- 08 Jun 17
Our man Pat Carty weighs up the return of Simple Minds.
A commodious vicus of recirculation has seen Simple Minds reputation reassessed in recent times. Younger bands like The Killers and The Horrors have been happy to cite them as major influence, which, of course can never fully erase the horror of something like ‘Belfast Child’, but it hasn’t hurt. The ‘Minds themselves would probably tell you that they just kept doing what they were doing, and waited the whole thing out, and here they are, with two pretty much sold out nights at the Olympia.
In a move you don’t see every day of the week, main man Jim Kerr takes to the stage early in order to introduce “special guest” (not support act) KT Tunstall, but not before regaling us with tales of childhood holidays to Bray and the like. If the singing doesn’t work out, he has a glorious career as an after dinner speaker ahead of him.
Ms Tunstall’s appeal has always been a bit of a mystery to me, but there’s no faulting her passion tonight. Armed with only an acoustic guitar and the various effects pedals that make up her “band”, which result in her hopping from foot to foot like someone waiting for the jacks, she easily wins the crowd over. She tells a few stories, gives out the hits, throws in a blast of The Bangles’ ‘Walk Like An Egyptian’ and plays The White Stripes’ ‘Seven Nation Army’ on the kazoo: a proper show in other words. Her Scots burr, in both sung and spoken form, is most pleasing to the ear. If she roared out the window at me, I’d certainly come in for my tea.
“Acoustic” is a bit of a misnomer tonight. When Simple Minds take the stage, they do so in front of enough equipment to launch a rocket. Guitarist Charlie Burchill, who is great throughout, has more pedals in front of him than The Edge on Christmas morning, but he does stick to an acoustic guitar, so narrowly avoids prosecution under the trade descriptions act. Drummer Cherisse Osei’s kit would keep Mötley Crüe happy and she plays the entire show standing up, reminding you of Shelia E. in both look and skill, which is of course a very good thing indeed.
Kerr isn’t finished with the anecdotes yet, remembering when he and Charlie were living in Killiney (“we must have had no money that time”) and how Molly in a newsagents out near The Druid’s Chair thought he was the singer from Simply Red. Said Molly also offered a description of Christy Moore that, though possibly accurate, doesn’t (legally) warrant repeating.
Yes, he still dances like your Ma at a wedding when Tom Jones comes on, but he’s more than happy to laugh at himself. He makes reference more than once to the fact that he’s put on a few pounds, but I would offer that if I had pipes like his, I would invest in some insulation too. A consummate showman then, and that’s before I mention the music at all.
This is a celebration and, accordingly, we get the hits, all of them. If you had come along hoping for side two of Empires And Dance, then you were out of luck, although ‘The American’ and a great ‘Chelsea Girl’ from their first album Life In A Day, released a short forty years ago, both get an airing. Thankfully, I didn’t run into anyone spouting that tired old “I prefer their early stuff” routine in the packed, ecstatic crowd.
A selection of tracks from their finest hour, 82’s New Gold Dream, are among the other highlights, as is a fantastic ‘Waterfront’, showcasing Kerr’s man-walking-in-a-blizzard “dance”, and, spread across two encores, ‘Don’t You (Forget About Me)’ and ‘Alive And Kicking’, during which Kerr had the crowd eating out of his hands to such an extent that had he asked for their wallets, they would have rained down upon him. His voice is as marvellously strong as it always was, although we’ll never know if he can hit the high notes in ‘Alive And Kicking’ as the faithful roared out the whole thing anyway.
It didn’t all work. They lost the crowd a bit when Jim’s mate sang Bowie’s ‘Andy Warhol’, Tunstall’s return to the stage for ‘Promised You A Miracle’ was a bit hammy, and despite Burchill’s fine work, ‘Mandela Day’ and ‘Sanctify Yourself’ will always be kinda shite, but this was a great night out. They’re on again tonight; I would suggest that you go if you can.