This month I’ve been lucky to see three of the top post-punk 80s bands. U2, New Order and Simple Minds.
I love all three, they are all part of the music of my life-time and each concert was fantastic but different.
Each left me with that post-concert high, walking home amongst the crowd, people sporadically singing their favourite lines and strangers joinng in.
In Lebowskis, after the Simple Minds gig at The Hydro on Saturday, I was discussing each gig with my brother to determine who was best.
Musically, which is the main reason we were there, each band was excellent and no complaints about abilities.
As could have been predicted there were outstanding performances by The Edge and the less renowned but no less capable Charlie Burchill on guitar for SM. I was watching Charlie play, comparing him to the chords and melodies that my friends play. Charlie seem to doesn’t play melodies or chords, it’s more a wave of sound, for example the opening hypnotic bars of New Gold Dream.
NO seem to have reverted to more of an electronic sound since bassist Peter Hook left the band. No criticism at all, but as they played the same set list on each night of the tour it seemed that more of the music was preprogrammed particularly the backing tracks.
Vocally. Bernard Sumner of NO voice has gone. Not that he ever really was a singer inherenting the role on the demise of Ian Curtis when the band were previously known as Joy Division.
Jim Kerr of SM was in great form last night but I sometimes find, that it’s diffucult to make out what he’s singing particularly outwith the more popular anthems.
Noticably, some of the main sections of various songs were taken by the backing singers. Years ago this wouldnt have happened.
Bono has the undoubtedly the best voice still clear and dynamic, subtle or powerful where necessary.
This is most apparent when U2 play a quieter song, for example Each Parting Wave which disolays the softness and clarity of Bono’s vocal against The Edges solo piano and the power of his voice as the song builds.
Conparitively, neither NO or SM have that option, both belting out singalong anthems were the vocal is often overwhelmed by the music.
Although to be fair, Jim is much better vocally than Bernard and can still hold a tune as demonstrated in particular on the acoustic version of The American.
Charisma; Bono is a born front man, 90% of the time U2 are on stage you are watching him or listening to his often vague references to the political cause he’s pushing, refugees, Bloody Sunday. Fortunately he kept that fairly minimal but received vocal approval on both issues.
Jim Kerr is also a great front man, I’ve seen him perform many times in the past 30 years. What was noticeable is that he has dropped any political comment, found his self-deprecating sense of humour, for example laughing at the garish yellow coat he wore at the end of the gig and looks healthy and comfortable in his own skin. He was delighted with the reception that he and Charlie received from his home town audience.
By comparison Bernard Sumner looks uncomfortable even although he has no reason to be and received all the plaudits from the respectful the crowd. It was a bit disappointing when at the end of the final encore Blue Monday he disappeared without saying his goodbye to the crowd.
The New Albums, each band was punting their latest album and had a decent mix of killer and filler with NO playing more of their new stuff than U2 or SM.
Having listened to all three new albums before each gig, all pretty average, nothing really ever going to last or mean anything like their earlier songs of my youth.
None of these new efforts are going to tske me back to 1984 dancing to New Gold Dream, Blue Monday or Pride in the name of Love.
Thats why we are there, we will politely applaud the new stuff, listen to it on Spotify or Apple Music without actually spending money on it, yet simultaneously hope the band make a few quid from this new media methods of distribution.
The new stuff is handy for toilet breaks, particularly when the bands are playing the same set and its conveniently documented on setlist.fm so that you know when to go.
I dont know if it was because they were playing a home gig where tge Glasgow audience exoect more but The Minds varied their list a little adding in more of their hits than previous gigs on the tour.
Popularity, the most obvious difference which puts the bands in perspective in terms of popularity is the venue.
Although my opinion is based on more than bums-on-seats and includes the above aspects of musical content, vocals and charisma, there was an obvious correlation between attendance and investment in the show itself.
NO just aren’t on the same level as the other 2 bands who are much bigger globally. They played the smaller O2 Academy filling its 5000 capacity.
Comparitively, U2 and SM both played the 15000 seater Hydro, U2 conpletely filled the venue and all seats were taken including the ones purchased “best available” by my brother with only a side on view of the stage.
Fortunately for us, particularly him, U2’s put on the bigger show by a distance with a secondary stage towards the rear of the standing area, a walk-way between stages that the band performed on and HUGE screens perpendicular to the main stage that gave us punters in the not-cheap seats a fantastic view.
See my seperate blog for U2 review. Who put on the best “show” of the three.
The venue was almost full for SM with only the last few rows at the extremities of Level 2 were vacant.
This time we were on the floor 30 feet, 10 metres, from the stage, ready to rock but feeling sorry for anyone unfortunate to only have a side-on view and not able to see the screens on the main stage.
Tip – Don’t ever select the “Best Seats Available” option or you will be iffered the crap that will be the last seats you’d choose if you knew the venue.
So who was the best?
Hard decision as I enjoyed all three bands, So I’ll rephrase it .. Who would I want to see again first?
Take New Order out, they just aren’t at the same level for a host of reasons.
Perhaps the obvious choices is U2 as they are fantastic musically, vocally and tour much less frequently than Simple Minds.
But personally, I’ve loved Simple Minds since I first heard them play Life In A Day and Chelsea Girl in 1978, Grew with them through I Travel, New Gold Dream, Alive And Kicking, Promised You A Miracle etc and I’m still mesmerised by that hypnotic sound.