After the plateau that “This Fear Of Gods” through “Love Song” delivered, it was time to come back to earth. “See The Lights” is a great choice to nudge the concert into the home stretch since their biggest US hits thus far were beginning to makes their absence felt. “See The Lights” is a beautiful little song from a band that seemed to be only making grand gestures at the time, and it capably stands as my favorite song of their “stadium years.” That it was their last US top 40 tune [scraping in at #40!] means that at least it had an audience here, thankfully. It certainly deserved one. Charlie and Andy took turns coaxing the delicate melody aloft to a wonderful effect.
By now, the elephant in the room made its presence known. It was time for that song. I thanked my lucky stars that they no longer felt the need to pad it out to over ten minutes of running time since no-one knew their previous six albums of material in America! We got by with about five minutes and that was pretty good, considering that this was the sing-along that many there were eager to participate in. Kerr joked “now let’s hear it in French…” as one of the many languages in which the audience responded with the requisite la-las en Français. Some fans cried “Portuguese!” to Kerr’s laughter.
After that hit, the last tune of the night for the hard core hit the play list. We were treated to a “back to the basics” rip through “Promised You A Miracle” that gratefully avoided the mid-80s live arrangement as seen on “Live In The City Of Light” for a shimmering evocation of the original, more dazzling studio recording. And with that it was the end of the main set.
The band didn’t waste too much time offstage and a minute or two later, arrived back to finish off the enthusiastic crowd. The rest of their portfolio of hits would be delivered, and if these were not my favorites of their canon, then at least they were performed with more taste and restraint than when I first saw them live in 1986. It began with “Sanctify Yourself” and went next to “Alive + Kicking,” their #3 follow-up to “Don’t You [Forget About Me].” Then things picked up a bit for the fourth single off of “Once Upon A Time,” “Ghostdancing.” I thought that it was the finale for the evening, but I noticed Kerr talking to Ged Grimes and the others off mike. It looked like a set list change and as “Ghostdancing” ebbed, it morphed into Them’s “Gloria.” Another cut from their “Neon Lights” album. It felt good ending a set this intense with a cover version that every one could have fun with.
As if to underscore this choice, as the band took their final bows, the end of set music came up and it was a perfect choice: David Bowie’s “Jean Genie;” the song that had given them their name 35 years earlier. They were having fun cavorting off the stage to it and the last one to depart was Jim Kerr, dancing off the stage to the blues riff given a new interpretation by Bowie and Ronson. The lights came up and I was a very happy man. I’d really valued their 2002 show at the same venue. Kerr had made great strides away from the person I’d last seen in 1986, thankfully. But as good as that show had been [they had played “I Travel,” my favorite Simple Minds song that night and the only thing missing for me from this evening] the level reached didn’t seem to be quite up to the par here tonight.
There could be many reasons for that. First of all, Simple Minds had not toured in America for eleven years. There could be no taking anything for granted this time, since Kerr had plainly stated that these shows were “make-or-break” on the band’s website and social media pages as he admonished any and all fans to attend. The band were certainly on fire and gave their all. Charlie was inspirational and played all over the stage with a huge grin on his face. The exercise of playing the 5×5 shows has certainly delivered renewed energy to his playing as he re-connected with the more abstract player of his youth. The more obvious playing of the mid-80s had been jettisoned as he tried to take a different approach that split the difference for a better effect. He was working for his money this night and it was exciting to hear.
New bassist Ged Grimes has moved from one of the best Scottish bands [Danny Wilson] to the best Scot band. As much as he honored some of the best Post-Punk bass lines ever, he was also managing to keep it loose and showed the fun he was having on his face. I can’t wait to hear what his recorded works sound like with the band on their new album. Powerhouse drummer Mel Gaynor was a busy man that evening. The real power of Simple Minds is in the rhythm section and he had his work cut out for him. But when I beamed a big smile in his direction mid-set, I swear he noticed and responded in kind. When Jim Kerr calls him the best drummer in the world and adds “I know because he told me” he may be playfully teasing, but he’s not engaging in hyperbole.
Best of all, Kerr seemed to be in the throes of an excellent late career 4th or 5th wind. He was light and nimble; not just for his age  but he also managed to show up the stodgy 27 year old who disappointed me bitterly in 1986. He even managed to improve his stagecraft in the eleven years since I’d seen him. Echorich suggested he was more like Bryan Ferry onstage and I’d agree. He was certainly having fun as he surfed that show like the pro he was. At one point, Kerr waggishly commented to the enthusiastic audience in-between songs that “we should be paying you… but we are Scottish” with an impish grin as he rubbed his thumb and forefingers together. The ability to balance humor, pop anthems, intense art rock, and to come off gracefully doing it is no mean feat, but he seems to have learned much in his over 30 years onstage helming this band.
