IN SIMPLE terms the word ‘acoustic’ means not having electrical amplification. But as Glaswegian new-wave act Simple Minds triumphantly demonstrated to a packed house at Southampton’s Mayflower Theatre, definitions are subjective.
You would be forgiven for expecting longstanding Minds members Jim Kerr, the idyllic vocalist and endearing frontman since the group first formed in 1977, and Charlie Burchill, the cooling influence of an act synonymous with towering ballads and infectious electro-pop, to be sat aloft two stools. Burchill with guitar in hand; Kerr draining a glass with a microphone in his other. Yet as their Simple Minds Acoustic show began and Cherisse Osei stood behind a reverb soaked drum kit and the opening of ‘New Gold Dream (81–82–83–84)’ bellowed out – it appeared this would be a slick, effervescent night rewinding across the decades. The only difference was the guitar.
It was typical Minds. Kerr serenading, dancing and twirling audience members by the dozen – a flashback to the 80s and the band in their pomp. ‘Mandela Day’ – the rhythmically alluring b-side to 1989’s ‘Belfast Child’ saw the audience dazzled by a sea of South African colour – and ‘Chelsea Girl’ – a jaunty number off the band’s debut, which gave a snapshot into the initial post-punk sensibilities of the outfit, whilst demonstrating the hook-laced sounds that would become their hallmark – got the audience bouncing before the hit onslaught began.
‘Stand By Love’, ‘Someone, Somewhere in Summertime’, ‘Sanctify Yourself’ and ‘Promised You A Miracle’ all primed to get the audience aroused for their finale.
Truth be told it was a beautiful spectacle. As Kerr began humming the lead line of ‘Don’t You (Forget About Me)’, the crowd standing, arms waving in tandem with his, the simmering excitement evolving as the realisation of what was to come became apparent. The wavering bass, hushed passages of acoustics. Boom. ‘Alive & Kicking’ wasn’t far off that either.
This acoustic excursion, which was a real opportunity for the die hard fans to get up close and personal to their often stadium-filling favourites, showed exactly why this band was as defining to the eighties as any other. Removal of some electric, some synths, but at the heart are a set of songs more direct, yet resounding than we first ever imagined.
Words by Clive K Hammond