Tag Archive: Simple Minds

Simple Minds + Ultravox @ NIA Birmingham, 29 November 2013

Tonight is an opportunity to put on those rose tinted glasses and remember those ‘fab’ good 80s old days with much nostalgia. A time when ‘mobile’ phones were strange red (rather smelly) kiosks on street corners. ‘Social media’ entailed a pen, paper, a stamp, a postman and a few days to get a response.  Steve Jobs was busy launching the Apple Mac computer, way, way, way before he dreamt of iPods and iTunes, the nearest thing to copying a song was on a C90 cassette tape, CDs were yet to make their mark and digital downloads? They were a pipe dream….

Ultravox disappeared from view returning in 2009/10 with their ‘classic line-up’ featuring Warren Cann, Chris Cross, Billie Currie with frontman Midge Ure. They did two cracking and hugely successful ‘Return to Eden’ tours followed up by their first album in 28 years (with this line-up) in the critically acclaimed ‘Brilliant.’ And toured with it. Meanwhile headliners Simple Minds flatly refuse to give up and go away. Na no. The hits may no longer be there, but they’ve continued to play live and surprisingly, given they’ve played both the Academy and Wolves Civic over the past 12 months, they‘ve now opted for big arenas, part of a four-date UK tour with Ultravox. An arena was always a question mark – would both bands together fill it?  Answer in Brum is no. The arena is cut to less than half it’s full capacity, the stage radically moved forward. You’re probably looking between 5-6,000 people standing on the floor and cascading high in the tiered seats into the rafters.

However, to get this middle aged audience (sorry – we all feel young) in the mood, over the speakers we have Numan and his friends electric, a smattering of Bunnymen and Adam rapping his ants. With the addition of Bowie in ‘Fame’ mode and then sound cranked up – ‘Life on Mars.’

First up, a truly early 7.30pm, onto a blackened set, the band in black be Ultravox. All noticeably older (even young Midge has just turned 60) but still hugely slick and professional, Ure greets us with “How you going?” First up ‘New Europeans’ – they take a little time to warm up and for the technicians to balance the sound. With mono-lighting and moody atmosphere, like a black and white movie, ‘Sleepwalk’ goes down well. ‘Reap the Wild Wind’ gets hands in the air, next up ‘The Thin Wall’ is extended in an electronic mix jamming sesh. Middle of their set – and as the haunting double drum echoes through the venue – the crowd recognise ‘Vienna’ and big cheers go round the arena. Ure can just about still manage the high vocals; fair play the crowd cheer. Currie once again on his electronic violin. Then ‘One Small Day’ followed by ‘Hymn.’ The crowd sing along… “Give us…this day…all that you showed me….” ‘Dancing with Tears in My Eyes’ their song about the last few minutes before nuclear obliteration, and a commercial success in the day, leads Ure into band introductions, before the final song of the night ‘The Voice’ completed with band members at the front of the stage in their classic drumming line-up moment.

This wasn’t one of Ultravox’s better sets – sadly dumbed down to support slot and time limitation but by the audience response, I think they surprised a few who hadn’t seen them before or since their ‘comeback’. You enjoyed this snippet, go and see them when they are out headlining their own tour. Ultravox are more than well worth it.

To a potted bit of Simple Minds history – formed way back in ’78, they 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, comparable to U2 in success. According to their Twitter profile: “Simple Minds are Scotland’s most successful rock group to date. Having topped America’s Billboard chart, the Glasgow band have achieved six UK No.1 albums.” Simple Minds were indeed mega-huge, but unlike U2 who conquered the world and then some, it didn’t quite play out in the same way for Simple Minds, as they slipped from the stratosphere taking their loyal fans with them.

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).

And so – around ten to nine, the lights go down, and a rambling electronic rhythm fills the auditorium, big cheers as the band appear, as we’re into the dede-dede-dede-dede bass beat that is ‘Waterfront’ – in front of me a bloke stands and starts dancing like a madman as the band go into the track.

Kerr, in black suit and silver scarf, is in his element. “How are you?” he asks the crowd to a big cheer, as we get ‘Broken Glass Park’ followed by that dance classic ‘I Travel’. It rolls on and on.  “Shall we do ‘Once Upon A time’?” Kerr is down on his knees, posing in front of the audience, then rolling round the stage and sitting and singing at the front of the stage. He’s charismatic and still pretty energetic. The stage is continually drenched with dry ice from the back and front of the set – it’s beginning to get quite overwhelming and somewhat foggy in this reduced size NIA.

