The big hits! The ridiculous moves! Simple Minds have still got the lot
Jim Kerr should take out a patent or two. The Simple Minds singer may be 62, but the stadium rock shapes he endlessly threw throughout this (delayed) opening night of the band’s 40 Years of Hits tour perfectly sum up his oeuvre and era. Simple Minds’ music is – just like Kerr’s cavorting – dramatic, preposterous, overblown and wildly entertaining all at the same time. As a pop cultural snapshot of the bombastic Eighties, a Simple Minds concert can’t be bettered.
But, as this career-spanning show demonstrated, there’s also more to Simple Minds than Don’t You (Forget About Me) and arena earnestness. Before they became global stars in 1985 (five albums into their career), the Scottish band were post-punk innovators, as aligned to Joy Division and Kraftwerk in their early years as they were to U2 in their later years. And we got the full gamut here.
The 26-song show opened with recent single Act of Love, followed by two tracks from 1980’s Empires and Dance, an album now hailed as a Krautrock-influenced new wave classic by fans including the Manic Street Preachers. The band were fantastically tight. Original members Kerr and guitarist Charlie Burchill were joined by five other members, including Cherisse Osei on drums, who at times brought a propulsive energy redolent of Prince’s drummer Sheila E, not something one would usually associate with Simple Minds. The hits soon came. Glittering Prize, Promised You a Miracle and Belfast Child were dispatched as though the Nineties never happened.
It was a ballsy move to open a long tour at Wembley Arena, particularly as it was the band’s first live show in more than two years. “Wembley Arena – what a warm-up for Bournemouth tomorrow,” Kerr joked.
The show was split into two halves, partly because there was so much to pack in and partly, one suspects, to give the band a breather (Kerr admitted to being “knackered” at one point). It wasn’t surprising, given those moves of his. His trademark stances included what I’m calling “the blinding light” (hand hovers above head to protect eyes from unseen glare, accompanied by backwards shimmy), “the pretend lasso” (microphone is twirled above head, accompanied by backwards shimmy), and the “the knee-in-invisible-groin” (knee is violently raised and shoulders lowered, accompanied by backwards shimmy).
At one point, Kerr did the splits in his skinny jeans, a move that was both astonishing and perhaps inadvisable for a man who’d be eligible for a free bus pass in his native Glasgow. But Kerr has always been something of a rock god (as marriages to both Chrissie Hynde and Patsy Kensit – before Liam Gallagher – would attest). Age is just a number, after all.
What prevented the concert from becoming pompous was the humour with which the band carried themselves. It would be easy for such a show to sink under the weight of its own occasional grandiosity, but there was levity here too. “Sing it to me in French!.. In Italian!” Kerr implored during the “La-la-la-la-la” refrain of Don’t You (Forget About Me).
In recent years, Simple Minds have undergone something of a late-career critical re-appraisal. And rightly so. This concert was a lesson in how it takes patience, astute musical and political antennae and gifted writing chops to shape a legacy. And, of course, ridiculous stage moves.
Until April 16; simpleminds.com