Simple Minds (c) Paul Cox 2018

Simple Minds @ Utilita Arena, 23rd March 2024

The well-chosen support act for tonight are Simple Minds’ fellow countrymen, Del Amitri. Considering how early the band take to the stage, the arena is already nearing capacity evidencing the draw that the band deservedly have. Del Amitri begin the proceedings with one of their biggest hits, Always The Last To Know , a song about the dynamics of a deceptive relationship.

The 90s guitar riff and keyboard melody resonate throughout the arena and have many people standing in appreciation, something that does not wane during their concise ten song set. Justin Currie’s soulful vocals flow seamlessly, as he stands holding court clad in a slick suit whilst skilfully handling his basslines compared with the whirlwind that is Iain Harvie playing blues guitar that has far more weight live than on record. The set comprises of classic Del Amitri such as Kiss This Thing Goodbye, with its driving bassline that is complimented by the interplay between the guitar and keyboards, and the heart wrenching Driving With The Brakes On, which is enhanced by Currie swapping the bass for an acoustic guitar.

Considering Del Amitri only have 45 minutes, Currie doesn’t waste time with excess chat, making the odd comments such as questioning how many drunk people are in the audience before playing Missing Person, he concludes not enough by the way.  Unsurprisingly, they save their most successful song for the end, Nothing Ever Happens. An examination of the monotony of life that illustrates the Currie’s lyrical creativity by constructing words that bring an image to life. As they leave the stage to vast applause, Currie thanks his heroes, Simple Minds, for taking them on tour and I can confirm that this choice was gratefully received by the ever-growing audience too.

Simple Minds enter a darkened stage as the repetitive D note on the bass reverberates around the arena, heralding Waterfront. Jim Kerr is statuesque, holding the mic stand aloft as the drums of Cherisse Osei power through. This opening is a statement of intent – Simple Minds are reaffirming their place on the large stages as one of the biggest bands of the 1980s. Kerr’s distinctive vocal delivery is as commanding as it ever was and welcomes the Utilita’s audience with its warmth and strength. After telling us to say hello to Uncle Charlie, founding member Charlie Burchill, Simple Minds go further back to the early 1980s with two singles from the Sons and Fascination album, the swirling guitars of Love Song in contrast to the krautrock influenced stabbing guitar riff of Sweat in Bullet.   

Unsurprisingly, Kerr is still a true rock star, covering the width of the stage with ease, engaging with all segments of the audience and at times takes to his knees and even lying on his back, which receives an avid response by those standing at the front. At various points during the set, Jim Kerr insists that the band are just warming up with a sneaky glint in his eye as if to heighten our anticipation followed by a promise to play all their biggest hits as they launch into All The Things She Said. This song epitomises Simple Minds ability to write memorable songs with beautiful modulation that may seem obvious but are probably one of the reasons that their music has never left the collective psyche – catchy melodies that connect with all ages. Furthermore, when you hear tracks such as New Gold Dream (81-82-83-84), there is a freshness alluding to elements of dance and goth to create a hypnotic trance and leaves Cherisse Osei on stage to produce a tremendous drum solo. Dressed in a sequin jumpsuit, Osei sparkles in more way than one as she hits the kit with such ferocity and precision dominating the arena.

The tempo takes a dramatic shift with the Celtic introduction to Belfast Child and Kerr’s soulful mourning silences the crowd. As the hope for renewal and peace flows, the drums, soaring guitar parts and strong chords on the keyboard create a truly emotional atmosphere that is palpable, and then the song returns to the solitude of the introduction. It is becoming evident that the main set is drawing to a close as the “fan favourite”, Someone Somewhere In The Summertime, is unleashed and the mood is elevated before the one beat of Don’t You (Forget About Me) sees the Utilita erupt. Thanks partly to the exposure given by The Breakfast Club, it has over 850 million plays on Spotify but it comes mainly from the genius songwriting, hooking the listener in with a captivating melody and chord progressions.

Needless to say, everyone is clapping and Kerr allows the audience to sing the las for a prolonged period of time, joking that he has got all night but in truth no one is ready to quit as this would mean that the evening is drawing to an end. Luckily, this is not the end and Sarah Brown returns to the stage and takes lead vocals for Book Of Brilliant Things, evidencing her superb range and potency as Jim Kerr sits on the drum riser watching with admiration. Her vocals compliment Kerr’s rich baritone in Alive and Kicking, a song about holding onto love that is driven by a steady kickdrum, and results in the venue reaching fever pitch.  Riding high, Simple Minds draw an immense set of hits to a close with the uplifting song about empowerment, Sanctify Yourself. Simple Minds are masters of their craft and tonight’s performance was nothing short of a perfection.

Simple Minds Set List:


Love Song

Sweat In Bullet

King is White and in the Crowd

This Fear of Gods

All The Things She Said

Solstice Kiss

Once Upon A Time

Glittering Prize

Promised You A Miracle

New Gold Dream (81-82-83-84)

Belfast Child

Someone Somewhere In the Summertime

Don’t You (Forget About Me)


Book of Brilliant Things

See The Lights

Alive and Kicking

Sanctify Yourself

Review: Toni Woodward

PR Photo courtesy of Black Arts PR (c) Paul Cox 2018

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