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Colm O Hare, 31 Aug 2009
To many, Simply Red – aka Mick Hucknall – are a 1980s anachronism, their pseudo-sophisticated supper-club funk and smooth balladry a relic from the era of ra-ra skirts and pastel jackets.
To others, the band’s frontman is not only a supreme pop stylist but the owner of one of the finest blue-eyed soul voices in history. Either way, you can’t argue with his enduring popularity.Hucknall has been filling arenas around the world on what is billed as his 25th Anniversary Greatest Hits tour. Tonight, in the eyes of the sold-out faithful, he can do no wrong. Mega-hits like ‘It’s Only Love’ and ‘For Your Babies’ had them swooning and singing along, while the place erupted during the high-octane numbers ‘Do The Right Thing’ and ‘Come To My Aid’.
On the downside, the set was marred by pointless covers, such as the lame cod-reggae of ‘Night Nurse’, a song made famous by Gregory Isaacs. He brought little new either to The Hollies’ ‘The Air That I Breathe’ or The Stylistics’ Philly soul ballad, ‘You Make Me Feel Brand New’. Still, we can be thankful for small mercies. He promised that, despite his Irish DNA, he wouldn’t be singing ‘Danny Boy’!
Hucknall’s unwavering self-belief and prickly defensiveness is well documented (he once hilariously accused his detractors of being “racist” because of his red hair.) His between-song banter (if you can call it that) is minimal, perfunctory and hardly changes from show to show. He doesn’t have the self-effacing, laddish humour of, say, Rod Stewart, or the humility of George Michael, and much of the time he comes across as somewhat detached. Clearly, it’s all about the music then and that voice. ‘Holding Back The Years’, “the song that made me bloody famous!”, stands up well after all these decades, while his very first hit, ‘Money’s Too Tight To Mention’ makes some kind of sense in the current climate.