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  • Writer's pictureJO'B

Simple Minds, with Del Amitri, O2 Arena, London, 21st March 2024

Updated: Apr 1

In the afterlife, the legendary comedian Bob Monkhouse is presenting a celestial version of Family Fortunes, the terrible gameshow that he fronted in the UK in the 80s. He turns to the O'Brien family who are tonight's heavenly contestants. Bob asks mother Imelda the next question…"we asked 100 angels how many times has Jim Kerr, singer of Simple Minds shouted "let me see your hands" at a crowded venue over the last 47 years?".

Imelda, au fait with the Minds thanks to her only son's teenage obsession pauses….she tells Bob she's more of a Bill Haley woman herself, but she'll have a guess…."is it 17 Bob?".

Bob, elevated by God to angel status, gives her his slick, unintentionally smug grin, places a gentle wing around her and turns to the screen. He repeats the question, building up an air of tension as the other angels watch on…."we asked 100 angels "how many times has Jim Kerr, singer of Simple Minds, shouted "let me see your hands" at a crowded audience over the last 47 years… said 17….

Bob, even in the afterlife, is keen to maintain some sense of drama as the indulgent angels watch on, leaves a tense pause, before finally revealing if her answer is in the top 5…."our survey said….". Then loudly, and shockingly, the speakers scream "UH UUUUHHH" as the screen is dominated suddenly by a giant red cross, hammering home she is way off the mark.

Imelda blushes, and Bob reassures her it was a tough question…and then asks the screen to reveal the correct answer….."the top answer was in fact 97,643". Imelda laughs, shakes her head and declares that she quite liked Simple Minds, it was that De-peachy Mo-dey that she hated and her only son has already seen that shower this year. Bob ushers her away to turn to the next family, killing time in the next world and still entertaining the crowds…Imelda walks back to her seat and looks down to see her son watching the Minds on stage and smiles as Jim summons a packed venue to clap along in his time honoured manner for the 97,644th time...

Back in real life, my lovely friend Maureen and I meet outside what was the Millennium Dome, a giant waste of time, but it is now a successful and pretty decent enormodome, host a huge number of gigs and bringing much needed entertainment to south east London. SE London is in fact God's own country, just in case you were unaware.

We wend our way in early, and thanks to O2 Priority find ourselves in the Blueroom bar, where loud 80s music is being blared at us as we order overpriced drinks and squat perilously on tiny stools. We chat away about music - Maureen is a Glasgow girl by birth and loves the Minds. We head in early, marvelling at how easy it is to get a drink (the O2 Arena has been dreadful in the past, great to see they seem to have got their act together).

Ahead of us in the queue, a rather tedious man is berating the bar staff because there is a lack of choice in their wine selection (they have red, white and rosé , but only one of each). We later see him boring one of the stewards and thank our stars he is not sat next to us. He should be grateful he can get a drink so easily and that he has two fabulous bands see, who between them have clocked up over 90 years of rock'n'roll. Wowser!

First up are Del Amitri, a band that I first saw in 1990 in my first term at Exeter. My mates weren't going, as the Dels have always lacked the cool status that more indie bands held. They were a bit too commercial, a bit more Faces than Stones, a bit more ballad than feedback pedal. But I loved that gig, when they covered Neil Young and The Go-Betweens and they played belting rock'n'roll and had tunes. Over the years, I have seen them a few times, though the last time I saw them was at Hammersmith Odeon and they were a bit flat. It was a reunion tour and their heart didn't quite seem in it. And just to be clear, the venue was probably called something else at the time, but it was, is and always shall be the Hammersmith Odeon.

But in 2021 they came back with an indecently good album, Fatal Mistakes (it was not one). And tonight, they tour with the Minds for the first time, reaching hopefully a much bigger audience to remind them that they are still here, still brilliant and still belting out fantastic tunes and gentle ballads, with the sort of camaraderie and on stage laughter not seen since the Faces last played.

Their set is tight - 10 songs, two of which are taken from the latest album and half the rest from their second album, the first to garner them real attention, Waking Hours. In favour of presenting a coherent and tight set, they drop some of my favourite songs like Be My Downfall, Here & Now, Roll To Me, but the set works and gives the crowd a great, rocking show. Opposite View is a particular treat, a song I haven't seen them play in 34 years and it is a highlight tonight.

Singer Justin has been in the news due to his recent Parkinson's Disease diagnosis, but no mention is made and he sings like an angel (ok, one with a bit of a Rod Stewart rasp, a voice that has lived and knocked back a few whiskies into the waking hours) and plays bass like a demon - fair play and what a star. Nothing Ever Happens, their first real hit, brings this opening set to an end, and it's great to see that the venue is seriously full for a support act.

