Simple Minds: Live In The City Of Angels DLX UK 4xCD 
Disc 1 [Live At Orpheum, Los Angeles]
1. The Signal and the Noise
3. Love Song
4. Let There Be Love
5. Up on the Catwalk
6. Sense of Discovery
7. Glittering Prize [live at Fillmore, Miami]
8. Promised You a Miracle
9. The American
10. Hunter and the Hunted
11. Stand By Love
12. Dirty Old Town
Disc 2 [Live At Orpheum, Los Angeles]
1. Theme For Great Cities
2. She’s A River
3. Walk Between Worlds
5. Someone Somewhere in Summertime
6. See The Lights
7. All The Things She Said
9. Don’t You (Forget About Me)
10. New Gold Dream (81-82-83-84)
11. Once Upon a Time
12. Alive and Kicking
13. Sanctify Yourself
1. Book of Brilliant Things
2. I Travel
4. Honest Town
5. In Dreams
6. Stars Will Lead The Way
7. Big Sleep
1. Let The Day Begin
2. Barrowland Star
3. Midnight Walking
5. Big Music
7. The Cross
8. Speed Your Love To Me
I finally ordered my copy of the generously priced and appointed Simple Minds live album in its 4-disc setlist version featuring 40 songs that the band had rehearsed for their 2018 North American tour. That’s a lot of material but not complete. After all, they pulled out “Moscow Underground” for their Washington D.C. date in 2018! The hardcover booklet package featured those “pocket pages” that hold a CD in a not-optimal fashion. The loose pages were difficult to remove the discs from. The interior covers even moreso! I say the jury is still definitely out on this half-baked solution to the how to put discs in book packages problem. The 32 interior pages feature largely photos from the band’s tour. credits, and a dedication from Jim Kerr. Nice, but superfluous to the reason why we’re here; the music itself.
The album began like most Simple Minds concerts of the last decade or so, with their hot new song in the opening slot. They don’t come much newer or hotter than “The Signal + The Noise;” one of their best tracks of the last 30 years. I liked how the climax of the song resolved into a drone that eventually ended coldly, with the bass pulse of “Waterfront” beginning exactly as the previous song died off. Following the opener with the bludgeon of “Waterfront” was another move straight from the books for this band. They were willing to give a spotlight to new material straight off, but as if hedging their bets, they always followed it up with the dependable rabble-rouser of “Waterfront.”
Having begun the show with something shiny followed by something old, they next continued with something deep. “Love Song” has been one of my top Simple Minds songs that has become something of a perennial in their sets this century. This has surprised me since I got the impression that it was stricken from their set lists during their decade in the stadium wasteland. Hearing it now still feels like a gift even though the hard dynamism off the song’s climax never seems to translate to the more dissipated energy of the song live. This recording is no different in that respect.
The spotty album “Real Life” at least had a few gems on it. Once such song was “Let There Be Love,” which was Simple Minds concession to the shuffle beat edict of 1990. Then the first old song that got taught some new tricks was “Up On The Catwalk.” This time, the song had been recast as more of a duet between Jim Kerr and backing vocalist Sarah Brown. She took the lead on a later verse and they gave and took on an extended middle eight that saw the venerable song edited down to climax with the lead-in to the serve of name-checks that the recorded version usually climaxed with. That struck me as odd, but it feels like The Minds have opted to take the scalpel to their material in the intent of jamming a lot of material into a two-set concert.
Even their “5×5” tour played 25+ of their earliest songs that had they been performed in their original lengths and arrangements, they might still be doing encores now, so I understand their decision. For the most part, I can’t complain. I have even benefitted from this policy when on the second Simple Minds concert I’d ever attended, they played my least favorite Simple Minds track [“Belfast Child,” since you asked…] in a delightfully scanty edit of under two minutes in length! It was over before I could even begin to seriously fume about it.
It goes to say that one of the pleasures of this album is the ability to hear three quarters of the tracks from their excellent “Walk Between Worlds” album in live arrangements that take the songs a far distance from their somewhat glib modern pop production that the material had to overcome. “Sense of Discovery “ was a strong way to finish the album so it’s a bit surprising to hear it figure so early into the set here. In headphones, it seemed like Sarah Brown’s backing vocals might have been recorded ex post facto. They just sounded too clean. I had hoped that the wholesale post-production fix-N-mix that made their “Live In the City of Light” such a bore, would have been forestalled by the relative lack of money for such endeavors in today’s music market, but I may have been too hasty in such thoughts. When it comes to live albums, it seems like Simple Minds prefer Memorex. Which stymies me since a big part of my fandom for this band were down to hearing unaltered bootleg recordings that just thrilled.
When I saw the band in VIP mode in Atlanta, a few weeks before this was recorded in Los Angeles, one of the soundcheck numbers was a lackluster “Glittering Prize” that sounded like they were playing the arrangement from their toxic “Acoustic’ album that I’d avoided. Obviously, by L.A. they had inserted that one into the set for good, since it figured here. In spite of Ged Grimes heavy listing on the song’s epic bass line, the song now underwhelmed. Better things were in store for their new arrangement of “Promised You A Miracle,” a song which had always sat easily in their live sets since the single was such a studio construction. The song gained some rock power with a throbbing glam rock rhythm that ended up giving it a welcome dose of funk.
Another of my favorites figured in a different arrangement that called back to the 1984 “Tour De Monde” version of “The American” with the “Bonanza Theme” riff re-instituted in the songs’ intro as well as its outro. Charlie Burchill’s solo here was not a relentlessly focused as on the studio cut, but instead opted for more loosely channeling the tune’s energy. Once again, Sarah Brown was integrated into this song in a call-and-response arrangement with Kerr to give it an altered vibe from the tried and true.
“Hunter + The Hunted” showcased what made this tour sound fundamentally different from every other tour Simple Minds had ever undertaken. To my knowledge, this was the first time they had ever toured without a dedicated keyboard player! Apart from the acoustic tour, of course. This tour had synth duties split between Charlie Burchill and Gord Goudy. As such, the keys were somewhat diminished in importance to the overall vibe. Interestingly enough, it was often Charlie Burchill who now covered for an absent key player by taking solos that had formerly been on keyboard on his guitar. With none more iconic than than Herbie Hancock’s solo on “Hunter + The Hunted.” After nearly 40 years of what we’re used to hearing [and it never was as good live as Hancock himself on disc, it must be said] I actually found the difference kind of refreshing.
Next: …Set 2 Awaits
Little late to the party but I had to comment on “Promise You A Miracle”. There’s a video on the band’s Facebook where producer Peter Walsh goes through the multitrack. PYAM was basically performed live by the band in studio, with just a few keyboard overdubs after the fact. So there’s no reason really that the original studio version couldn’t translate to live. If they’re messing with the arrangement it’s just because they want to, not because they have to. https://www.facebook.com/simpleminds/videos/vb.100317830048162/1077251969021405/?type=2&theater
jsd – Really?? The rhythmic slant to that one always seemed to have been carefully constructed, rather than played. It’s not the sort of song that sounded like it had ever been played live in the studio to me. Wait a minute! The multitrack for that was said to be missing! That’s why it was only stereo on the 5.1 mixes of that album! Does Peter Walsh know something that Ronald Prent didn’t?