Gig review: SIMPLE MINDS and ULTRAVOX, O2 Arena, London, 30 November 2013

Simple Minds, Liverpool Empire, 20 April 2013

It’s an 80’s revival tonight with one of the 80’s big stadium bands Simple Minds headlining, but first we had Ultravox who had their own series of hit singles in the early to mid-80’s. They reformed with their classic line-up – Midge Ure, Warren Cann, Chris Cross & Billy Currie – in 2008 and I saw them play an excellent gig back in 2009 headlining at the Hammersmith Apollo. They have aged a little more since then but they were the band of the night as they kept to their well known songs, despite releasing a new album back in 2012.

Starting with a fan favourite, ‘New Europeans’ from their ‘Vienna’ album, this led seamlessly into ‘Sleepwalk’. Midge Ure still has the power in his voice as could be heard on ‘Vienna’, getting a rapturous round of applause from the crowd every time he sang the heartfelt chorus. They rocked things up a bit with ‘One Small Day’, the nearest Ultravox ever got to straight ahead hard rock and ‘Hymn’.

Closing with an extended run through ‘The Voice’ Midge Ure, Billy Currie and Chris Cross took to the front of the stage with a snare drum each, although to be honest dressed in their smart suits they looked like accountants fulfilling some dream wish to play on stage! Ultravox stuck to the hits, played them  with style and minimal onstage banter to allow the music maximum time.

Simple Minds back in the day were used to playing the stadiums and arenas so their big, impressive light show fitted well into the large confines of the O2 Arena. Still fronted by vocalist Jim Kerr, he is joined by fellow original member guitarist Charlie Burchill and drummer Mel Gaynor, who has been in the band during most of their classic era.

Starting with an anthem like ‘Waterfront’ soon had the crowd going and next they played one of the two new songs on their recent best of box set, ‘Broken Glass Park’, a keyboard led tune that has had a fair bit of airplay on BBC Radio 2.  It has a very catchy chorus and perfect for the live arena.

Not so taken by ‘Theme For Great Cities’ which seemed to morph into a Donna Summer tune midway through! But when they wheeled out the classics like ‘All The Things She Said’ and ‘Don’t You Forget About Me’, they got the audience dancing away, often like those near me recalling the audience from ‘Top Of The Pops’.

Charlie Burchill kept those classic guitar riffs coming throughout the night and in Mel Gaynor they have a drummer who can be a drumming powerhouse when required, then rein it in for the quieter songs. Jim Kerr has lost none of the knack of working a large crowd and still does those crouches when singing and has a good supply of witty one liners. Closing the set with ‘New Gold Dream (81-82-83-84)’ they returned for two encores including one of their most recognisable tunes ‘Alive And Kicking’.

Although Simple Minds were good I felt they were a bit too much hung on the showmanship and big light show, with Jim Kerr’s vocals occasionally struggling to be heard over the keyboards on a couple of songs. Ultravox though again played an excellent set and it was good to see both bands still packing the fans in and leaving them happy.

Review by Jason Ritchie
Photo by Steve Goudie

Ultravox setlist:
New Europeans/ Sleepwalk/ Reap the Wild Wind/ The Thin Wall/ Vienna/ One Small Day/ Hymn/ Dancing With Tears in My Eyes/ The Voice

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