment Jim Kerr struts onto the stage in a bright red tartan frock coat (apparently he’s Scottish) it’s clear that there aren’t going to be any half measures at this show. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anybody look more pleased to be on a stage and he seems to be genuinely impressed with the response from the packed house, as well he might be because the crowd are cheering and singing along right from the start.
With a back catalogue as long as your arm and a well received new album (last year’s Big Music) to boot Simple Minds are never going to be short of tunes to play but they do their best to pack as many as possible into the set, which allowing for the break runs to over two and a half hours of high intensity performance. Nobody leaves complaining that they didn’t get good value.
It seems to have been fashionable among reviewers of Big Music to praise the parts of the album that hark back to the band’s early output and to be slightly dismissive of songs, like the title track, that evoke the stadium filling sounds of the late eighties onwards. But if we’re being honest here then for me, (and for lots of others judging by the reactions of the crowd on the night), then it was from Sparkle In The Rain that Simple Minds really made an impact on me and I have no problem with them revisiting that era.
With Mel Gaynor’s insistently snary percussion and Andy Gillespie’s keyboards providing the underpinning for the anthemic expansiveness which nowadays characterises the Simple Minds sound, the band seem to sound even more eighties today than they did in the eighties and the new songs blend seamlessly in with the classics. I won’t claim to be a Simple Minds expert and there are plenty of occasions when I can’t decide whether we’re listening to 20th or 21st century vintage but in this relatively small venue, which has a remarkably good acoustic for bands that can crank the volume up a little, it feels that we could almost be at Wembley or The Shea with Thatcher and Reagan chatting over coffee and looking deep into each other’s eyes just down the road.
Good though the band are, with Ged Grimes unerring on bass and of course co-founder member Charlie Burchill laying down his trademark flickering guitar alongside those already mentioned, it’s Kerr who is the undoubted star of the show, grinning like a Cheshire and constantly in motion, leaning out across the pit to hold the microphone towards the audience, bounding around the stage twirling the mic stand like a dandy with a long cane, or doing what would probably be dad dancing if I did it but which looks rather cool when he does it , he’s a non stop ball of energy chatting with front row, discussing football or waving to people in the balconies. I read in an interview that he hung out for a while with Springsteen in New York and it’s the Boss’s kind of boundless energy and inclusiveness that he displays here. At the end of the gig half the people present will feel like they have had a momentary intimacy with the star of the show, and that’s quite a skill.
The first half of the set is predominantly rock and acoustic tracks (for which the band are joined by Welsh multi-instrumentalist Catherine AD who stars when she switches to keyboards for a stately Rivers Of Ice) and the second featuring soul vocalist Sarah Brown who takes a solo on Book Of Beautiful Things and backs up magnificently on Sanctify Yourself, on which Kerr is so convincing in his role as a revivalist preacher that you wouldn’t be surprised if he pulled a handful of rattlesnakes from the pocket of his black jacket (costume change during half time interval).
Highlights of the show? That’s a tough call and it’s always tempting at this point to pick an obscure track and say how nice it is to see it getting dusted off for the first time in twenty odd years and how you’ve always loved it and felt it was under appreciated but actually on the night it’s Don’t You Forget About Me which starts as a booming monster delivered across a sea of waving arms and mobile phones and gradually morphs into something small and intimate as Kerr lead a call and response singalong from a seated position at the front of the stage.
From pure eighties over the top stadium rock to delicate and emotional choristry in two minutes or less – it’s some trick and serves to prove that for this tour Simple Minds are a band back on the top of their game. The encores end with Riders On The Storm, as dark and malevolent as the original, and finally Alive And Kicking. As we file out and wait for twenty or thirty minutes to get out of the car park I can hear a lot of people singing tunelessly in their stationary cars and the town seems quite cheerful, almost. But don’t let it fool you.
All words by idp and Tracey Edges.
Tracey Edges is an Artist, Writer and Radio Presenter. Her writing can be found on her PI GY Blog and at alittlebitoftraceyedges Her shamefully neglected website shows some examples of her work and her radio show can be heard here. She tweets as @tedges