[continued from last post]
When I had last seen Simple Minds, in 2013, they pulled a rabbit out of their hat by starting the show with “Broken Glass Park,” a vibrant new song I didn’t expect. This time they were touring behind their best album since 1983, so naturally, they pulled the top quality “Signal And The Noise” out of their quiver of songs first. The song was a hugely successful throwback to the driving, motorik sound of “Sons + Fascination” coupled with a tremendous lyric that would have been alien to the abstract imagery they favored back then, so naturally we all immediately got very excited! There’s nothing wrong with giving your best shot right up front, is there?
Like the 2013 show, they then followed this up with the expansive statement of intent that was “Waterfront.” Either Charlie or Gordon Goudie triggered the bass loop [they each had synths adjacent] and then we were off and bouncing. If ever there was a song made for live performance, it’s this one with its monolithic, four-to-the-floor beat and its series of crescendoes that plateau ever upward. Then the distinctive random wave intro of what could only be “Love Song” hit the PA and we were treated to the first of the hits from what we’ll call the Monk-zone of Minds fandom that pre-dated “New Gold Dream [81, 82, 83, 84].” This is one of my top Simple Minds songs but tonight the energy was not focused. The lack of a dedicated keyboard player as well as [I’m going to say it] the recent experience of the acoustic tour has apparently rubbed off on the band to its detriment. Both Charlie and Gord Goudy had synth rigs onstage, but that meant that sometimes Charlie split between synths and lead guitar and Goudy did the same with his acoustic guitars.
Now this wasn’t the fully acoustic performance like “Speed Your Love To Me” had been in the soundcheck; the song had the vibrancy of rock music, but what I found critical to the potency of “Love Song” was the doubling of the guitars and synths together on the iconic riff. In every other performance of this song I had seen, it had all of the impact that the song has always had in listening to the album version. Tonight, the lack of synths piling on that riff led to the dissipation of its energy. So while it wasn’t a flat out disaster, it did stand as weak as compared to the last two shows I had seen where they had played it in 2002 and 2013.
Next, something happened that was shocking to me. The last time I had seen the band they leaned heavily on their breakthrough “Once Upon A Time” album with five of its eight songs played. That I still had a thrilling time was down to everything else about the set. That would not happen this evening. Instead, other albums that had been under represented in the live sets I had seen would get the nod. I’m not crazy about “Real Life” but I did think that there was an EP worth of goods there. One of the songs from that album that delivered was “Let There Be Love,” which I had not had the pleasure of hearing live before. This version of the band were well suited to do it up right, with new drummer Cherisse Osei backing off from the John Bonham-influenced Mel Gaynor sound for something a little more dynamic. There were four songs from that album that stood apart from the mishaps. Would I hear more of them tonight?
From that nice surprise, the band worked their way backward, skipping the troubling middle 80s period of the band for something that built on the platform that “Let There Be Love” provided and took the energy higher. Much higher. Good gravy, it’s hard to believe, but I have never heard this band lay into the propulsive “Up On The Catwalk” live before! Until this evening! They really scored a goal with this one! This gave Ms. Osei a change to really work out the chunky rhythms so crucial to the song’s success.
Then, afterward, Jim Kerr brought her to the front of the stage and introduced her to the audience. It’s fascinating to see this band incorporate women, especially women of color, into their makeup with no regard for conventions or expectations. I’m up for anything as long as the band honor their sound or build on it in coherent ways. Kerr asked Osei what her favorite song from the “Walk Between Worlds” album was and she replied “A Sense Of Discovery.” The band then played the dreamlike track, which cheekily incorporated the bridge vocal structure of “Alive + Kicking” into what I found to be a much better song. Charlie has a great solo on this one and for once, Goudy’s acoustic guitars had a welcome place here where they made more sense. They then launched into a version of “Promised You A Miracle” that felt a little diffuse without the heavy synths that the original recording was so heavily dependent on. Truth be told, the arrangement here seemed to recall the version of “Live In The City Of Lights.” The last two times I had seen the band, they had not made that choice, but at least they kept the energy level of the song up without the unnecessary downbeat coda of that 1986 version of the song.
They next dipped in to The Monk Zone for “The American.” I was fantastically excited to hear this finally in 2013 and tonight was not any different! This song was tailor made for chanting along to the brilliant chorus and I was thrilled that Mr. Ware, who was next to me, was hearing it with me this time. I should mention that the audience were standing [as you can see in the shots of the show] all night long, so we tried our best not to careen into our adjacent spouses. That’s hard to do when your favorite band [did I just say that?] is playing one of your top three songs and doing a great job of it. My only regret was that they played the 7″ version since less than seven minutes on this one always feels like a tease!
Next: …New Peaks Ahead