This past Friday night the legendary Scottish band Simple Minds took a sold-out 9:30 Club crowd through a rousing tour of 30+ years of great music. It was their first show in D.C. in a decade. The alternative rock pioneers, who released their debut album "Life in a Day" in 1979, sound as good as they ever have. Original members Jim Kerr and Charlie Burchill (both 54) and long-time drummer Mel Gaynor (53) have stayed the course through numerous line-up changes and changing commercial fortunes over the years, but judging from the enthusiasm of their performance and the crowd's ecstatic reaction, Simple Minds are still a vital musical force. Background singer Sarah Brown was fantastic and frequently stole the show with her amazing vocals.
Touring in support of their ambitious career retrospective "Celebrate," the group played for a solid two hours, covering all aspects of their career. They opened with a newly recorded song, "Broken Glass Park," before launching directly into a stellar performance of "Waterfront" from their 1983 "Sparkle in the Rain" album. Jim Kerr's voice was in fine form as he stalked around the stage, waving his arms and pointing at the crowd just like he did back in the band's peak days of popularity in the mid-80s. Old-school classics like "Glittering Prize," "Promised You a Miracle," "The American," and "New Gold Dream" were interspersed with lesser-known tracks like the instrumental "Theme For Great Cities" and the epic "This Fear of Gods."
They also revisited some of the later hits, like the fantastic "See The Lights," a track from 1991's "Real Life" album that was a #1 hit on the Billboard Modern Rock Charts. A rousing performance of 1995 rock hit "She's a River" sounded far more powerful in a live setting than on record.
Of course, they didn't neglect the big hits. "Hey hey hey hey!" the ecstatic crowd yelled along with Kerr at the start of their biggest hit, the iconic 80's chart-topper "Don't You (Forget About Me)" from The Breakfast Club. It was obvious the band was having as good a time as the audience from the big smiles on their faces as they witnessed the enthusiasm and nostalgia for a song that still gets an entire room singing nearly 30 years after its release. "All The Things She Said" was another high point, as was their terrific cover of The Call's "Let the Day Begin."
The encore was best of all. A sizzling, hard-rocking take on the underrated "Sanctify Yourself" led into an absolutely epic performance of one of the band's biggest hits, "Alive and Kicking." The expansive scope of the song came through brilliantly with a performance that had everybody in the room dancing and singing along. Kerr performed the entire song with a huge smile on his face, engergized by the love in the room that was obviously reciprocated. Sarah Brown nailed the prominent female vocal part on the song. It was a great moment and one of those magical connections between an audience and an artist that cannot be fully appreciated unless you are fortunate enough to be there. The crowd was diverse -- sure there were a lot of older fans from the MTV generation and before who remember Simple Minds from their early days, but there were also many younger fans who were singing along just as fervently as the rest.
Simple Minds still have the goods, and they have an amazing back catalog of work to choose from. If you have the chance to see them, don't hesitate -- and in the mean time, all of their classic CDs are available to discover. They had a fleeting moment in the mid-80's at the top of the charts, but they are so much more than that. Their early albums were incredibly influential, especially "Real to Real Cacaphony" from 1979 and "Empires and Dance" from 1980, and their more recent work should not be overlooked. They've never stopped recording and put out new material on a regular basis. Simple Minds are one of the most important bands to come out of the new wave era, and the fact that they are still around making great music is cause for celebration indeed. Don't you forget about me? No worries about that ever happening.
Broken Glass Park
Once Upon A Time
All The Things She Said
Hunter and the Hunted
Let the Day Begin (The Call cover)
New Gold Dream
Theme For Great Cities
Neon Lights (Kraftwerk cover)
Someone Somewhere (In Summertime)
This Fear of Gods
She's A River
See The Lights
Don't You (Forget About Me)
Promised You A Miracle
Alive and Kicking
Gloria (Them cover)
The original video for their epic hit "Alive and Kicking," a #3 smash from their "Once Upon a Time" album released in 1985: