A representative of a music production company once told my favorite lady Yasmin that Simple Minds would not be about to mount a tour of the United States. They wanted too much money for their current place in the echelon of UK bands, the rep said.
It was quite satisfying then to see this fellow proved wrong as the 9:30 Club solidly sold out its $40-a-ticket show of the Glasgow quintet, who were in fine form for a 35th anniversary greatest hits tour. Vocalist Jim Kerr and company only hit seven dates in North America, so it was doubly satisfying that D.C. was on the tour bill.
I went to the show hoping that the band would not neglect its earlier material in favor of radio staples that got them noticed in the United States after “Don’t You (Forget About Me),” the number one hit they logged from The Breakfast Club soundtrack. As the band broke through here, their sound shifted direction to my ear away from the synth-driven music they embraced in their earlier albums toward soulful arena rock. While pleasing nevertheless, I do not find those radio hits like “Alive and Kicking” as satisfying as some of the material more obscure to Americans.
Paul Humphreys and Andy McCluskey (Photo courtesy Big Hassle)
For my money, one of the top five acts at the Coachella Valley Music Festival this past April was Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, or OMD. The synthpop band was in top form, performing fresh with the release of its latest album, English Electric. This new album is a little more mellow than the jaunty History of Modern, released in 2010 after the reformation of the classic OMD lineup of vocalist and guitarist Andy McCluskey, keyboardist Paul Humphreys, drummer Malcolm Holmes and keyboardist Martin Cooper.
OMD return to the 9:30 Club to promote their new album on Saturday, July 13. With English Electric, OMD have gone straight back to their love of Kraftwerk, paying homage to the German electronic pioneers in particular on their song “Metroland,” which clearly has influences of Kraftwerk’s “Endless Europe.” The new single “Dresden” recalls some of the very best of OMD’s work like “Enola Gay” and “Joan of Arc.”
Midge Ure perhaps is more famous in the United States for being behind the scenes — helping to organize Live Aid and to write “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”, the perennial holiday song aimed at famine relief in Africa.
But the Scot has a robust singing career in the United Kingdom and recently reunited with the band Ultravox, which put out a brilliant new album, titled Brilliant, last year.
As a likely precursor to an Ultravox tour of the United States, Ure is conducting a solo tour right now, performing both solo songs and some classic Ultravox tunes, in a 16-date tour of the United States and Canada. Tonight, he performs a second show in Toronto before hitting Cleveland Wednesday. (The closest he got to DC was Philadelphia, where this reporter traveled to see him last Thursday.)