Following the release of the surprisingly strong “Cry” album several things occurred that managed to intensify my fandom toward Simple Minds, a group who were always a favorite band of the many I followed, primarily for their first seven albums. Their stadium period and subsequent stardom had alienated me greatly. As I mentioned earlier, I had been hot to see Simple Minds ever since their 1995 album and subsequent career uptick and I’d been keeping an eye peeled for any US tour dates. I was rewarded when news came during the Summer of 2002 that The Floating World tour would be hitting America. Better yet, the date was the same weekend as the closest US date for the Rezillos reunion tour the night before at the Black Cat Club! Yesss! A double dose of Scots Rock! The mere notion of The Rezillos playing nearly 25 years since their split and almost 20 years after I became obsessed with them was too amazing. I had to go!
On a personal note, I had been unemployed for almost a year at that time, and was having enormous difficulty in getting a job – any job, in the new city I’d moved to a year earlier. I was as depressed as I’d ever been in my life. It’s no hyperbole that making this trip, which I certainly shouldn’t have spent the money for, was a crucial bolster to my emotional foundation at the time. I can still draw positive feelings from it 13 years later. That the trip also included a visit to the best record store I’ve ever visited, was icing on the musical cake. It didn’t take much to convince Chasinvictoria to accompany me, and he flew into Asheville and we took off for D.C. They were playing at the 9:30 Club and as it turned out, there was no support act. The performance was a revelation. The set list is below and a review that I wrote at the time follows.
SIMPLE MINDS – LIVE IN WASHINGTON, D.C. | June 25, 2002
1. New Gold Dream (81,82,83,84)
2. I Travel
3. Speed Your Love To Me
4. One Step Closer
5. Love Song
6. See The Lights
8. Glittering Prize
10. She’s A River
12. Someone Somewhere (In Summertime)
13. Belfast Child-Waterfront
14. Don’t You (Forget About Me)
15. Theme For Great Cities
16. New Sunshine Morning
17. Promised You A Miracle
18. Sanctify Yourself
19. Alive And Kicking
Just looking at this set list raises the hairs on the back of my neck! The club was in a rough section of town and by the time the show started it was about half full. It looked like it would comfortably hold about 1000 people. About half of the crowd were there to hear the three hits and the other half were real fans. Some lucky Europeans were going nuts at their fortune of seeing the band in a relatively intimate club. Charlie and Jim were abetted with Mel Gaynor back on drums along with their then-current bass and key players, Andy Gillespie and Eddy Duffy. The live arrangements stayed close to the originals this time and Simple Minds delivered the goods in the biggest way possible. What could I possibly single out as highlights?
Well, starting the set with my favorite cut off of “New Gold Dream” isn’t exactly chopped liver! It provided rousing start to the show. Following it with my favorite Simple Minds song ever was almost too much to handle. I could not believe that I was finally hearing the astounding “I Travel” live… finally. My energy level was peaking and it seemed like I was levitating by this point. Following this transcendent experience with the merely great song “Speed Your Love To Me” managed to bring me back down to earth.
But not for long. They next played my fave rave cut from the “Cry” album, “One Step Closer” and the track lost none of its low key power in concert. Kerr’s voice was in excellent form. Far less ragged than many recordings they released over the years. And there was a dramatic difference to his stage presence as well. He was wearing normal clothes that were barely stagewear, which suited him for a change, and he seemed to be at ease on stage. A far cry from the perpetual awkwardness that was the rule at least up until I saw them in 1986.
Next cut was my second favorite Simple Minds song, “Love Song.” Heavenly! The moment the sequencer kicked in with the intro I was on my feet bouncing. Those dramatic chords never sounded so powerful! The sublime “See The Lights” followed, allowing Burchill many opportunities for some graceful, tasteful solos. The merely great “Hypnotised” was up next tailed by the first live take of “Glittering Prize” I’ve ever heard utilizing the original arrangement. Glorious. The energy level shot up next with “Ghostdancing.” Next came “She’s A River,” the tune which had signaled the band’s return to form years earlier to me.
The excellent new tune “Spaceface” was up next. I was glad to see they were not glossing over their strong new material but when a band has as many “classics” as Simple Minds do, picking a balanced set list is a difficult prospect. The distinctive guitar riff intro heralded the next song, the exquisite “Someone, Somewhere In Summertime.” After this sublime track came a song by the band I had never liked, the ponderous “Belfast Child.” Imagine my surprise at hearing a brief, modest arrangement that lasted only a scant few minutes and ultimately functioned as an intro to the throbbing “Waterfront” and it was time to bounce again! My only regret for this show were the absences of Derek Forbes and “The American” in the set list, but that is nitpicking in view of the incredible strengths of this performance. The set closed with the inevitable “Don’t You [Forget About Me],” rendered in a trim, svelte form. I appreciated the lack of dragging the tune out to ridiculous lengths as they had upon its early globe-spanning success. The big hit single delivered, the main set was now over.
We didn’t have to wait long for the encore as a muscular “Theme For Great Cities” brought the band back to their positions. The band proffered the funkier 1991 arrangement. Kerr got another 6 minutes to towel off before serving up another great new tune, “New Sunshine Morning.” This was the last of new tracks offered up and I would have liked to at least have heard “Disconnected,” and “Sleeping Girl” as well but another time, perhaps.
The rest of the encore set commenced with the dynamic “Promised You A Miracle” that could have ended the evening right there for me but it would have been cruel to the casual fans not to have wrapped up with the other two American hits, “Sanctify Yourself” and “Alive + Kicking.” What a dramatic difference from the previous time I had seen this group in 1986. The group that I took great pains to see then were 16 years younger but seemed 30 years older. The group on offer in Tampa were old men before their time – a veritable disgrace to the once proud name of Simple Minds. That show featured exactly 1/3 of a song that I was really excited about [“Love Song”], a handful of tracks from “New Gold Dream” and “Sparkle In The Rain” [not my favorites in any case] and finally, most of the weak “Once Upon A Time” album. This evening, in comparison, had been an embarrassment of riches! With virtually every tune a personal favorite or at least an example of their acceptable side, the band played like they were 20 years younger and still eager for adventure. Against all odds, and after a decade of evidence to the contrary, Simple Minds were once again a band with a future.
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