Gig review: Simple Minds at First Direct Arena, Leeds

Jim Kerr, lead singer of Scottish rock band Simple Minds, and drummer Cherisse Osei at the First Direct Arena, Leeds, on the first night of the band’s European tour. Picture: Ernesto RogataJim Kerr, lead singer of Scottish rock band Simple Minds, and drummer Cherisse Osei at the First Direct Arena, Leeds, on the first night of the band’s European tour. Picture: Ernesto Rogata
Jim Kerr, lead singer of Scottish rock band Simple Minds, and drummer Cherisse Osei at the First Direct Arena, Leeds, on the first night of the band’s European tour. Picture: Ernesto Rogata
The veteran Scottish rock group are in sparkling form with a set that includes songs from every era of their 45-year career.

I last saw Simple Minds in 1986 at the NEC in Birmingham. My boyfriend at university was obsessed by them and I thought they were fabulous too, but we broke up, the band went through numerous personnel changes, and I haven’t seen them again until tonight in Leeds on the opening night of their Global Tour 2024.

They were supported by Del Amitri whose singer, Justin Currie, recently announced that he has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, so it was wonderful to see him looking well and in fine voice, swapping his bass and guitar with the other original band member, Iain Harvie, and moving freely around the stage.

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Songs like Roll to Me and Always the Last to Know’s heartfelt lyrics and infectious melodies sounded as good as ever. As Currie said, with self-deprecating humour, they certainly had not been “a total disaster”!

Simple Minds’ founding members Jim Kerr, lead singer, and Charlie Burchill, guitar, playing live at the First Direct Arena, Leeds. Picture Ernesto RogataSimple Minds’ founding members Jim Kerr, lead singer, and Charlie Burchill, guitar, playing live at the First Direct Arena, Leeds. Picture Ernesto Rogata
Simple Minds’ founding members Jim Kerr, lead singer, and Charlie Burchill, guitar, playing live at the First Direct Arena, Leeds. Picture Ernesto Rogata

They left the stage to a resounding ovation from the packed arena, which settled back to wait for Simple Minds. The excitement levels rose, with the crowd exploding into rapturous applause as they took to the stage accompanied by a pounding drum roll.

Original members Jim Kerr and Charlie Burchill were surrounded by a tight band, including powerhouse drummer, Cherisse Osei, and new keyboard player Erik Ljunggren. They commanded the stage with an electrifying presence that ignited the venue from the very first chord.

Kerr’s vocals soared, intertwining seamlessly with Burchill’s effortlessly lyrical guitar and the keyboards. With a legacy encompassing the avant-garde, art-rock, electronic dance music, political, folk and stadium anthems, they played songs from every era of their 45-year career.

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Beginning with Waterfront from 1984’s Sparkle in the Rain, they then played early favourites Love Song, The American and, for the first time since 2012, Premonition. By this time everyone was on their feet, dancing along with Kerr, who at 64, is still very nimble and conducted the audience as they sang along.

Justin Currie, lead vocalist and bassist, and Iain Harvie, guitarist, of Scottish rock band Del Amitri, playing live at First Direct Arena, Arena. Picture: Ernesto RogataJustin Currie, lead vocalist and bassist, and Iain Harvie, guitarist, of Scottish rock band Del Amitri, playing live at First Direct Arena, Arena. Picture: Ernesto Rogata
Justin Currie, lead vocalist and bassist, and Iain Harvie, guitarist, of Scottish rock band Del Amitri, playing live at First Direct Arena, Arena. Picture: Ernesto Rogata

Newer songs were followed by Once Upon a Time and then three tracks from their breakthrough album, New Gold Dream (81,82, 83, 84) – Glittering Prize, Promised You a Miracle and the title track, which all sounded as fresh and contemporary as they did in in 1983.

Kerr thanked us all, saying the band didn’t take a reception like this for granted and that they wanted to start the tour somewhere “mad”, so chose Leeds!

The band left the stage, for Osei’s superb drum solo, before returning for Belfast Child, a complete change of pace and their only British number one. It beautifully showcased the power and delicacy of Kerr’s voice.

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Finishing with Someone, Somewhere in Summertime and a rousing Don’t You (Forget About Me), they left the stage, returning for backing singer, Sarah Brown, to lead Book of Brilliant Things. They looked as if they were enjoying themselves as much as the audience, as they galloped towards the finish line with See the Lights, Alive and Kicking and Sanctify Yourself ending an unforgettable evening for their legions of fans.

They left a euphoric atmosphere that lingered long after the final notes had faded. After my 38-year gap, I’m most definitely planning to see them again on their next tour!