Jim Kerr owns a majestic hotel in Taormina, Sicily. If you ever get a peek at the guestbook there you can be sure that in any given week some wit will have written “Lovely hotel, we won’t forget about you!” or something similarly imaginative. Not that Simple Minds are one hit wonders, but that one hit has come to define the band and their sound. Is there more to the band than that hard pop stadium rock sounding anthem? I never found out at the hotel because it’s not their policy to play Kerr’s music to his guests (breakfast when I was there was an odd but enjoyable mix of Bob Marley and Pink Floyd) so here at Kunstrasen was my chance to find out.
Another early start at the stage by the Rhine. This time with a support band from Tel Aviv named Acollective. These guys label themselves “Worldly wonky, caustic and cohesive, mellow and marauding” which seems a short but accurate way to review their short set. Certainly worth a listen and checking out their website for the videos. A young band with promise and fire in their bellies: “Don’t listen to what anyone ever tells you” advised lead man Idan Rabinovic before launching into a poppy number centred on the old childrens’ rhyme ‘Simon said’.
I was more interested to hear what Jim said this evening, but in the event he didn’t say much beyond “Thank you” – keeping the communication line for the most part down to clapping enthusiastically and nodding in the direction of the some 3000 bobbing audience heads in front of him. Leaving the music to do the talking is no bad thing when you have almost 40 years of music behind you of course. The sheer weight of material also turns out to be a problem for the band tonight too and there was disappointment for many in the absence of the dramatic ‘Belfast Child’ or the celebratory ‘Mandela Day’.
The fact that it was still early evening when the main bulk of the set was played didn’t help with the atmosphere either – things only really came to life when the sun went down and the stage lights came up – which was only a half hour from the shows end. I’ve never been a huge fan of the U2 style of stadium Rock sound that Simple Minds are also Masters of sotheory earliest number that I really enjoyed was actually sung by Sarah Brown, who stepped forward from her glittery spot in the shadows to deliver a smouldering and sultry version of Patti Smith’s ‘Dancing Barefoot’.
Of the hits that were played, they were delivered well enough. Charlie Burchill on guitar, along with Kerr a founder member of the band, played out some chunky riffs alongside the expected stadium rock swirls of keyboards from Andy Gillespie and the meaty drum rhythms of Mel Gaynor. Jim Kerr himself did a lot of waving to the audience and regularly slung his microphone over his shoulder to have his hands free for the task of clapping emphatically.
There wasn’t much need for clapping or waving to get the crowd up and singing to the big hit of course. The “La La, La La La La’s!” started with almost the first chord of ‘Don’t you (forget about me)’. I’m not sure I actually heard Kerr himself sing those words – there were so many other voices booming in from all sides of my ears.
Encore time, and Kerr asked innocently “Can we play some more?” to raucous applause. “We just wanna play music” he smiled and a perfect opportunity to stretch out with ‘Belfast Child’ was missed in favour of the Stadium ballad ‘Let it all come down’ with another reminder of those days of 80’s stadium rock following in the musical shape of ‘Sanctify Yourself’.
On the walk home I’m thinking back to Taormina and Villa Angela. I’m grateful for the inspirational book of Palermo photos in the hotel lobby dedicated to Kerr by the super talented Max Dax, it was an inspiration for a Palermo visit this year. I feel more inclined to say thanks for the literary inspiration rather than the musical one. A good show though in any event, and I hope the view from Kunstrasen’s stage, if not as majestic as that from a Villa Angela window, is one that you will remember fondly.