Live at the Aotea Centre

Live at the Aotea Centre

Simple Minds at the Aotea Centre.
Promised you a miracle … and that was the promise back in the 80s, when Scottish new wave band Simple Minds were one of the biggest stadium-fillers in the world. After a handful of dazzling, adventurous albums, Jim Kerr and co stepped back until last year’s release of a pretty average record. But then a miracle of sorts happened here on Wednesday night and Simple Minds proved the power of nostalgia, filling the Aotea Centre with an air-punching, screaming, dancing crowd, mainly of a certain age group but with a healthy proportion of teens and 20s as well.

They weren’t there to hear the songs from that new album, Black & White 050505, although Kerr did deliver some of those, moments which occasionally flattened the energy levels. No, it was the soundscape anthems of Simple Minds’ classics like New Gold Dream, Sparkle In The Rain and Sons & Fascination that people had come to hear, to relive those moments when the band broke big in New Zealand and we learnt the words to Don’t You Forget About Me.

The promoter shouldn’t have bothered with support band, Donald Reid, whose warm-up felt like 30 bludgeoning minutes too long. All was forgiven when Kerr, looking fit at 48, bounded on stage, waving, grinning, shaking hands, before ripping into Speed Your Love to Me with super-guitarist Charlie Burchill’s shimmering chords a reminder of how first-rate this band could be.

Mark Taylor provided plenty of atmosphere on keyboards and longtime drummer Mel Gaynor and bass player Eddie Duffy established a stonking rhythm, with a nice surprise later in the night with an appearance by Kiwi music producer Malcolm Foster, their bass player for six years.

The oldies and goodies were all there: Love Song, one of their biggest hits, Waterfront, Up On The Catwalk, Alive & Kicking, Promised You A Miracle, She’s A River, All the Things She Said, Someone Somewhere In Summertime, interspersed between some obscure later numbers. Halfway through, Kerr noted, in his delicious Glaswegian accent, that it had been 17 years since they last played in Auckland, and “you’re here and as mad as ever”, before dedicating the next song – Gloria – to “a girl I met here”. And they were mad for it.

But by 10pm, the Aotea Centre’s limitations as a venue for a huge rock sound were becoming painfully obvious. Simple Minds need a big space where the sound can travel, not bounce back in on itself. The glories of Sanctify Yourself and New Gold Dream were muddied by the centre’s confines and Burchill’s efforts to “freshen” up the classics by playing in different keys didn’t always work. Why muck-up the greats? But overall, Kerr and his band could not have happier with what was never less than an adoring bunch of longtime fans. And, at last, came Don’t You Forget About Me and the complete crowd sing-along.

By Linda Herrick.
New Zealand Herald.