March 4th 2012
photo by Katie McGuinness
Simple Minds at The Manchester Ritz? Surely some mistake!
No, they’re not playing their stadium rock songs, but their more early experimental material from their first 5 albums. Their 5th album being their first mainstream crossover album “New Gold Dream”Â. To the longstanding fan, this has long been considered their best work by a way, but probably not their best known. Their gigs in recent years have delved slightly into their older material, even one year they played their pre-Simple Minds punk single “Saints & Sinners”Â released as Johnny & The Self Abusers”Â in 1977. This however confused their mainstream audience as they thought it was a new song! Indeed this tour is confusing their mainstream fans as well, the band report that on the opening night in Portugal, fans were booing as they weren’t playing the likes of “Belfast Child”Â. Instead they are playing 5 songs each from their first 5 albums, across 2 sets in small (for them) venues in several European cities. The tour is a tie in with the recently released X5 boxset compiling their
5 early albums & B-sides. They decided to tour the early albums when the box set was mentioned by the record company, as many fans had been asking about the possibility of playing the old songs. The Ritz is too small for this gig in reality; touts were asking ÃÂ£60 for a ÃÂ£40 ticket half an hour into the gig! And it sold out in an hour. It was also surprising after the event to be asked by many friends, who I wouldn’t have thought were fans, wanting to know if I’d gone to the gig.
The current line up of the band take to the stage at 7:30, very early for a Saturday night (The Ritz turns into grab a student night at 10pm!), and as the considerably older crowd (my 27 year old friend thinks she’s the youngest there!) drink from their ÃÂ£4.20 (wtf?) pints of cider the band come on to the synth sounds of “I Travel”Â. Sadly long standing keyboard player Mick MacNeil is not present in the current line up, but his replacement Andy Gillispie does a fantastic job. Currently the only original members are Jim Kerr (who fortunately doesn’t do any stadium rock poses, but does plenty of his old art school poses he used to do in the 80’s) & Charlie Burchill (still great on guitar). The line up completed by long serving drummer Mel Gaynor (who was on “New Gold Dream”Â) & bass player Ged Grimes (sadly no Derek Forbes).
The material played is swapped & changed about each night to keep the band fresh (I wish more bands would do this, New Order used to play totally different sets each night, with no thought for what would work & what would not). Most of the relevant singles are played alongside favourites such as “Pleasantly Disturbed”Â which is very Velvet Underground-y (from the first “Life In A Day”Â album), and sees Burchill playing violin. Other highlights for me are the songs from their “white European disco”Â (a short lived term, back in the day) album, “Empires & Dance”Â, the previously mentioned set opener “I Travel”Â with its sequenced backbeat (which could possibly fit in with some of The Chemical Brothers material), “Thirty Frames A Second”Â & “This Fear Of Gods”Â which are both stunning, dark, moody & pounding, which as I slightly sway from side to side with my old bad back (alongside about the only 40 others who seem to like the latter), I now realise that the vast majority of these songs have never been played to such a large crowd (1400). Some of the songs from the first 3 albums still seem to go over people’s heads, most noticeably guitar based numbers “Wasteland”Â & “Scar”Â.
The songs from the 4th & 5th albums go down best. This is the early beginnings of their pop era, with second set opener “The American”Â going down well, alongside singles “Love Song”Â, “Glittering Prize”Â & “Promised You A Miracle”Â. The best cheers however are saved for the instrumental, “Theme For Great Cities”Â with its recognizable melody (mainly from a couple of rave era dance singles which heavily sampled the track back in the late 80’s) & album track (& German only 12”Â) “New Gold Dream (81,82,83,84)”Â which close the gig 2ÃÂ¼ hours after they started.
For me this was a great gig, anyone who likes weird electronica should check out their “Empires & Dance”Â album, and Magazine (who Jim Kerr mentioned during the set tonight) should check out the “Life In A Day”Â album. Indeed there is a hint of early Roxy Music on “Life In A Day”Â & 2nd album “Real To Reel Cacophony”Â.
Thirty frames a second
Today I died again
Calling your name
Life in a day
Hunter and the hunted
In trance as mission
70 cities as love brings the fall
This fear of Gods
Promised you a miracle
Someone somewhere (in summertime)
Theme for great cities
New gold dream (81,82,83,84)
Unfortunately the tour has now ended & the band said it was a one off, but they would be foolish not to bring it back to Apollo & Brixton Academy sized venues. The Box Set X5 is available now.
Words Alex Staszko, Picture Katie McGuiness