Simple Minds - Roundhouse, London
By the mid eighties Scottish band Simple Minds were at the top of their game sales wise. Single 'Don't You Forget About Me' had made the number one position in America, due to its appearance in cult movie The Breakfast Club and the band had the pleasure of two chart topping albums this side of the pond with Sparkle In the Rain and Once Upon A Time. Strong sales continued throughout the decade and the band became dab hands at selling out stadiums, with millions of faithful fans around the world singing their praises. But the one thing they lacked was critical acclaim and any sort of acknowledgement from music journalists that their earlier post-punk material was innovative and trail blazing.
Unfortunatly the decades that followed weren't any kinder to them crit wise and the band's legacy seemed to consist more of people remembering their poorer material like 'Belfast Child' and 'Mandela Day' and lead singer Jim Kerr's dramatic onstage gestures rather than their initial LPs, albums that were able to stand head and shoulders with the best electronic music of the early 80s.
The band have now decided to reacquaint the general public with their first five albums, re -establishing their position as post-punk pioneers by delivering a boxed set of CDs entitled X5. The collection is pretty much an essential purchase for anyone interested in the genre as it can be picked up online for the ridiculously low price of £12.99, a bargain in anyone's books! Jim and original member guitarist Charlie Burchill have also decided to take their earlier songs on the road on an extensive European tour, performing five per night from each of the five albums.
I popped along to the band's show at London's Roundhouse to view them for the first time since seeing them play at Edinburgh's Nite Club around Christmas 1981! I had purchased their first three albums at this point. I really felt the band came into their own with album number two Real to Real Cacophony, but it was their third release Empires and Dance that seemed ground breaking at the time. The lead single from the collection 'I Travel' was a pounding slice of Euro Dance and filled the floors of the clubs I attended in the months that followed its release, including the aforementioned Nite Club.
The Minds chose to open their Roundhouse show with the track and it sounded as good as it did over 30 years earlier, as did a lot of the material on offer, with 'Love Song', 'Life in a Day' and 'Thirty Frames a Second' a trio of songs that made a real impression.
The set really showed the band's roots and proved they should be considered contemporaries of the likes of Magazine, John Foxx and Deutsch Amerikanische Freundschaft rather than the 80s pomp of U2 and the Alarm.
A 25 song set is a bit of a lengthy bugger and the band decided to have an intermission half way through for "Tea and cucumber sandwiches". Unfortunatly the break caused my enthusiasim for the set to dip slightly and my mind to wander but it was more a personal thing and nothing to do with the band's output. I'm not a great fan of watching band's from a distance, surrounded by people talking, generally preferring to take in a set from the first couple of rows, camera in a hand or not. I was able immerse myself in the music from where I was standing after leaving the photo pit but I just found it hard to get back into the performance when the band returned to the stage for their second set, with a bespectacled Kerr launching into 'The American', even though he was showing he still had his stadium moves!
There were moments when I did have fun though, with the announcement of 'Changeling' bringing a smile to my face, but the chap behind me seemed even more impressed, making a noise like a cross between Meg Ryan in when Harry Met Sally and someone winning the lottery!
The extremely happy punter wasn't the only satisfied customer in the house as there was plenty of fist punching and singing along from the assembled Minds fans, with the crowd erupting when 'Promised You a Miracle', 'Glittering Prize' and 'Someone Somewhere in Summertime' all appeared. It was obvious at the Roundhouse that fans still held the band very close to their hearts and it's possible this new retro collection may even gain them a few more.