We turn and chunter away to a lovely couple behind us who are from Glasgow and have travelled down for the show. Maureen swaps stories with them about where they are from in Glasgow. The chap (forgive me, I am so London I never asked their names, how rude) is taking one of their sons to see them in Italy. He's a good dad. They have been down for the soundcheck today so we know that tonight we won't get I Travel or Let Their Be Love. I am good with that - they played I Travel last time I saw them and I can't stand Let There Be Love.

And then, just as we return having procured one more beer, the lights go down and the band take the stage. Jim takes the centre mark, with Charlie Burchill, his longstanding partner in crime to his right and kicks off the show. With the reliability of the German rail service, Jim twirls his mic stand in the air and calls to the audience, not for the last time, "let me see your hands" as the motoring, repetitive one note bass line of Waterfront kicks in.

Hands are dutifully raised and a 40 year old classic is welcomed like an old friend by 20,000 ecstatic fans. Though they have played several staples, the set has changed each night on this tour, which is way more than most bands do. Tonight's set is pretty much perfect.

Waterfront is swiftly followed by Love Song and Sweat In Bullet, both from my favourite Simple Minds album (see Simple Minds – Sons and Fascination / Sister Feelings Call). The latter is the one song they didn't play when I saw them tour in 2012, playing songs from their first five albums, so I am now completely over-excitable.

The band that surround Jim and Charlie has changed many times over the last 47 years, but this line up has their best bass player since the incredible Del Forbes. Ged Grimes is excellent throughout, as is their powerhouse drummer Cherisse Osei. Sarah Brown on vocals gives the songs depth and additional power - this is a great band.

Big Sleep from New Gold Dream and This Fear Of Gods from Empires & Dance follow, and whilst the hardcore are delighted, the more casual fans look a tad preturbed. What the fuck is this arty synth stuff? But Jim assures the crowd all is ok, hits will follow and they do indeed. Four cuts from Once Upon A Time, one of the greatest albums of the 80s, ensures the hit seekers are sated.

If you weren't around in the 80s, it's hard to communicate how big Simple Minds were. They were the artier twins of U2, though whilst U2 twisted and reinvented themselves with Achtung Baby, Simple Minds got a little lost for me in the mullets, scissor kicks and sincerity towards the end of the 80s and the beginning of the 90s. Only Belfast Child represents this period tonight and it's marmite for us. Our Glasgow friends behind us rush to the bar, whilst the nice Northern Irish man beside me who I've chatted to tells me how important this song is to him. I head to the loo - the sentiment may have been important, but the song is indulgent tosh (sorry!). And I need a wee and one more beer...

I am back for Someone Somewhere In Summertime, the fifth slice of perfection from New Gold Dream (the mid-set run of Glittering Prize, Promised You A Miracle and New Gold Dream itself was just amazing).

They end with John Hughes soundtrack classic Don't You (Forget About Me), with the crowd la-la-la-laaing along with gusto. They return for a four song encore (though Jim almost forgets they are to play See The Lights - they end with the obligatory double whammy of Alive & Kicking and Sanctify Yourself.

Jim's voice is still amazing, right up to the end, with the man almost doing the splits at times and dropping to his knees and bouncing back up like a 20 year old, rather than someone approaching retirement age. And Charlie is completely underrated, a better guitarist than The Edge. Go on, convince me I am wrong. You can't. Shush now.

Tonight was a masterclass in stagecraft, picking a great set that pleases everyone and investing in a great stage and light show and fabulous support act. Though the tickets were not cheap, this was value for money, as well as huge fun.

My only gripe would be more from their more recent albums (Big Music and Walk Between Worlds in particular are ridiculously good). But that's just being churlish. This was a band on stage, on fire and on a different plane to their peers.

And not a mullet in sight….phew! We head out early during Sanctify Yourself to beat the crowds and thanks to a queue-free taxi rank, I am home in Blackheath in ten minutes and tucked up in bed by 10.45 - result! I have my little weird imagined dream in the taxi home of my mum falling to guess how many times Jim has commanded the crowd to let him see their hands, and laugh at the image of her and and an angelic Bob Monkhouse. It's her birthday soon and she is on my mind. She'd have loved to hear that pensioner Jim is still able to slide to the floor at will and get up again at speed, and berate me for seeing De-peachy Mo-dey. God, she hated them...

Stay safe, and if you enjoyed this, please subscribe (see link below), x

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