Simple Minds are alive and kicking and heading to the North East for a one-off show. Katy Wheeler spoke to lead singer Jim Kerr to find out more.
YOU’D expect someone at the helm of a band which has sold 60million albums and produced global hits such as Don’t You (Forget About me) to have an air of arrogance about them. But Jim Kerr, of Simple Minds, is a refreshing rock star: still humbled by the 80s success of the band and the huge appetite for their music which exists to this day.
On the back of their recent landmark 5 X 5 shows, where they played five songs from their first five albums, they are heading to the North East next month – and they can’t wait. Jim’s passion for his craft is palpable and he says it was important to the band to perform in the region.
“We missed Newcastle out when we toured in February because we couldn’t get a date but it didn’t seem right to miss it out,” he explained. “So we’re really looking forward to coming. I can’t remember the last time we did a club gig. Being Glasgow boys, there was a period when we were growing up when we wanted to go and see as many live bands as possible but at that time up-and-coming acts struggled to get venues to play in Glasgow so we used to hitchhike to Newcastle and go to places like the Mayfair.”
The one-off set takes place at Newcastle O2 Academy on July 8 and will include songs from Life In A Day, Real To Real Cacophony, Empires and Dance, Sons and Fascination/Sister Feelings Call and New Gold Dream – all of which were released in a prolific period from 1979 to 1982.
During the 80s, the band were at the top of the game. They enjoyed a No1 hit in the U.S. and Canada with Don’t You (Forget About Me) from the soundtrack of the The Breakfast Club film, as well as subsequent success with Alive and Kicking and Belfast Child. Now, they are riding the crest of a wave once more.
“The band’s on great form at the minute,” said Jim. “Recently, we’ve been getting, arguably, the best reviews of our lives which is nice at this stage in the game. We always give 100 per cent on stage but with performing stuff from the first five albums we weren’t sure how the tour was going to go as not everyone would know those songs, but the gigs have become legendary. I think at first, it’s the novelty value, but also it’s the attitude of the band. We seem very energised a the minute and people are picking up on that. Those early songs are coming back into vogue again as well, not just our music, but that whole genre.”
He added: “Ultimately, it’s the effort we put into it and what we put out. Today we are off to rehearsal rooms and we have been doing that all our lives. We don’t slack off. When we’re on stage, we’re saying ‘this is our life’, ‘this is who we are.’ Sometimes, everyone has a bad night, but we try to have the attitude of treating every gig as if it’s the most important.”
So what’s the key to having chart-toppers on both sides of the pond? Jim, who is playing a number of festivals this year with Simple Minds, said: “Ultimately a lot of it is to do with what we do, how we make it and how we promote it, plus lucky breaks. We worked our socks off and got in a lot of debt when we toured America. We made money in Britain and Europe but lost it in the USA. It paid off in the end though.”
A life in Simple Minds is one peppered with highlights, but Jim says it’s always about the music.
“When people ask about highlights, there are so many such as Live Aid, playing huge arenas, having No 1 albums, they are iconic moments, you never forget them. But I have to say that the early days, playing places with two man and a dog, were a highlight. Every night you could see the band grow on stage and without those moments, the rest wouldn’t have come.”
Indeed, being up on stage and in the spotlight is still what Jim loves to do most. “It’s such a buzz to see people happy,” he said. “You turn up and it may be a crappy day, with crappy weather, with crappy news economically. But somehow you turn up on stage and can turn it around. All the big songs, we rarely rehearse, but that doesn’t mean we don’t give it 100 per cent in front of an audience. Sometimes you hear the song through their ears, that might be their favourite song and you have a big responsibility to play it better than they expect.
“You might meet fans who know every song you’ve ever done which is amazing. But sometimes you get in a taxi and the driver says he only knows one song but it was his wedding song. That doesn’t matter to me that he only knows one song. Out of all the gazzilion of songs out there, it’s amazing for someone to give attention to one of our songs.”
Simple Minds play Newcastle O2 Academy on Sunday, July 8. Tickets are £37.50 from www.gigsandtours.com or tel. 0844 811 0051.