SCOTTISH rock heavyweights Simple Minds christened No.1 Sportsground as the new home of the Newcastle 500 Supercars concert in style on Saturday night by delivering a scintillating performance.
While the estimated crowd figure of 10,000 was half of what Australian pub rock legends Cold Chisel attracted to the Newcastle Foreshore at last year’s concert, the Cooks Hill cricket ground proved far more comfortable for punters.
As a consequence, it was a more congenial atmosphere as Supercars race-goers enjoyed the ’80s legends as well as Australian acts Birds Of Tokyo and The Delta Riggs.
The crowd was filled with families, an even a sleeping baby with ear muffs in the second row. But this was still a rock concert, and the crowd let their hair down.
During Birds Of Tokyo’s set a giant boot was tossed onto the stage, followed by chants of “shoey, shoey.” Bassist Ian Berney wasn’t going to deny the motor racing ritual. He poured a beer into the boot, chugged it down and then tossed it back into the crowd.
The mild spring night, combined with the bright full moon provided the ideal backdrop for Simple Minds to celebrate the final concert of their 2018 world tour.
Less than a fortnight ago Simple Minds wrapped up the American leg of their tour and they hit their stride from the opening track, The Signal and The Noise.
Lead singer Jim Kerr might possess one too many daggy dad moves in his stage routine – namely his wristy microphone twirl – but even at 59 his velvety baritone has maintained its richness.
It didn’t hurt that he was accompanied by an impressive rhythm section. Drummer Cherisse Osei was a powerhouse and gave a modern and propulsive energy to old tracks like Waterfront and Love Song, which were released before she was born.
The appreciative Newcastle crowd even gave her a “Cheri, Cheri” chant.
Similarly, backing singer Sarah Brown gave Love Song a delightful soul vibe lacking in the original.
It was the throbbing bass and drums which drove the majority of Simple Minds’ set, which spanned from the 1981 breakthrough album Sons and Fascination/Sister Feelings Call up to their most recent album Walk Between Worlds, released last February.
This allowed founding member and lead guitarist Charlie Burchill to provide the colour with his flourishes of guitar licks.
“Can you believe we came all this way from Glasgow for one gig,” Kerr said in his thick Scottish accent.
He then rubbed his fingers together as if counting wads of cash. “It’s for Charlie’s mum.”
Midway through the set the momentum slackened during new track Sense Of Discovery and She’s A River.
It didn’t last long. Unfairly, Simple Minds are often remembered for one song, and one they didn’t actually write, Don’t You (Forget About Me). The opening “hey, hey, hey, hey” ignited the crowd, young and old, to sing and point their smart phones at the stage.
Kerr dragged out the song with crowd participation and it diminished its power to a degree. Simple Minds always sounded better when they were at full throttle.
Thankfully they returned to that pace in the encore, which featured fan favourites Alive and Kicking and Sanctify Yourself.
Earlier, Delta Riggs worked hard in front of a paltry crowd as Shane van Gisbergen had only just crossed the finish line to claim the penultimate Supercars race and the buses were yet to arrive.
It’s hard to shake the idea that Delta Riggs would have been more successful in the early 2000s, cutting their teeth next to Jet.
The crowd significantly grew for Birds Of Tokyo, who delivered a set of their most radio-friendly material like Plans, Lanterns, Broken Bones and Anchor.
Vocalist Ian Kenny was in fine form.
As far as maiden performances go No.1 Sportsground passed the test and presented a more laid-back atmosphere than the Foreshore.
With American rock superstars Kiss scheduled to headline the third edition of the Newcastle 500 concert, it’s only going to grow bigger in 2019.