Prior to going to see Simple Minds at Belfast’s Odyssey Arena last night, I’d imagined the band’s fans to fall into two distinct categories: those who thrilled to the pre-1982 fusion of electro and funk that championed Simple Minds as princes of the new wave, and those that shook their fists to the lumpen stadium rock that came with later success.
As an older and heavier Jim Kerr and Charlie Burchill arrived on stage to the strains of Waterfront, the fists were raised across the arena and middle-aged dancing commenced. My initial bewilderment soon turned to smug satisfaction as the thunderous aplomb of their 1983 hit gave way to the electronic pulse of 1980’s I Travel and the stadium fans sat down. I’d have danced, but I would have been on my own.
This was the last date on Simple Minds current tour, celebrating thirty years as a live act. I’d come to see their 1982 album, New Gold Dream, which was played in its entirety. As Someone, Somewhere in Summertime segued into Colours Fly and Catherine Wheel, it was as if a completely different band had claimed the stage. Even the bombastic light show shimmered to a cool, sophisticated purple, in harmony with the spectral synth washes and fluid bass lines.
It was a brave move for Simple Minds to incorporate this landmark album into the middle of their performance; at times, it seemed as if they were in danger of losing the audience. A line of stadium fans sitting behind me went to the bar during the sublime Big Sleep and Somebody Up There Likes You.
Normal service was resumed as the Eno and Byrne-inspired King is White and in the Crowd gave way to Up on the Catwalk and Don’t You Forget About Me. The people in the row behind me returned to their seats and it was all fists punching the air again.
Even the cloying sentiment of Belfast Child failed to deter the acolytes. As with Van Morrison’s Gloria, offered by way of a gift earlier in the set, they hooted, stamped their feet and sang along.
“Some day soon, they’re gonna pull the old town down,” Kerr sang, before assuring, “No chance!” The crowd roared its approval. Though, coming in at two hours and twenty minutes, and delivering a performance that would shame bands half their age, I reckon Simple Minds deserved the applause.