Simple Minds were never a band I was huge into. I did like and have their 80s albums, but the band ceased to exist after 1989’s Street Fighting Years, for no good reason or even a reason I can recall.
The Scottish group led by Jim Kerr returned to Toronto last night for a sold out and highly anticipated gig at the Sony Centre. My first thought was that the night would be a retro dance party. Quickly I found out that the tour was behind their 18th album Walk Between Worlds, released earlier this year. Not only that, the band have been releasing records pretty consistently over the course of their 40 years in existence. And they played at Massey Hall 5 years ago!
Kicking off right at 8, the band began the first of two sets with “The Signal & the Noise” from their new album. People were initially undecided about whether to get out of their seats but once the distinct bassline of “Waterfront” kicked in, all seats were abandoned.
The band was vibrant, much like the visuals projected behind them, and Jim Kerr moved around the stage like it was still the 80s. His distinct dancing remains intact – the only real change here was the hair, but Kerr was the commanding frontman he was always known as, grabbing the hand of the believers that lined the front of the stage.
The set lasted an hour with highlights including “I Travel”, “Promised You a Miracle” before closing it out and letting their backup singer shine through a cover of “Dirty Old Town”. There was no thematic distinction between the two sets, just a need as Kerr said “To have some tea and cucumber sandwiches”.
The second set also lasted roughly an hour and included their big 80s hits rolling one after the other; “All the Things She Said”, “Someone, Somewhere in Summertime” and their ubiquitous hit “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” which I figured would close the night out. The crowd was mad for it and the song has held up quite nicely thanks to their meaty rendition. The expected singalong happened and it was beautiful. “New Gold Dream” finished the set with an almost industrial throb that updated the original’s electro-pop to a most impressive and aggressive highlight.
The band returned for an encore that included “Sanctify Yourself” and “Alive & Kicking” that sent the older flock out into the drizzly seats exhilarated. Not just a nostalgia act, Simple Minds proved that with good new material and a wealthy back catalogue, you can deliver a riveting performance.