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Concert review: Simple Minds at L.A.'s Orpheum Theater, Oct. 15, 2003

Simple Minds frontman Jim Kerr was pretty direct when they announced their short North American tour earlier this year: If you want to see a bigger tour, come see this one. Some people took that as an ultimatum but let's be realistic - the economics have to be there to interest promoters. Last night at the Orpheum Theater in Los Angeles the band did more than enough to make their case.

There is no opening act for this tour and so when the lobby lights flashed the crowd streamed into the hall to the opening strains of Broken Glass Park, one of two new tracks on the recent Greatest Hits + release. The stage filled with fog and suddenly there was Jim Kerr, weaving and gliding around the stage like he had been transported in from 1985 - a little older, maybe a little wiser, but no less potent a singer or showman.

With a 50-track greatest hits package to promote, the set list was impressive. After opening with one of the two new tracks on the collection, they moved into more familiar territory with a block of tunes including Waterfront, Up On The Catwalk, and All the Things She Said before stepping it down a notch for Mandela Day.

During this track large swaths of the audience stepped out to refresh their drinks or themselves, leading Kerr to thank the rest of the audience for sticking with them before pointing out that we should save some energy because there was, in his words, "a lot of music left." Another highlight of their first set was a cover of Let The Day Begin, originally performed by The Call. Perhaps it's strange to find a cover in the midst of a set like this, but I enjoy a glimpse into what tracks a band likes or feels connected to, and Simple Minds gave the song great flavor.

The second set opened with I Travel and moved through another litany of mainstay songs, playing Someone Somewhere in Summertime, She's A River, and Love Song before arriving at what I thought was the most powerful performance of the evening, See The Lights.

The ringing, open chords and the lyrics bemoaning a lost love seemed to soak into the audience, Jim Kerr and '80s Nation acknowledging together that summer is perhaps gone. On the heels of this soaring anthem to heartbreak, it was fitting that the bridge led into Don't You (Forget About Me). You could feel the crowd exhale as we all surged to our feet to sing along with Jim Kerr, who cheerfully led us all through a singalong of what may be the definitive anthem of the '80s. They closed the set with Promised You A Miracle before quickly vanishing from stage in preparation for the obligatory encore.

The encore opened with the instrumental Theme for Great Cities (which of course I personally interpreted as a nod to Los Angeles), presumably to give Kerr a moment for a costume change and a sip or two of water, before closing out the night with Sanctify Yourself and Alive And Kicking.

Bottom line, this was a great concert by a band that is absolutely hitting their spots and having a great time doing it. The band was tight and seemed to be enjoying themselves; Jim Kerr not only sounds great but was an absolute presence onstage, working the crowd like a seasoned pro, tossing his microphone cable over his shoulder to strike a pose or lead the clapping. He waved, shook hands, and shouted out "Thank you for making us feel so welcome!"

No Jim, thank you. Thank you for caring enough to do justice to your music.

The full setlist can be found here. Simple Minds' current tour continues in northeast US and Canada this week.