He seems to value my preferred early period of the band now more than any other time in the last 25 years. Exciting material that was earlier than “New Gold Dream” is no longer locked in the basement like an embarrassing relative [as in 1986] but instead is given the respect that it deserves. More obvious hits that have filled his coffers are given modest reverence that no longer crosses the line into embarrassing fealty, even as Kerr recognizes that his future fortunes no longer rest on them. The last studio album was excellent. That it was followed up with the incredible 5×5 tour shows that the band are on the best possible path.
Heritage acts that will play a well regarded classic album in its entirety before splitting the set with the rest of their hits are a dime a dozen. It took insight and hard work to instead focus attention on their entire back catalogue from their Post-Punk era when they were creatively on fire and to lavish the whole era with the concert tour that, in retrospect, I really should have auctioned a kidney to attend. Only Sparks [more on them later] have surpassed that achievement with their complete 21 album discography being aired, in order, in May-June 2008. But the fact Simple Minds did that, and that a “greatest hits” romp through America had the audacity to include “This Fear Of Gods;” a song that didn’t get played on any tours after 1981 until the 5×5 sets holds the health of this band in rosy form indeed.
With Derek Forbes now ensconced in Big Country to my utter indifference, and with Mike MacNeil adding delightful polish to the new Visage, I’m of the opinion that Simple Minds are on a roll now that certainly doesn’t need their participation to achieve greatness. Andy Gillespie has taken that classic material and made it his own. I appreciate the fact that he doesn’t just sample old master tapes for a deadeningly literal romp through the graveyard, but instead concentrates on getting the vibe right instead. Ged Grimes has the sauce to take this band places going forward on bass. He must be aware that his is the critical position that all of Simple Minds salad days have circled around. Kerr and Burchill have one eye on their past as they plot the band’s future with Steve Hillage in the producer’s chair for their next album. And Mel Gaynor? Everyone knows he’s the best drummer in the world! I can not wait to see where they go next!
Simple Minds | 9:30 Club – Washington D.C. | Oct. 18, 2013
1. Broken Glass Park
3. Once Upon A Time
4. All The Things She Said
5. Hunter and the Hunted
6. Let the Day Begin (The Call cover)
7. Glittering Prize
8. New Gold Dream
9. Theme For Great Cities
10. Neon Lights (Kraftwerk cover)
11. Someone Somewhere (In Summertime)
12. This Fear of Gods
13. She’s A River
14. The American
15. Love Song
16. See The Lights
17. Don’t You (Forget About Me)
18. Promised You A Miracle
19. Sanctify Yourself
20. Alive and Kicking
22. Gloria (Them cover)
– 30 –
Thanks for the in-depth review! I really enjoyed reading it!
Steve – You’re welcome. It’s been cathartic to write my thoughts down. Give me an inch and I can write a mile about Simple Minds. The fact that I disliked their output for a decade [!] makes them even more fascinating to me. That they have lasted long enough to come out of the Inverse Bell Curve of Quality® on top of things delights me.
I concur. One of your very best reviews engaging us with all the essential details and transporting us right there on the floor with you. Truly one of life’s perfect moments.
Brian Ware – I hope you’ll get your chance next summer. Jim Kerr says that the tour certainly succeeded in turning the heads of promoters, and they’re looking at a real tour next year. I would not look askance at another shot at the brass ring myself! The next album should be good stuff. All of this and good fellowship with Echorich? Life is good!
Thanks for bringing to print what we were both experiencing! Along with Mrs. Monk and ChasInVictoria and yourself, I found myself in the perfect place at the perfect time. Simple Minds proved to me that the music we hold so dear from the Era which is possibly the most misunderstood in Rock History, is truly important and stands the test of time. They came to the stage to prove that they understood their history, knowing, with the advantage of hindsight and experience, that their musical canon is something to cherish and perform with the respect and honesty each of their albums deserve.
The fellowship we enjoyed around this wonderful night was greater than I could have ever expected. We must, we will do this again. I hope the success of this tour gets around to other bands who may be contemplating putting their feet in the stream. They now have a template for how it should be done.
I can add little to what Echorich has said, it was a great evening and my only regret is that I couldn’t be standing shoulder to shoulder with you guys (damn enthusiastic crowd!) for most of it. You really need to send this magnum opus of a review (easily the best concert review I have ever read in my life) to SM’s management.
Hand-lettered on parchment, even!
chasinvictoria – Why stop at mere hand-lettering? Let’s make it illuminated for the full, Monk-tastic Monty!
