Simple Minds @ The Apollo
“Let me see your hands”
Ah - that warm reassuring feeling that comes within a minute of taking the stage: Jim Kerr is uttering, not for the first time and not for the only time tonight, those immortal words in his breathy soft Glaswegian – “Let me see your hands.” Of course, thirty plus years down the lines, the Minds’ audience know the routine and a few thousand hands go into the air, again, not for the first time tonight.
There’s also the fact that, thirty plus years down the line, Simple Minds are now armed with a back catalogue which means they can choose to ignore some of the frankly more pompous leanings of their late eighties/early nineties stadium filling heyday when they seemed to be more concerned with using their music to make fashionably socially aware and political statements in the footsteps of Bono and co.
They've moved on since then thankfully and more recent time have seen them continue recording and gigging at a pace which might be viewed as ‘The Minds’ enjoying a nostalgic Indian Summer. Perhaps this extensive jaunt round the theatres of the UK should have been named the ‘Variety & Value’ tour although that might make it sound a little like a cheap poundshop type bargain effort. Unfair as Simple Minds have always seemed to have that touch of class and put time and thought into how they look on stage – an impressive stage set up and typically colourful and bold lightshow almost a given. However, it was certainly value for money with the band taking no support and offering up two sets and as for variety, well an acoustic segment, a chance for the pair of female backing singers to showcase their talents, plus a setlist made up from the pick of the new music added to the crème de la crème of their vast repertoire meant few can have been disappointed. No Belfast Child though? Shows you can’t please everyone.
Taking the maybe not so bold risk of opening up with a cover song in Let The Day Begin – to coin a phrase, all meaty, beaty, big and bouncy and typically anthemic with its call to celebrate the people of the world and their struggles, it’s a song originally released back in 1989 by American rockers The Call, yet it sounds so Simple Minds. Recording it for their recent Big Music album, it does what it says on the tin. Something which is perfect Simple Minds fare, that oversized expansive sound which is the trademark of the core of Jim, Charlie and Mel.
Having said that, taking in the first set from up close to the barrier, stage left, the overpowering sound was that of the thundering bass and kick drum which left little room in the mix for Charlie’s subtle ringing harmonics – those tasteful touches with which he decorates the Simple Minds palette of sound were left a tad overwhelmed. A lot too has been made of Jim’s voice but like the band, he’s thirty years down the road and of course he’s going to sing differently. He’s always been a singer who relies on feel and mood without having to belt it out and at times he’s aided and abetted by a couple of backing vocalists in each half, the latter opening with a Kerr-less trio of songs (of which Book Of Brilliant Things shimmered like a soul show) which made one wonder if he’d done a Ballotelli styled half time disappearing act. Of course there were plenty of opportunities to point his mic at the crowd who dutifully responded with their “hey hey hey hey’s” and “whoa whoa’s” and who were more than happy to take on the vocal duties when the instantly recognisable riff to Waterfront kicks in – there can’t be too many bands aside from Simple Minds whose songwriting offers up quite as many opportunities for audience participation.
Acoustic guitars and funny tights
There will be plenty in attendance who will have given a sentimental thought back to those heady days of 1982 when Simple Minds were promising us a miracle. Not something you see every day, but maybe the promise has finally come round with Jim Kerr similarly reminiscing that back in 1979 at the Apollo, he would never have imagined Simple Minds on stage with acoustic guitars and funny tights. While Charlie has always been a model of sartorial splendour, and himself sporting a splendid tartan coat and black scarf with his own trousers remaining a close fit, he was of course referring to the leopard print legwear of one of his backing vocalists. Lest we see Jim Kerr in animal print leggings - a miracle indeed.
Words : Mike Ainscoe | Photos: Phil Goddard