Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Don't You Forget: At Chicago Theatre, Simple Minds Survey a Stellar Career Well Beyond 'The Breakfast Club' -- Chicago Concert Review

Concert Review

Simple Minds
Chicago Theatre
October 15, 2018

I believe, like most Americans, my introduction to the Scottish band Simple Minds came with their #1 hit single, "Don't You (Forget About Me)," which was featured in John Hughes' 1985 film, The Breakfast Club.

It's a helluva catchy tune, but the band was initially reluctant to record it, as they didn't write it. Rather, it was written by Keith Forsey and Steve Schiff specifically for the film and initially pitched to The Fixx, Bryan Ferry and Billy Idol.

Per Wikipedia, the band relented in part due to persuasion from Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders, who was married to Simple Minds' frontman Jim Kerr (after she split with the Kinks' Ray Davies).

Amid the height of the MTV era, a few other hits followed--"Alive and Kicking," "Sanctify Yourself," "All the Things She Said"--but there is no song more identified with the band, at least in the U.S.

But Simple Minds have been a working band from 1977 to the present day, with 2018 Walk Between Worlds being their 18th studio album.

I have admittedly been oblivious to most of their oeuvre, but had read and heard enough good things to be curious to see the band on their latest tour, especially as inexpensive seats were plentiful at the ornate Chicago Theatre. (I wound up paying $31 total for 2 seats in about the 25th row, center.)

As I frankly conveyed in a recent review of The The, with Simple Minds I similarly had to Spotifamilarize myself with what I expected to hear, and don't claim to have brought a diehard devotee's heartfelt, historical connection to the songs besides the few aforementioned hits.

But I was impressed--to varying degrees--with almost everything Kerr, original guitarist Charlie Burchill and four other stellar musicians performed from across Simple Minds' catalog.

With no opening act, the show began promptly at 8:07pm with "The Signal and the Noise" from the new album, and it sounded good, as did two other cuts from Walk Between Worlds sprinkled throughout the 23-song set, "Sense of Discovery" and the title track.

It says something about the quality of Simple Minds that their new tunes pleased me roughly on par with several songs that were UK hits back in the proverbial day, such as "Waterfront," "Up on the Catwalk," "Let There Be Love," "She's a River" and "See the Lights."

Though at age 59, Kerr looks more like a corporate executive than an aging rock star, his supple voice still sounds strong and if I remember correctly that once upon a time--coincidentally the name of Simple Minds' best-selling album--he was thought to be a tad prickly, here he was completely warm, affable and gracious.

He shared that on a flight from London to begin the band's first full U.S. tour in two decades, a woman wrongly identified him as the singer from Simply Red, and in eventually deducing that it was actually Simple Minds, said she remembered him being thinner and with much more hair. 

Initially she told Kerr that she only knew "Don't You (Forget About Me)," but when pushed to name another, recalled "Promised You a Miracle," a fine rendition of which which followed Kerr's tale midway through the first of two sets.

Over 130 minutes (not counting the 20-minute break), there really wasn't anything I heard that I didn't like, but before intermission, "The American"--with a fine guitar solo by Burchill--and "Dirty Old Town" really came off well.

You can check Wikipedia if you really want to know the full roster of Minds past and present, but the current incarnation prominently features two women--vocalist Sarah Brown and Cherisse Osei--both of whom were demonstrably terrific and, along with other newer members, added a youthful freshness to the veteran band.

The musicians were backed by an LED screen whose graphics were best used on "Dolphin," something of a slower dirge that preceded the ebullience of an extended "Don't You (Forget About Me)."

Brown got to sing lead on the first encore, "Book of Brilliant Things," with a bit of the Doors' "Five to One" mashed in, before the closing twosome of "Alive and Kicking" and "Sanctify Yourself" sent us into the night alive, kicking and sanctified.

I've seen at least a handful or two of phenomenal concerts in 2018, and--perhaps given my level of fandom, pre- and post-show--I can't rate or rank this one among the very best.

But with nothing against the fine The The show a few weeks back--which makes for comparison primarily due to similarly moderate familiarity and affinity on my part--I was much more wowed by Simple Minds.

I'd always kind of known that their prowess--and renown, particularly in Europe--went well beyond their most famous song. But now I really know that, in a way I don't think I'll readily forget.

Here's a clip of "Sanctify Yourself" from Monday night that I found on YouTube. (No infringement intended.)

No comments: