By this time the event kicked into high gear for me. Next they peeled the awe inspiring title track from “New Gold Dream” off of the set list like green poker players telegraphing their hand. If the band were letting this “secret weapon” out at mid-set, would there be anywhere else to go but down? But I wasn’t thinking that at the time. I was just lost in the powerful, churning groove that never fails to pull me in like a whirlpool. There’s nothing quite like hearing a song you never tire of live and potent by a favorite band 20 feet in front of you. But I’d better get used to that feeling that night. The show was not yet half over.
They next dipped into the “Sister Feelings Call” album for the magnificent “Theme For Great Cities!” Jim Kerr took a short break and the band kept the pressure up for this brilliant instrumental. The last time I’d seen the band, this was the first track played for the encore. I was certainly glad to hear it again as I can’t tire of it. I take it as a sign of the band’s spiritual health that they agree with me!
The next song played was a fascinating curve ball. Sarah Brown took on Kraftwerk’s “Neon Lights,” which the band covered on their 2001 album of the same name, while the rhythm section joined Kerr for a “take five.” Ms. Brown kept the supple groove going with Andy Gillespie on keys and Charlie Burchill steadfast on guitar. It was a gorgeous rendition [better than on their album] and it marked Simple Minds as joining OMD on having decided that this song could use a woman’s touch. With that song ended. Kerr and the rhythm section returned for the second half of the set.
The chiming guitar and skittering rhythms of “Someone, Somewhere In Summertime” was a welcome return for the full band, but where they went next was a dark place that I could not have ever hoped for in a “greatest hits” set designed to re-establish their live rep in America. When I received the “5 x 5 Live” album for my birthday last month, one track that jumped out in particular was their hypnotic version of “This Fear Of Gods” from their astonishing “Empires + Dance” album. The dark, compulsive power of the song swept away 32 years of stadiums and Live Aid as if they had never existed. It was the stand out track from that set that I’d never even heard bootlegs of back in the day. And my skin was on fire as they began playing the circular rhythm that heralded the powerful song… 20 feet in front of me.
“In America, the set is slanted towards the MTV years, but we also throw in a few songs to give a nod to the kids that were listening to college radio and buying the imports. We try, and want to, keep everyone happy.” – Jim Kerr
This is a gift that I received gladly. That it is happening in 2013 is astonishing to me, but shows how the band are paying attention to the care and feeding of their artistic legacy. My concert experience was peaking at this time. Peaking in a way that I’ve not really had since the first time I had seen Dick Dale in 1994. Anyone who knew me then may remember how I could not stop talking about the experience. I had scant expectations for Dick that night, so he was able to slip under my radar and deliver a coup de grace. This was my favorite band whom I’d been listening to for decades, and whom I’d seen before in concert, but they were able to reach me just as powerfully this evening.
The peak ebbed slightly for the wonderful [yet radio-ready] hit “She’s A River.” This was the song that brought me back to the Simple Minds fold full force after a decade on the periphery. Burchill’s keening guitar gave Kerr a rolling wave to surf as he ratcheted up the energy level from the deadly chill of “Gods” to this number with aplomb. He studiously avoided overplay and cliché and utterances of “let me see your hands” were decidedly few that evening. It was an older, wiser Kerr on display there who had decided that portions of his youth were worth reconnecting with, even as he displayed none of the onstage awkwardness endemic to that early era. Instead, he embodied a quiet confidence that was most becoming.
Just as I was starting to come down from the excitement that “This Fear Of Gods” offered me, the band cut loose with the song that more than any other, had been rising in my esteem over the years to the point that it’s perhaps my second favorite Simple Minds number now. I wanted to hear it desperately in 2002, but it was not to be. Instead, this was the evening where I would finally hear “The American” live! The transfer of energy from the band to me was now complete. My senses were on fire as I could now chant the song’s distinctive chorus in a room full of other fans with Ged Grimes pulling the relentless bass lines that propel this track seemingly out of thin air. Of course, they played the mandatory 12″ version of the track that peaks after Charlie’s incredible solo before the choral chant repeats for an incredible few minutes of energy.
Where else could the band go next that to the other brilliant single from the “Sons/Sister” period; “Love Song?” The coup de grace had been delivered. The band had played me like a record by this point in the show. Well done. This mid-set acme had sated thirsts that I had been building up for over a decade and it had sated them luxuriantly. By the time the dramatic cold ending of “Love Song” reverberated I was home. I didn’t know if I could take much more of this without melting. I now understood Beatlemania. I was no longer an individual. I was cell in an organism. And that organism was Simple Minds.
Next: …Back to earth