With just one gig planned for 2016, it was something of a coup for Dubai to welcome Scottish legends Simple Minds to the city’s tennis stadium.
A critically acclaimed band in their formative years, when their song Don’t You (Forget About Me) made them superstars in 1985, thanks to its inclusion on the soundtrack to The Breakfast Club, all credibility seemed to vanish from view.
While the Glasgow band ended up filling stadiums and seemed to have no trouble coming up with pop-rock smash hits, their earlier, more experimental, work was all but forgotten about.
By the late ’90s, when all that was left of the band was singer Jim Kerr and guitarist Charlie Burchill, their popularity had plummeted and Simple Minds became a watchword for overblown, cheesy stadium rock. But something changed in the past ten years. The band’s first few albums have been reassessed and rightly elevated to classic status, and with that, Kerr and Burchill seemed to get a renewed sense of purpose and set out on the road again, often revisiting those albums (such as New Gold Dream) in their entirety.
With a well-received 2014 album, Big Music, managing to straddle the line between the two sides of the band’s music and, according to Kerr, work on a new album going well, the reinvigorated group seem to be attacking their career with some purpose ahead of their 40th anniversary (next year).
The Dubai gig started with a version of Waterfront, from 1984’s Sparkle In The Rain, which was mired slightly by sound levels not being quite right. However, Kerr’s swaggering entrance was still enough to get the crowd going and within a couple of songs, the sound was perfect.
Kerr, flanked by his long-term foil Burchill managed to bridge the gap between the more synth-driven early songs and the bombastic hits for the most part, Someone Somewhere In Summertime being the perfect example. However, when centre stage was given over to the two backing singers (to let Kerr change his outfit, and have a much-needed rest no doubt), things took a more stage-school-style turn for the worse. Though their voices were superb, their arrival (and Kerr’s absence) signalled a departure to the bar for many people.
Such low points were thankfully scarce, and the band stuck to keeping their fans happy for the most part.
Other expected highlights included their first hit Promised You A Miracle, Alive and Kicking, and Don’t (You Forget About Me). But 1980’s I Travel (from the influential Empires and Dance album), New Gold Dream’s title track and Love Song from the following year’s Sons and Fascination got long-term fans really excited about the band’s re-embracing of the deeper recesses of their experimental back catalogue.
Simple Minds seemed to be enjoying themselves – Kerr’s stage presence as impressive as it should be for someone with a near 40 years of stagecraft behind him.
As well as the costume changes (well, the second one included a tartan jacket, so we’ll class that as a costume), Kerr’s moves were somewhat sprightly for a filled-out 50-something, and his appreciation of the crowd was noticeable, too.
The band, who took their name from a line in David Bowie’s Jean Genie, played tribute to the Thin White Duke by playing the song as their encore ended. Its energy and relevance meant the night ended on a poignant high-note as the band exited the stage.
Dhs225. Thu January 28, 9pm. Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium, Garhoud.
The bottom line
Jim Kerr and co. warmed up a chilly night with epic, atmospheric rock.