‘Promised You A Miracle’ gets the crowd singing back and they roll through their back catalogue. Kerr takes a break “…for a whiskey…” as we get instrumental ‘Theme From Great Cities’ before retuning to play a song for Nelson Mandela. That’ll be ‘Mandela Day’ the lighting all transferred to South African flag colours. ‘Somewhere Somehow in Summertime’ gets everyone dancing, fans are having a good time (even if on the side stands the security prevents some from dancing on the steep isles. The set rolls on  as they continue with the hits; ‘The American’,  ‘Don’t You (Forget About Me)’ – from film The Breakfast Club and ‘New Gold Dream (81-82-83-84).’

Their encore gives us the big-arena hits ‘Sanctify Yourself’ and ‘Alive and Kicking.’

So – tonight was true 80s retro. With just 50 minutes to show off their class, Ultravox are far more than just another retro act out on a cash-in. When they re-appeared there was no fanfare, they just did. And the fans flocked. And if you want to see past and present classics, from the world of electronica, tonight was just a snapshot. See them headlining their own tour, doing a full set, as they are a must see.

Clearly Simple Minds truly love arena tours; which maybe in this part of the world, probably beyond them, although the reduced venue size could well be they played locally too much. They did well to keep their fans in tow given tickets are not the cheapest (once again – circa £55). The major hits were certainly mostly during the 80’s and so tonight was a celebration of true nostalgia and most were here to hear tracks from a couple of decades past. And very probably for most here tonight; the older the track, the better. Simple Minds still have a very loyal following – and clearly, the band and fans are very much ‘alive and kicking’ and having one hell of a blast.

*****************************

Ultravox Setlist

New Europeans
Sleepwalk
Reap the Wild Wind
The Thin Wall
Vienna
One Small Day
Hymn
Dancing with Years in My Eyes
The Voice

*********************

Simple Minds Setlist

Waterfront
Broken Glass Park
I Travel
Once Upon A Time
All the Things She Said
Hunter and the Hunted
Promised You a Miracle
Glittering Prize
Theme from Great Cities
Mandela Day
Somewhere Somehow in Summertime
This Fear of Gods
The American
Love Song
See the Lights
Don’t You (Forget About Me)
Let It All Come Down
New Gold Dream (81-82-83-84)

Encore:
Sanctify Yourself
Alive and Kicking

*************

Review for Gig Junkies – pictures: Ken Harrison

Simple Minds @ Wolverhampton Civic, 5 April 2103

Simple Minds flatly refuse to give up and go away. Na no. Stadia shows may be a few years ago (although arenas are a’ beckoning later in the year) this is the second time in just over 12 months they’ve played a mid-sized venue, playing all their hits from days gone by. And by all accounts it’s a great idea – tonight’s gig is totally sold out.

Last trip out was ‘5 from 5’ – five tracks from their first five albums. This time we have the full spread of hits – from the classic cult dance hit ‘I Travel’ right through to brand new tracks on their new greatest hits release ‘Celebrate.’ The 2 set CD features 36 songs, from 12 albums over 34 years.  Go up a notch – the 3 set CD features 50 songs off 13 albums over 36 years. As you do. According to Mr. Kerr as part of the press release: “One of the things I’m most proud of is that people say to me what Simple Minds are you talking about? The avant-garde, the art-rock, the pop, the ambient, the instrumental group, the political, the folk, the stadium band? We’ve been on one hell of a journey. To play all those different styles but at the same time be quintessentially Simple Minds is an amazing thing.”

Tonight is indeed a time warp, go back to the time of the ‘New Romantics’ when mobile phones were those red telephone kiosks on street corners, Apple had just released the Macintosh computer, you brought an album on cassette tape and on the round black stuff and social media entailed a pen, paper, a stamp and a few days to get a response. We’ve all come a long way since then – tonight is an opportunity to put on the rose tinted glasses and remember those ‘fab’ good old days. I would suspect many who attempted the new 7 shades of social class calculator probably come out in the category of ‘New Affluent Worker or above – average age 44, economically secure, go to gigs, live in the Midlands….

To a potted bit of Simple Minds history – formed way back in ’78, they 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, comparable to U2 in success.

According to their Twitter profile: “Simple Minds are Scotland’s most successful rock group to date. Having topped America’s Billboard chart, the Glasgow band have achieved six UK No.1 albums.” But for Simple Minds this ridiculously huge commercial success began to wane, not that has stopped them; they’ve continued to this day, both recording and playing live, and tonight here, once again in an intimate venue to celebrate with their loyal fans.

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).  And tonight it’s just them, no support. Times for a double-setted gig – 7.45pm-9pm – twenty minute break (we need one as we’re all getting on I guess) – then 9.20pm til 10.30pm.

