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Simple Minds looking forward to North East double date

Jim Kerr, lead singer of the Scottish band who made their name in the 80s is looking forward to a double date with the North East

Simple Minds are playing Alnwick Castle and Hardwick Live in August and September respectively
Simple Minds are playing Alnwick Castle and Hardwick Live in August and September respectively

Trying to think of a headline for this piece, I’m minded to do a mini research project into how many times in the last 25 years, ‘Still Alive and Kicking’ has been used to top off an interview with Simple Minds’ leading man, Jim Kerr.

But then when I think about it, ‘Don’t You Forget About Him/Them/Me’ could also be a front runner.

That’s what happens when you’re in an enduring band which happens to have bona fide (and headline-friendly) anthems of a generation in its back catalogue pocket.

For the uninitiated and/or confused among you, Alive and Kicking and Don’t You (Forget About Me) were the two tracks I was referring to.

And if you don’t recognise them by their name, I’m pretty sure you’d only need to hear the first few bars in order to be transported back to wherever you were in the mid-1980s when you heard them first.

Meanwhile if you’re looking to hear both of them played in the 21st century flesh, you’ll be delighted to hear there are not one, but two opportunities on the North East horizon.

The first will see the band, who formed in Glasgow in 1977, perform to the dramatic backdrop of Alnwick Castle on August 16. The second will come as part of September’s two-day Hardwick Live music event in Sedgefield, County Durham.

Simple Minds headline the Friday night (September 12), joining the likes of The Jacksons, Adam Ant, Scouting for Girls and Steve Harley on the festival bill.

Two North East gigs in two months equals nothing but joy for the now 55-year-old Jim Kerr, who has fond memories of the region which go back as far as his love of live music.

“It’s somewhere which has always encouraged us,” he says. “But the affection actually goes back further than that.

“There was a period in Glasgow, when me and (bandmate) Charlie Burchill my songwriting partner, were teenagers and there was a problem with the local venue which meant bands weren’t coming,” he continues.

“Sometimes we would hitch to Edinburgh or Newcastle to see people like Roxy Music and Deaf School. I also remember going down to see stuff at Newcastle Poly and then sleeping in a phone box,” he laughs.

“Then of course, getting the chance to play in the early days at the City Hall was amazing and then there was The Tube,” he adds, referring to the groundreaking Newcastle-based music show which ran from 1982-87 - aka Simple Minds’ heyday.

“The Tube was a huge part of launching the band,” says Jim.

“We did some filming during one of the first times that we’d played a big arena in Europe. The Tube previewed the film and the reaction was... well it took the band to another level. It was such a powerful show.”

In the three decades since, the band have continued to trade on their well-founded reputation as a great live outfit, while also bringing out a steady stream of new albums.

Simple Minds are playing Alnwick Castle and Hardwick Live in August and September respectively
Simple Minds are playing Alnwick Castle and Hardwick Live in August and September respectively
 

Like any act approaching a 40th anniversary, they have fallen in and out of chart-fashion favour over the years, but they’ve never had any trouble drumming up a crowd of thousands.

“It’s great to have had the story that we’ve had, and the way we see it, to still be writing new chapters,” says Jim.

“We’re just putting the finishing touches to our first album in five or six years and it’s sounding good. We’ve been playing a couple of the tracks during the live dates we’ve been doing recently and they’ve been going down really well.

“It’s not easy for new songs to bed in,” he continues. “In a set of classics - that being classics in our own arena - they’ve got to really have an impact and keep people from going off to get a hot dog,” he adds with a laugh.

It’s clear that Jim is under no illusions about the setlist expectations the crowds in Alnwick and County Durham will be bringing in their picnic baskets.

I think it’s fair to assume that if Don’t You (Forget About Me) - which scored a number one hit in America following its inclusion on the 1985 soundtrack for the iconic eighties movie, The Breakfast Club - wasn’t included in their performance, a sing-it! sit-in may quickly be organised.

I wonder if they’ve managed to retain an affection for the tracks they must have played thousands of times.

“I’ve an affection for the effect that they have,” says Jim.

“So in rehearsals, do we play those big songs when we’re sitting around together? No we don’t. But in front of an audience, we play them with 100% commitment because we’re very aware of what they mean to so many people in the audience.

“Those songs are almost not our songs any more. They’re their songs. It might be that they met to that song, or they remind them of their time at university... those songs are loaded with memories and are perhaps some of the songs of a generation.

“There’s a responsibility to play them with a full commitment.”

Meanwhile Jim says that despite the decades which have passed, and the dramatic developments in the music industry, he’s pleased to say at the core of what they do, nothing much has changed.

“With all the different formats and record companies and record shops going to the wall and all that, things around us have changed, but at the core of what we do, nothing has changed,” he says.

“We write the best songs we can, we jump on stage and play them like billyo and take them around the world. We’ve been doing that since we were teenagers.”

* Simple Minds play Alnwick Castle on August 16 and Hardwick Live on September 12. Visit www.alnwickcastle.com and www.hardwicklive.co.uk respectively for detail.

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