Following their Karlsruhe show this week, the band’s website suggested that Simple Minds were raring to hit the Bonn Kunst!Rasen stage: “After a two-day break we are more than refreshed and very much looking forward to performing live in BONN tonight.” Singer and co-founder Jim Kerr will be 60 next year but is not living off of past hits as a well oiled but power-packed show proved. UK veterans Fischer-Z were also on good form to start a very hot and humid evening of good Rock music by the Rhine.
The security guards were kept busy all night. No, this wasn’t an evening of riots or stage invasions, it was an evening of handing out free water in paper cups to the front rows. A nice touch since the temperature was in the 30’s, and a good sized turn-out (5000 people) meant that movement away from the stage area was difficult. Not that there was anywhere to find shade anyway – the tree-lined area at the stage side that used to be available is no longer accessible.
This heat certainly isn’t what a British band would be used to, but then, as Uxbridge born John Watts points out, Fischer Z have gone on to become a ‘Multi-Culti’ collection of musicians in the days since he and Steve Skolnik first created the band in 1976. Understandably given their name, I thought Fischer Z was German for many years until I discovered it’s actually a London wordplay on the name ‘Fish’s Head’. Gotta love the English sense of humour. Watt’s onstage delivers his between song banter, despite the bright yellow checked trousers, in a dry way though. There is a lot of seriousness in their song lyrics, as evinced by ‘Battalions of Strangers’ from 1980 with its war theme, or ‘Row Boys Row’ dealing with immigrants arriving by sea. It’s not surprising then, with all these worries, that the band find time to praise a well-known pain-killer in ‘Paracetamol’. There’s a rocking ‘Marliese’ to finish an excellent set that veers regularly from Rock to Pop and Reggae and that in so doing explains why Fischer Z have been popular for so long – sharply dressed lyrics, coated with catchy rhythms. There is though something very late 70’s/early80’s about the music with sound bites from Joe Jackson to the Specials in there. Excellent band – catch them if/when you can.
There is a new album this year ‘Walk Between Worlds’ to present, but Scottish Rock veterans Simple Minds know what the fans want – and they deliver in fine style. It must be said though that opener ‘Signal and the Noise’ and later ‘Summer’ from the new release stand up well against the older classics. The remaining set is much as always, although: ‘Belfast Child’ and ‘Promised You a Miracle’ were sadly missed (by me anyway).
The band itself has had something of a shake-up, or maybe one should say ‘Shake-down’. With keyboarder Andy Gillespie gone Charlie Burchill was jumping between keys and guitar to cover. Mey Gaynor’s place as the drummer is now filled by the very capable and attractive Cherisse Osei. Ged Grimes keeps the rhythm section ticking perfectly on bass, and the gaunt figure of Gordy Goudie fills in the few musical gaps that the rest leave – still finding time to strike a pose or three, pointing his acoustic like a rifle at the audience. Last, but very definitely not least, is Sarah Brown whose smooth vocals come increasingly to the fore as the evening’s music progresses
It’s difficult, if not impossible, to pick out any star tracks from such an excellent collection of songs and musicians but ‘Mandela Day’ was very topical in a year that would have seen the Great Man reach his hundredth birthday this very month. The evergreen ‘All The Things She Said’ ((from 1985) and of course, where would an SM concert be without ‘Don’t You (Forget About Me)’ sung as much by the audience as by Jim Kerr.
Kerr bounds effortlessly around the stage to involve every single person in the audience, and kneels down, leaning back until his head touches the stage. It’s easy to forget that Kerr is actually my age. Is it all down to Yoga Jim? This old man needs to know your secret!
It’s that irritating time of year at Open Air Kunstrasen shows when the stage-lights are finally effective just at the time when the show ends. JUst in time for the encore in fact, with two safe numbers to send the masses home happy, both from the band’s biggest selling studio disc – 1985’s ‘Once Upon a Time’: ‘Alive & Kicking’ and ‘Sanctify Yourself’.
Once upon a time, there was a group of Glaswegians who decided to form a Rock Band. It went very well indeed, and by the end of the 80’s they were possibly the biggest selling Rock combo from Scotland. Since then, the band may have changed personnel fundamentally, but Kerr and guitarist Burchill have remained like a rock through it all, and Simple Minds have continued to Rock into the 21st Century. Long may they continue to do so!