[…continued from last post]
This fourth Simple Minds concert was quite a different proposition from my perspective. I boarded the bus in 1981, when the third single from “Sons + Fascination” hit the streets. From the emergence of “New Gold Dream [81,82,83,84],” I began buying everything and working my way backwards and forwards simultaneously. Their next album, “Sparkle In The Rain,” managed to keep the flames lit at full force while veering straight into rock territory, but for a decade after that, the band’s stadium moves alienated me. Then, my second, longer run as a booster happened with the release of “Good News From The Next World” in 1995. It was from that point that I was actually pining to see the band live again after the disappointment of the “Once Upon A Time Tour” of 1986 and the subsequent years that saw them fall even further out of my favor. But the desire to see the band live came afoul of the sagging commercial fortunes that saw the band waiting eight years before their next tour of The States.
The band I saw in 2002 was remarkably energized to hit much closer to the mark of their earlier sound and after that show, my fandom really hit fever pitch. Hearing songs like “Love Song,” “Themes For Great Cities,” and “I Travel” live for the first time [and played very well] would have such an effect. That’s when I began compiling my second cut at a Simple Minds boxed set of god. I discovered online bootlegs of the band [courtesy of links from the band’s official site] at their ’81-’84 peak and my previous admiration for the band grew prodigiously. I was now convinced that Simple Minds were the best live band ever, and they still had potential even decades later. As the band released three more albums in the ‘2005-2009” period I was itching to see them again.
As it turned out, they didn’t hit these shores for a tour for an agonizing eleven years that time! Like a parched man crawling in the desert, I finally saw them again in 2013, and they were the most exciting concert I’ve ever seen, since the eleven years saw me intensify my fandom due not only to great live recordings and set lists littered with the material that I really wanted to hear, but a series of albums where the band were continually improving their approach to make ever better albums that really satisfied. And then when I saw them that year, they casually pulled out the best possible “Empires + Dance” deep cut with “This Fear Of Gods” utterly rocking my world.
This was the level that Simple Minds performances and my fandom had led me to. Against all odds, the band next made an acoustic album and tour that I wanted nothing to do with before decamping to make their best album since “Sparkle In The Rain,” though that’s the sixth time I’ve said that since 1995. That this latest tour came only five years [almost to the day] on the heels of my last, transcendental experience of the band meant that the pent up fandom was not quite on such an active boil. This meant that I did not lose myself in the moment in the same way that the last concert achieved. I’m a pretty analytical guy, and that, really, only ever happened to me at a concert for that last Simple Minds show in ’13.
With that I came to this show thinking more about it rather than simply reacting. And my thoughts led me to consider that the loss of Andy Gillespie had affected the band to a larger degree than I had prepared for. All Simple Minds tours from as soon as they counted Michael McNeil among their members has had a dedicated keyboard player. Certain eras of the band have relied very heavily on synthesizers for their coloration. On this tour, the keyboard duties were split between Charlie Burchill, who had played most of the keys on the album, and Gord Goudy, who had played acoustic guitars on the album. This was a worst of both worlds approach, I think. For one, it meant that both of the keyboardists were being distracted from their guitars.
The difference in Burchill’s focus from the last time, where he was on fire with incisive, questing playing [Echorich will testify, I’m sure], and this show, where he seemed distracted by the need to also play synths was noticeable. Most of the time there was nothing definite, but on a track such as “Love Song” it made a difference. And
“Love Song” is a song that should be overpowering live since it is built on a simple, anthemic riff that needs to come across as all-powerful. Moreover, by having just Goudy carry the synths, that would relegate him to acoustics for the scant few songs where they seemed welcome to me: “Stand By Love,” “Dirty Old Town,” or “See The Lights.” Goudy just posed with the acoustic during “Waterfront.” Then the band would have the full synth power they needed throughout the show instead of having half a synth player vacillating back and forth.
That was my main complaint, such as it was. In other aspects, the show was great. Sarah Brown is a great singer who adds a lot to the show. I love how Jim shares the spotlight with her and they really incorporate her into the band rather than just bolting her on. Cherrise Osei was a nice change from Mel Gaynor. She’s a different style of drummer, less heavy and Bonham influenced, which freshens up the set to these ears. Mel always had a problem with the lighter touch needed for the earlier material.
Ged Grimes is the tall guy on stage who locks down the all important bass lines that their best material thrive upon. He carries a lot of weight and fulfills an important function in this band. Gord Goudy was new to me. Even though he pulled a lot of weight on the “Cry” album of 2002 that we loved so much, he was not on the “Floating World” tour, so I never saw him until now. His gangling figure was rail thin, making even the svelte Grimes seem beefy. I’d like to see him stick to synths, if that’s a comfort zone for him. Otherwise, you know me. I’d prefer to really minimize the dreaded acoustic sound of this band onstage and the acoustic guitar he totes makes that always a possibility.
Nothing in the main sets was as weak as the fully acoustic “Speed Your Love To Me” we got in the soundcheck, but the fact remains that this band did pursue an acoustic album and tour to my dismay. And I would say that the acoustic tour informed the weaker arrangements that “Glittering Prize,” “Promised You A Miracle,” and “Love Song” delivered this evening.
Jim Kerr as a 58 year old singer works way better for me than the guy half that age. He needed to grown into his frontman role and the last three tours were way more enjoyable than the still unformed sprout who fronted the band [badly] in 1986. Kerr knows how to sing and maintain his voice now, thank you very much. He exhibits none of the ragged singing that had “graced” many a live B-side from the mid 80s-mid 90s. He dresses more simply and comfortably. He favors a backbend stage floor move that shows he’s keeping flexible and while we can still get 6-7 “let me see your hands” throughout a 2:15 show, I’m willing to not charge him too many fines for it. But rest assured it’s still in the Monastic comments on his report card.
