Thirty two years ago I was stood in a six bedroom house in Leamington Spa. It was my (older) brother’s first day at Warwick University, and our Austin Allegro pulled up alongside Marazion House on a bright September afternoon…..
In we traipsed, laden with bin bags, holdalls and a suitcase. Another ‘fresher’ was already there – a Man City fan from Hale called Ian. He’s still good mates with my brother, and was/is a sound lad. On his bedroom wall was a huge poster, absolutely massive. Ian’s New Gold Dream 81-82-83-84 poster probably got me into Simple Minds in some daft roundabout way. How? Well, on his return to Stoke-on-Trent my brother continuously hammered their stuff on the family stereo. Stereo’s – remember them, eh?
And so a kind of love affair started. Like all affairs, it started off strongly, and weakened somewhat the more popular Simple Minds became. They weren’t my mistress anymore. Because in the early 80’s they were our Simple Minds, weren’t they? You know the score……you meet someone else, then you get married, mortgage, then you have kids, etc etc, blah, blah, etc…..The moment that they went big over the pond kind of coincided with the House music scene in the UK and then Madchester, so that was kind of that with Simple Minds for me.
But the great thing about music is that it’s timeless. Great music certainly is. And Simple Minds have made some great music. Great music.
And what Simple Minds do have that others from a bygone age struggle to achieve, is penning cracking new material, too. So their gigs have no real fillers, no real awkward first date silences of songs that wait for the conversation to flow again with a huge, iconic anthem. There’s no need for a warm-up act when your headliners are going to play early thirty songs over two and a half hours, is there?
So we kicked off at 8pm…. Starting off with ‘Let the day begin’, it was pretty obvious what kind of night it was going to be: A stadium concert in a cracking medium-sized gig venue. Big enough (and with the much-vaunted Viccy Hall ace acoustics) to sound huge, but intimate enough to make you feel a real part of it. Back in the mid-80’s I was in a different postcode to the band at the NEC, and I felt detached. Here, it felt like it was in my backyard. The band felt the same….
“Last time we were in Stoke, tickets were just £2. Well, we’ve done you this time, haven’t we?” joked Jim Kerr about the Premier League prices for the gig. But it was a Premier League performance, alright. Worth every single penny. Kerr was on good form all night.
He still dances the same, still looks at, clicks his fingers at and waves at seemingly invisible people on the roof, and still possesses the richest of voices, backed by a wall of beautiful sound for the quicker stuff and moments of musical tenderness for the slower stuff.
Shifting rapidly and effortlessly from singalong-anthems to new (old) romantic/synth beasts of songs, the crowd became more akin to a Stoke City last minute winner in ST4 than a concert in ST1. Personal highlights were the impeccable, surging Love Song and New Gold Dream, plus the always beautiful Someone, Somewhere in Summertime. A song everyone should hear at least once in their lives.
Perhaps it’s just me, but it really looked like the band were a bit taken back by the level of love and noise afforded to them by a packed Viccy Hall. Its concerts like this that my city should be getting on a regular basis. Tonight showed just why Stoke-on-Trent was always seen as a concert and clubbing mecca. It’s ALWAYS an up-for-it crowd in the Six Towns. Always.
Tonight was the best of kool-skool-discos. Indeed, that really does it a disservice. This was a band that the NME once cited as “one of the 100 Most Influential of All-Time”. Tonight showed why: but they’re even better live now. Shame when I got up the following morning I looked in the mirror and someone stared back at me who was 30 years older than when I last saw Simple Minds.
It won’t be another 30 years.