So 15 minutes late (according to the above released times) on a darkened dry ice covered stage, to a dramatic entrance Simple Minds appear through the clouds. Encouraging the crowd to clap, Kerr dressed in black, draped in pink scarf, starts off the set with new song ‘Broken Glass Park.’ “We’re please to come and visit you in Wolverhampton… let me see your hands…. say hello to…. Charlie Burchill….. 1…2….3….4…” and we’re into ‘Waterfront.’ The crowd buzzed as the track rambles with that bass riff. Huge cheer as we’re then plunged into total darkness. Kerr’s voice emerges with “Everything okay?” before we’re into ‘Once Upon A Time’ which merges seamlessly into ‘Up On The Catwalk’. The crowd chant back the chorus “I will be there, I will be there, I will be there” as we’re all transported back to early 80s memories of ‘being there.’ ‘Catwalk’ is the standout track so far.

Kerr: “How are you? Thanks every one of you for coming to see Simple Minds…. We’ll do this set and then take a little break so you can get your energy back…. First time in Wolverhampton, unless anyone can tell me otherwise. We’ve been in Dudley…..” (a reference to the OLD blackened ‘garage’ that was the legendary JB’s methinks). And then we start to roll, to the dance track that achieved cult like status in it’s time, when as kids we went to discos…. “I Travel”. 12” (vinyl) extended edition.

First part of the set over, we take the break. Then after around 15-20 minutes, they’re back – instrumental ‘Book of Brilliant Things’, followed by their cover of Kraftwerk’s ‘Neon Lights.’  It’s song three before a white floppy shirted Kerr is back on stage for the song with the S’s ‘Someone Somewhere in Summertime.’

Couple of later career hits and then the new – ‘Blood Diamonds’ – before back to the old – ‘The American’ – as the crowd chant the chorus – this is what they crave for. Again from Kerr: “Everyone okay” as we return to the bass riff and  ‘Love Song’ another standout track. And then we get to dream about watching movies, curled up with pop and popcorn – ‘Don’t You (Forget About Me)’ theme to The Breakfast Club. And a kinda interlude as Kerr has a go at some over-enthusiastic fans pushing too much and crushing others at the front. Fair play by all accounts.

The set finished on a smattering of time-warp – ‘Promised You A Miracle’, ‘Glittering Prize’ and ‘New Gold Dream (81-82-83-84)’. The crowd are loving it. Break and then an encore – ‘Sanctify Yourself’, ‘Space’ and to finish up ‘Alive and Kicking’. And as the set finishes Bowie’s ‘The Jean Jeanie’ blasts from the speakers – the line “So simple minded” the inspiration for the band’s name.

Simple Minds were indeed mega-huge, but unlike U2 who conquered the world and then some, it didn’t quite play out in the same way. The major hits were certainly mostly during the 80’s and so tonight was a celebration of true nostalgia and most were here to hear tracks from a couple of decades past. And very probably for most here tonight – the older the track the better.

Tonight’s gig wasn’t cheap – tickets were between about £38 and £48 each, then you could buy the T-shirt (£20), the program (£10) and the regularly plugged ‘limited edition’ CD recording (£20 on the night) of tonight’s performance (only available at this and two other gigs on this tour). Putting this aside – it was clear everyone in the audience had a blast.  And if you are an avid fan undoubtedly you already have a ticket to their NIA gig in Birmingham on 29th November 13 (tickets up to £55) with support – superstars of moody electronica the reformed and resurgent Ultravox. So another opportunity to timewarp – it’ll be a New Romantic electronic extravaganza.

************

Setlist:

  1. Broken Glass Park [New]
  2. Waterfront
  3. Once Upon A Time
  4. Up On the Catwalk
  5. Let There Be Love
  6. All The Things She Said
  7. War Babies
  8. I Travel

[Break]

  1. Book of Brilliant Things
  2. Neon Lights (Kraftwerk Cover)
  3. Someone Somewhere in Summertime
  4. She’s a River
  5. This is Your Land
  6. Blood Diamonds [New]
  7. The American
  8. Love Song
  9. See the Lights
  10. Don’t You (Forget About Me)
  11. Promised You A Miracle
  12. Glittering Prize
  13. New Gold Dream (81-82-83-84)

[Encore]

  1. Sanctify Yourself
  2. Space
  3. Alive and Kicking

*******************

Listening:

Celebrate (Greatest Hits + Collection) [2013]

Sons and Fascination / Sister Feelings Call [1981]

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

*******************

Reviewed for Gig Junkies.

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.

************

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)

*******************

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]

*******************

Reviewed for Birmingham Live!