Finally, the set list itself was, as it should be, the real star of the show. Songs I’d never heard live before are in boldface.
Simple Minds | The Tabernacle – Atlanta, GA | 10-8-18
Speed Your Love To Me [acoustic]
Let The Day Begin [Sarah]
The Signal + The Noise
Let There Be Love
Up On The Catwalk
Sense Of Discovery
Promised You A Miracle
Hunter + the Hunted
Stand By Love
Dirty Old Town [Sarah]
Themes For Great Cities
She’s A River
Walk Between Worlds
Someone, Somewhere [In Summertime]
See The Lights
All The Things She Said
Don’t You [Forget About Me]
New Gold Dream [81, 82, 83, 84]
Let The Day Begin [Sarah]
Alive + Kicking
So that’s a pretty well balanced set list. Eight songs were new to me with three [I would have liked five] from the excellent new album. Not having a set that dipped into “Once Upon A Time” save for the three US singles was a real treat. The last time it was 5/8 songs played. It was nice not to hear “Ghostdancing” again. It always make me resent it’s not “I Travel!” Speaking of which, the sole disappointment this evening was not hearing that song. Mr. Ware had told me that he could die a happy man if he heard that one, so he’s still got his work cut out for him, it seems.
Otherwise, having two of the other decent singles from “Real Life” aired with the stalwart “See The Lights” was a pleasant surprise. And the big wildcard for me was definitely “Dolphins” from “Black + White 050505.” How did the set stack up?
So that works out to eleven songs from the strongest era of their career. Six songs from the weakest era [though four songs were among the best to choose from the lot]. And seven songs from the robust modern era of the band. That’s a pretty good balance of material. Analysis of the set lists from this tour reveals the following: 19 songs are played at every concert [thus far]:
- The Signal + The Noise
- Up On The Catwalk
- Sense Of Discovery
- Promised You A Miracle
- The American
- Hunter + The Hunted
- Dirty Old Town
- Theme For Great Cities
- She’s A River
- Walk Between Worlds
- Someone Somewhere [In Summertime]
- See The Lights
- All the Things She Said
- Don’t You [Forget About Me]
- New Gold Dream [81, 82, 83, 84]
- Alive + Kicking
- Sanctify Yourself
That’s a good mixture that ascribes classic status to a track like “The American,” which pleasingly shocks me! And the same goes for “Themes For Great Cities,” since they’ve played it every time I have seen the band for the last three tours. It makes a tremendous “return to stage” song for the second set or encore, doesn’t it? [and it gives Jim a few extra minutes to chill out]. The fact that these numbers were being given parity with the bigger selling ones that made their fortune I guess was down to the lessons learned on the 5×5 Live tour I wish I’d gone into debt to attend.
Then there’s the list of 4-5 wildcards that slot into gaps in the well programmed arcs of the main setlist. There are some interesting numbers there as well. Nothing I would dislike hearing, that’s for sure, while some of these are Top 5 Simple Minds songs for yours truly.
- Love Song [7 plays]
- Let There Be Love [6 plays]
- Stand By Love [12 plays]
- Hypnotised [8 plays]
- Book Of Brilliant Things [10 plays]
- Once Upon A Time [5 plays]
- Midnight Walking [5 plays]
- I Travel [5 plays]
- Celebrate [2 plays]
- Glittering Prize [4 plays]
- Let The Day Begin [4 plays]
- Moscow Underground [1 play]
Yow! There a pair of rare flowers in that greenhouse! “Celebrate” was only played on the Canadian dates, comrades. So all of you in the lower 48 can just calm down. Then, “Moscow Underground,” the best track on “Graffiti Soul,” has only gotten a single play in Washington D.C. thus far! The rarest song in this tour for certain. There are still a hefty 16 dates left in the tour, so who knows what other tunes may join the wildcards as part of the luck of the draw for the remaining audiences.
Now that I have finally seen the band with Mr. Ware, I think I will be content to have my Simple Minds memories. Three great shows have permanently diminished the trauma of 1986. I saw “I Travel” at least once, and will never forget the effect of hearing “This Fear Of Gods” live in 2013! While the latest show had some [not fatal] issues, I was also gifted with a handful of memorable peaks with the following songs that distinguished themselves within the set.
- “The Signal + The Noise” – A modern Simple Minds classic that picked up where “Sons + Fascination” left off! A tremendous show opener!
- “Up On The Catwalk” – I can’t believe that this was the first time I ever heard this one!
- “The Hunter + The Hunted” – This was played the last time I saw them and it still thrilled tremendously.
- “Themes For Great Cities” – I was smiling so hard on this one my face hurt! Did Simple Minds ever top this? I’ve seen it the last three tours and it’s a bulletproof thrill that always delivers!
- “Dolphins” – The cinematic song from their “forgotten” album that never got the US release [even though I own a US promo CD with the street date that never came] was a surprise inclusion.
- “New Gold Dream [81, 82, 83, 84]” – I have seen this on the last three tours but this time it had that special something that was the only live version I’d ever heard that could compare to the studio take. Magic!
So I think the days of driving halfway up the East Coast to Washington D.C. for a Simple Minds show are finally behind me. I need to curtail out of town trips as well, so unless Simple Minds hit Asheville, NC or Greenville, SC [the latter with a 60 minute transit time] I think I’ll be sitting out any further Simple Minds tours in my old age. Their latest album was bulletproof to these ears. I now feel sated.
…Unless they decide to stage”5×5 Live” in America, or reunite the original lineup!
– 30 –