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Simple Minds @ 02 Academy Birmingham, 24th February 2012

Take yourself back in time, to the late seventies early 80’s, with Kraftwerk inspired dance electronica, with a hint of alternative post punk art rock, new romantic and big arena sound. Think dodgy haircuts, Bowie trousers and men in black eyeliner. Playing a set entirely devoted to tracks from their first five vinyl (remember that?) albums, Simple Minds are in town.

Formed way back in ’78, Simple Minds took an eclectic journey up to ‘82, from the dance classic cult  ‘I Travel’ right through the big sound of the ‘New Gold Dream (81-82-83-84)’ album, with splashing of arena-filling 80’s hits. Success became stratospheric – by the mid/late eighties Simple Minds were huge, playing not just arenas, but stadia, almost comparable to the success achieved by U2. But for Simple Minds their commercial success diminished, not that has stopped them; they’ve continued to this day, both recording and playing live, and tonight here, in an intimate venue to celebrate with their loyal fans, they’re playing songs from first five albums as part of their 5x5Live tour.

The Simple Minds of today are made up of original members Jim Kerr (vocals) and Charlie Burchill (guitar/keyboards), Mel Gaynor (drummer – who’s been in the line up pretty much since ’82), Andy Gillespie (keyboards – ditto since 2002) and Ged Grimes (bass – newbie and formerly a founding member of Danny Wilson).  It being a Friday night at the 02 so it’s an early end (10pm curfew) so on at precisely 7.31pm – here we go….

The set is drenched in dry ice, blue beams of light shine throughout the venue and we start of with that cult dance floor track that is ‘I Travel’ in all it’s glory, to a rapturous applause from the audience. “Thank you Birmingham – thanks for coming along to see us.” It’s an early start for most the punters but within half an hour the Academy is pretty full.

Kerr still has his voice – he hits all the vocals, dancing in that staccato manner that has become his trademark. Tonight’s set is for die-hard fans – Kerr is a man of few words – tonight it’s about the nostalgia, a time warp, the music – dry ice and beams of lights effects cloud the stage throughout the night.

‘Love Song’ gets everyone singing, Kerr enthusiastically gets them clapping and there a huge cheer after the song. “That’s wonderful – thank you.” The following track is ‘Pleasantly Disturbed’, somewhat different for Simple Minds – take a listen and see if you think it was the inspiration behind the Reznor/ Manson ‘Sweet Dreams’ and clearly inspired at the time by The Velvet Underground.  One more track ‘Room’ and we have a 10-minute ‘interlude’ while we all catch our breath and catch-up with a few people – heya Adam!

Then they’re back on and we’re into ‘The American’ – Kerr: “We’re having a ball thank you – for the past thirty five years we’ve had a ball.” A few more tracks then into “Promised You a Miracle” – the crowd go “oooooooooooooooooooooooo” at the appropriate time; a few ‘bad 80’s dancing’. Then we have “Someone Somewhere in Summertime” – a 12” inch extended version (in old money so to speak.) The crowd is thoroughly enjoying themselves, the loyal fans loving it.

Time for another break and back on at 9.30 to instrumental dance track “Theme for Great Cities.” Then a couple of tracks and we get the start of what became rise to the big heights – masses of dry ice, bright yellow beam lights and we’re into “Glittering Prize’ followed up by “New Gold Dream (81-82-83-84)” a tubstomping rendition – the crowd all sing, Kerr slots into the vocals “In this room… I want to kiss you all….”, a drumming crescendo – one of the stand out tracks of the night.  The crowd bay for more – but it’s 9.55pm and curfew time – the house lights come on and all we walk out to Roxy Music’s ‘Let’s Stick Together…’

Simple Minds were huge in their hey day. Think like bands like Coldplay today – that’s the status that Simple Minds operated at. Maybe through the later decades they didn’t maintain quite that level – and the major hits were certainly mostly during the 80’s. But they’ve continued to play on, play live and record – tonight was a celebration of a long time ago – and gave the band opportunity to play tracks they must had mostly forgotten. This being the Academy, unfortunately the sound, once again, wasn’t brilliant – depending where you stood as to whether you got the full balanced sound, or where I was, an overriding blast of synth. But for true fans certainly an opportunity to see them close up and personal, performing songs they hadn’t done for years. And all certainly enjoyed it.

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Setlist:

  1. I Travel
  2. Thirty Frames in a Second
  3. Today I Died Again
  4. Celebrate
  5. This Fear of Gods
  6. Life in A Day
  7. Hunter and the Hunted
  8. Premonition
  9. Wasteland
  10. Love Song
  11. Pleasantly Disturbed
  12. Room

[Break]

  1. The American
  2. In Trance As A Mission
  3. 70 Cities as Love Brings the Fall
  4. Calling Your Name
  5. Changeling
  6. Factory
  7. Scar
  8. Promised You A Miracle
  9. Someone Somewhere in Summertime

[Encore]

  1. Theme for Great Cities
  2. Someone
  3. Chelsea Girl
  4. Glitter Prize
  5. New Gold Dream (81-82-83-83)

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Listening:

Life in a Day [1978]

Real to Real Cacophony [1979]

Empires and Dance [1980]

Sons and Fascination / Sister Feelings Call [1981]

New Gold Dream (81-82-83-84) [1982]

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Reviewed for Birmingham Live!