Certainly ‘Alive and Kicking’: Simple Minds at Scarborough Open Air Theatre


Alexandra Pullen (she/her) reviews Simple Minds and Del Amitri at this summer’s TK Maxx Presents Scarborough Open Air Theatre

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Image by Cuffe and Taylor

By Alexandra Pullen

I’ll admit, my knowledge of Simple Minds was not too extensive before I saw them in concert, but I could not pass up the opportunity to see the Scottish band perform the likes of ‘Don’t You (Forget About Me)’, ‘Alive and Kicking’ and ‘Waterfront’ live in the Scarborough Open Air Theatre.

It was a night of firsts, as I had never been to Scarborough (better known as Scar-bados) before so the impression I was given of the seaside town didn’t give it the best reputation. While the centre was nothing special, being described by my mum as “the Blackpool of Yorkshire”, I have to say that upon exploring the coast the day after the concert it was lovely while the sun was shining: “an upgrade from Blackpool”.

As I said previously, I’m not a die-hard fan of Simple Minds, but ‘Don’t You (Forget About Me)’ is one of the best uses of song in a film in my opinion, of course featuring in The Breakfast Club. It also holds a special personal meaning to me as it is one of the songs that reminds me of my dad, so getting an email on Fathers’ Day about this gig seemed like a sign.

The Open Air Theatre was unlike any other music venue I had been to. As we walked in we were met with an array of food vans and bars offering burgers, hot dogs, Greek food and some vegetarian and vegan options. It was rather compact in the standing area, but many stands of seats loomed over us, laid out like American high school football stands.

Kicking off the night was fellow Scottish rock band, Del Amitri. They are best known for their tracks ‘Nothing Ever Happens’, which peaked at number 11 in the UK charts in 1990, and ‘Roll to Me’. The sound of the band wasn’t really to my taste but their most popular songs were met with cheers from the crowd. I found a few of the tracks to be slightly monotonous and too slow, but lead singer Justin Currie and guitarist Iain Harvie had great chemistry during their set.

Currie spoke to the BBC recently about the fact that he has Parkinson’s disease and how this has impacted his career: “I know it will get worse. At what rate, nobody knows. So I know I’m going to have to stop. The idea is quite grim.” Despite this, they did their best to put on a show and expressed appreciation to Simple Minds and everyone who was at the concert.

Then the time arrived. After a quick swap of instruments and the visuals slowly changing to gold hands, crowns and a globe, Simple Minds opened their set with ‘Waterfront’. Jim Kerr waltzed onto the stage with swagger, and we knew he meant business the moment he picked up his microphone stand, turned it upside down and punched the air with it.

Kerr then went into ‘Once Upon A Time’ and ‘Sons and Fascination’ which pleased the crowd before going into an entertaining anecdote about the band’s experience with Scarborough:

“What a delight to be in Scarborough! When our manager was talking about the tour last year, they said “you're going to be breaking new ground.” I thought ‘Japan? Hiroshima? Beijing?’ No, somewhere you’ve never been…Scarborough! But that was wrong. Charlie and I went to Scarborough when we were kids on family holidays. Our whole street, the whole of Glasgow use to go to Blackpool or Scarborough…After all these years, we better be fucking good!”

It’s safe to say that they were better than good. Although vocalist Jim Kerr and guitarist Charlie Burchill are the only original members of Simple Minds, they were joined on stage by such immense talent; Sarah Brown provided beautiful and powerful vocals and Cherisse Osei was energetic on drums alongside bassist Ged Grimes, guitarist and keyboardist Gordy Goudie (what a name!) and keyboardist Erik Ljunggren.

The set continued with a high level of energy from both the band and the audience as they went into ‘Glittering Prize’ and ‘Promised You a Miracle’. Kerr danced around the stage, swirling his microphone in the air while giving everyone a cheesy grin to show his gratitude. During ‘Sanctify Yourself’ he got down on his knees and started to lean back, and while he worried “I’m gonna pay for that tomorrow”, his voice did not falter.

After ‘New Gold Dream (81, 82, 83, 84)’ Osei was given her time to shine (literally, in her sparkly, sequin jumpsuit) as everyone left the stage and she began an insanely impressive drum solo. Throughout the entire show, she did not tire and on many occasions used her drumsticks to point into the crowd or at her fellow bandmates, always with a glowing smile.

A change of pace came next, as the band came back onto the stage and performed an emotional rendition of ‘Belfast Child’ which is about the 1987 Enniskillen bombing. In 1989, Kerr said that the aim of the latter half of the song was to “relate to people in Northern Ireland who’ve also lost loved ones.”

The song I had been waiting for came soon after and it gave me goosebumps immediately. Upon hearing the opening riff of ‘Don’t You (Forget About Me)’ the audience went wild, and Kerr had some fun with the band’s most well-known song during the instrumental part. The “la la la la” chant of the song went on for a very long time, as the lead singer complimented the crowd: “sounding good, sounding really good…sounding like you’re going to put me out of a job!” …it carried on… “anybody got work tomorrow? I reckon some of you have been practising in the shower.” He then went into a high-pitched version of the chant, followed by a whisper of it before saying thank you and leaving the stage.

But of course, this was not the end. The band came back for a three song encore featuring ‘Book of Brilliant Things’, ‘See the Lights’, and finally ‘Alive and Kicking’. Kerr showed that he still holds the fantastic vocals he had when the band debuted in 1977 and his stage presence made everyone smile as you could tell how much he was enjoying himself.

Simple Minds’ Global Tour continues in Margate and Bude before they take on Isle of Wight Festival on 23 June! I could not recommend seeing the band live enough, even if you only know a couple of songs, because Kerr puts on such a show and welcomes everyone into the Simple Minds community.