I know you’re not wild about “that song” but it is a good pop song. If I had to hear 80’s music there’s a lot of stuff I’d say “pass” on before that one. Maybe someday Bryan Ferry will let us hear how he would have handled it.
Tim – Honestly, it’s not bad. When I first saw the video on MTV I was shocked since there was no advance word. It just appeared in light rotation while I was eating my breakfast. I thought it was good and immediately bought the US 7″ as soon as it was released. For their part, the band made a good effort at putting their stamp on someone else’s song. Can I go the rest of my life without hearing it? Not really. The 7″/12″ mixes are fine. It’s presence on public music systems is a small plus for me. Can I go the rest of my life without hearing it performed live? Yes! I suspect that the band could as well. I’m guessing they completely loved dropping it for the 5×5 tour!
it’s ripe for a cover album. I hear Billy Idol did it once. The Pet Shop Boys could pull it off. It lyrically fits better in their canon than that wretched Coldplay song that they covered.
By the way, the cover album idea for songs I like but originally done by bands that don’t do it for me started one boring day at work with a friend of mine. We killed a morning thinking of all the people who could do “Linger” way better than the Cranberries did.
Tim – 25 or so years ago, I wanted to cut a synth pop/ drum machine version of “Go Your Own Way” in spite of hating Fleetwood Mac almost as much as The Eagles. I thought that song stuck out of their CalMellow Hell of songs. Then I got over it.
I bet Nick Cave could do a really good take on “Don’t You Forget About Me.”
I’ve heard him do Kylie Minogue’s “Better The Devil You Know” so anything is possible.
Tim – I hear Iggy in his suave baritone crooner mode owning this song!
I’m pretty sure Keith Forsey had Billy Idol in mind when he wrote Don’t You, regardless of whether it was offered to Ferry first. It could easily have that contained growl which he perfected by Rebel Yell. But I have to agree with The Monk, I won’t turn the song off it comes on, but I don’t ever NEED to hear it again live. Book Of Brilliant Things, I Travel, Sweat In Bullet, Kick Inside Of Me and Up On The Catwalk are songs I’m yearning to hear SM play again!
Echorich – Well, hopefully you’ll get your chance next summer! Jim sez’ the tour succeeded in raising their profile with promoters rather well. These days it’s a coin toss as to whether one hears “I Travel” in concert or not. We got tails in D.C. though I can’t complain.
Great reading…and at the Roseland Ballroom in NYC we got a great show too. As you’ve maybe read online, the setlists differ slightly from show to show, so I’ll just recap them. There was no Neon Lights or Gloria covers, and no She’s A River or Ghostdancing. Instead of those four tunes we had five other ones…I Travel, Let There Be Love, Hunter And The Hunted, an instrumental version of Speed Your Love To Me (which opened the second set) and one song I had never heard of, War Babies. Had to google it the next day to learn it was on Neapolis, an album I’ve never heard!
My personal highlights were anything from New Gold Dream and The American. Having never seen the band live, it was a total head (and nostalgia) rush. Was very happy that Jim Kerr had great frontman moves without milking those pompous Bono-isms. Can’t really think of a thing to complain about…altho I could definitely have lived without the Call cover (never liked that song, and hated them when i saw them warm-up for the Psych Furs back in the mid-80s).
Hope they return stateside next year.
Taffy – Instrumental “Speed Your Love To Me??” Nice! I’ve never heard of that. “War Babies?” Envy! “Neapolis” was a great album! It rocked my world in 1998. It definitely marked a return to the Krautrock influence of “Sons + Fascination!” Also, Pete Walsh, who produced “New Gold Dream” was behind the boards for that one. So this was your first Simple Minds concert? How lucky for you that you sat out the “Once Upon A Time” tour [unlike me or Echorich]. And Yes, Jim Kerr has evolved into a great frontman who it’s a genuine pleasure to see and hear live. I was just looking at the vintage performances on the “Seen the Lights” DVD yesterday, and the journey of Kerr from introverted, awkward frontman, to faux-Bono is a queer thing to see. I say he’s better now! He seems to have found himself the last two times I have seen him, though this last show was even better than 2002. I compared the version of “The American” live in 1982 to what I saw and I have to admit, even without Forbes, 2013 was hotter! Burchill was definitely hotter as he more than nailed that amazing solo miles better than in 1982. Jim Kerr says the experiment was a success and talks are already underway for a tour here next Summer. My only regret? That unlike their last several tours, there are no “instant CDs” or concert downloads for sale as I would pay handsomely for the ability to have a record of this show.