Concert Review: The B52s and Simple Minds serve up retro dish of tasty 80s

Simple Minds brought their mix of 80s new wave and stadium filling anthems to Christchurch's Horncastle Arena on ...
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Simple Minds brought their mix of 80s new wave and stadium filling anthems to Christchurch's Horncastle Arena on Thursday night.

If there was any doubt which version of Simple Minds was going to show up on Thursday, it was answered by the fat bass notes of Waterfront opening their set.

Then Mel Gaynor climbed into his drums with the muscular attack that helped the band become late-80s stadium fillers after the success of Don't You (Forget About Me) and the faithful at Horncastle Arena stood and roared for the durable Scottish band.

There's a tension in Simple Minds' music between the synth-washed post-punk and new wave of the band's early years and the bombastic U2esque anthems that came later. And despite a healthy smattering of songs from their early 80s-defining album New Gold Dream, Thursday's show was more about the stomping sing-alongs than their more delicate earlier work.

The B52s, with singers Fred Schneider, Cindy Wilson and Kate Pierson, perform in Spain in 2008.
GUSTAU NACARINO

The B52s, with singers Fred Schneider, Cindy Wilson and Kate Pierson, perform in Spain in 2008.

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Singer Jim Kerr, like most of the audience, may no longer be the sprightly elfin whose high kicks lit up the Christchurch Town Hall when I saw Simple Minds in 1986, but he's still fond of singing from bended knee. And while his voice may not still carry the high notes reliably, a pair of backing singers filled the sound beautifully.

Long-time backing singer Sarah Brown's vocals soared in the encore's Alive and Kicking and the whole band was in polished form, with several solos showcasing Charlie Burchill's guitar-shredding alongside his trademark pealing riffs that defined their early sound.

Kerr's voice got plenty of help from the 90 per cent full crowd as he repeatedly implored them to "let me see your hands". They were happy to oblige, notably for an extended round of the "la la la la la la" refrain during Don't You.

Given their longevity, it came as no surprise that the youthful, yearning urgency that propelled much of New Gold Dream was absent, with early-80s classics like Somewhere Sometime in Summertime recast awkwardly as stadium rockers. Kerr acknowledged as much before the song, saying "I'm getting a bit old for this malarky – or maybe not."

The earliest song they played was 1981's propulsive Love Song, which showed how new wave drew from dance music and in turn inspired so much of today's electronic dance music, and the final song of the encore, New Gold Dream (81-82-83-84) brilliantly straddled the two sides of the band.

Even after the house lights went up, the band lingered to soak up the adulation, with Kerr the last the leave the stage.

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Opening act The B52s showed how much the band's punk-pop owed to '60s girl groups, with Kate Pierson and Cindy Wilson both still in fine voice 40 years after their first performance. Their strong harmonies were the backbone of a hour-long set of hits, from My Own Private Idaho through to a banging encore of the spacey, still original-sounding Planet Claire and the guaranteed party-starter Rock Lobster.

There were enough fans in white go-go boots and '70s minis to show the crowd was not just there for Simple Minds and they were well catered for as the two bands served up a retro dish of tasty '80s.

 

 - Stuff

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