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Simple Minds Returns To Northeast Ohio After Two Decade Absence


October 12th, 2018


A crime was committed last evening in Northfield, Ohio.  An act so heinous that any self-respecting '80s pop fan should be ashamed of themselves.

Scottish outfit Simple Minds, perhaps best known for their smash hit tune from the anthemic '80s pop film The Breakfast Club, returned to the North Coast after a two-decade absence, and the pitiful folk here in Cleveland couldn't even muster up a sold out show to reward the Glasgow-based unit for their efforts.

But those that did soldier out to Northfield's Hard Rock Rocksino were treated to a solid outing by a band that still has the chops to offer up "Don't You (Forget About Me)" and still make it sound as relevant to today's audiences as it did almost, gulp, thirty-five years ago. Touring in support of their new album Walk Between Worlds, the band's seventeenth album, they offered several cuts from that latest drop. 

And, yeah, frontman Jim Kerr might look a little different than he did during the oh-so-glorious MTV years, but his voice, if anything, has gotten even better with time.

Charlie Burchill, guitar player and co-founder of the band, still takes lead duties on the axe.  While they've suffered a rotating lineup of backup players, Simple Minds' assemblage of musicians both young and old make last night's show one of the year's best.

On the bass, Ged Grimes brings over thirty years of experience to his craft.  As a founding member of the now-defunct outfit Danny Wilson, he scored a hit with "Mary's Prayer," a catchy ditty back in the mid 1980s.  Joining Simple Minds close to ten years ago, he gives journeymen Kerr and Burchill some oomph in the strings. 

Conversely, drummer Cherisse Osie is a youngster; she wasn't even alive when the band scored most of their major successes during the Reagan years. However, her comparative youth doesn't diminish her contributions to the outfit.  

Gordy Goudie, on rhythm guitar, looked the part of a Scottish rock star, sporting a pair of skinny jeans, a neatly-laced set of sneakers, shades and a derby.

Kerr, who always had a dash of David Bowie in his voice, sounds more and more like Mr. Stardust as he's aged.  The lilting Scottish brogue is nowhere to be heard once he picks up the mic; his saturated baritone remained powerful and on point during the two-hour set. His backup singer (and co-lead vocalist on a few tunes), Sarah Browne,  is a brilliant counterpoint to Kerr's commanding presence. She has a hell of a voice and shook the rafters with her powerful alto numerous times throughout the evening.

Offering up a massive twenty-three song set, they played for the better part of two hours, excluding a fifteen-minute pee break they took about halfway through the show.

The first set offered some of the new record's material.  The gig started off with "The Signal and the Noise" from this year's release.  As part of an eleven-tune set, the wall of sound was accompanied by a fantastic lighting package.  You know your senses are on high alert when the strobes and spots are competing with the sound for your attention.

A large part of the first act was comprised of tunes from New Gold Dream (81-82-83-84).   One of the highlights of the first set was "Up on the Catwalk," a lovely, underrated tune from 1984's Sparkle in the Rain.

After the short intermission, the crowd was ready to get back into it. The nine-tune set offered much of what the masses had come to hear: The tunes from the hugely-successful album Once Upon A Time.

"All the Things She Said" was played about midway through Act Two. Talk about being on fire; the crowd roared at the song's intro.  Rounding out the set, the band didn't wait for the encore to play their most well-known song.  Offering "Don't You (Forget About Me)" early, the audience sang along eagerly to the extended, audience participation version.

If I have one complaint about the night, and I'm not picking on this band in particular, it's when a singer turns the microphone around, points it at the crowd, and demands them to sing the one song that you've plopped down fifty bucks to hear them sing.  Don McLean did it a few years ago with "American Pie" and I hated it then.  I don't want to hear a thousand drunk revelers reliving their halcyon days; I want the band to give me their best version of an iconic tune that helped to define a generation so long ago.

Small beef aside, Kerr was all smiles as the song resonated off the rafters and out into the casino.  Finishing up with "New Gold Dream," the band then exited the stage.

Returning for a three song encore, they offered up a cover of The Doors' "Book of Brilliant Things" and then launched into their two other smashes, "Alive and Kicking" and "Sanctify Yourself."

This concert, nitpicking aside was, simply, one of the best of this calendar year.  It's a shame they haven't played here in over twenty years and, let's hope, it's not another twenty until they make their return.

Review and Photos by Brian M. Lumley

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