BY DANIEL GLUSKOTER
Thirty-Three years after earning the right to perform in front of a global audience of close to two billion people at Live Aid, Simple Minds found their way back to the Bay Area for a rare San Francisco performance Thursday night at the Masonic.
While the height of the bands popularity may have come near the dawn of the MTV generation, the Scottish alternative rock band has continued to be both productive and relevant, having recorded 18 studio albums on the way to achieving over 70 million album sales worldwide, while touring the world since 1978.
Touring in support of “Walk Between Worlds,” their most recent release, lead singer Jim Kerr quickly set the tone for the evening moving from end to end of the Masonic stage while exhorting the already enthusiastic fans on the floor, which would remain standing for the entire marathon two hour and twenty minute performance.
Still a charismatic frontman with rock star moves that have entertained far larger stadium sized crowds, the 59 year old Kerr can still posture like a rock star. He clearly demonstrated that he continues to enjoy what he does, and spoke directly to the crowd on numerous occasions throughout the evening. He even fondly recalled playing at the old Kabuki Theater over thirty years earlier while introducing “Up on the Catwalk” from 1984’s “Sparkle in the Rain.”
Apologizing for taking so long to return to San Francisco early on, Kerr and guitarist Charlie Burchill are the only two original members of the band remaining, but the current sextet maintained a high level of energy throughout while performing tracks from 10 different albums.
Backing vocalist Sarah Brown, who joined the band in 2009, has also worked with Stevie Wonder, Duran Duran, Roxy Music and Pink Floyd. And it shows. Her duets with Kerr on tracks such as “Stand by Love” and “Dirty Old Town” at the end of the first set before intermission left no doubt that she was lifting the band, and the audience to another level.
While fan favorites such as “She’s a River,” Someone Somewhere in Summertime,” and “All the Things She Said” were highlights of the second set, it was their #1 hit “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” from the John Hughes 1985 film “The Breakfast Club” that raised the intensity level to a new peak.
It would be a significant understatement to note that choosing to record the song that The Fixx, Bryan Ferry and Billy Idol had all declined to perform was a wise career move. Simple Minds actually initially passed on it also, preferring to only record their own original material at the time, but Chrissie Hynde of The Pretenders, Kerr’s wife at the time, provided persuasive encouragement and the rest is history.
A generous 20 minute encore further insured that it would be a show to remember. Returning to the apex of their success with “Once Upon a Time,” also released in 1985, Kerr and Company ended the night on another high as they closed with the title song along with a cover of “The Cross’ by Prince, before returning to “Alive and Kicking” and finally “ Sanctify Yourself.”
The tour next moves on to the northwest for a trio of shows. The band will perform in Portland on Saturday before moving on to Seattle and Vancouver the following two days.