Some Brits got browner than others at the end of the hottest week on record. Purely red.
A gentle rain is falling on a Friday evening in Scarborough, so there is little evidence of the recent hot.
I, like many others, have been a fan of Mick Hucknall and his band ever since we first heard THAT voice on their breakout track.
Holding Back the Years was written for an older man, not a child in an Ecky Thump hat. (Ask your parents… alright, your grandparents; it’s a Goodies reference).
One of the most significant contributions Mick has made to the music industry in recent decades is his voice. But how much of that was just studio magic? Is it possible that he’s that good in person?
He could have sounded like a karaoke singer and we still would have driven the 50 miles to one of my fave venues. When the opportunity to see Simply Red in concert presented itself, there was no question in my mind.
There is plenty of time to eat a hot dog and get comfortable in our seats before the main event begins after the opening act, Cassidy Janson, finishes her set as we arrive.
At 8:30, most of Simply Red takes the stage to whoops and cheers from the crowd.
The rest of the band sings, “Look at you nowwwww,” having gotten tighter than a t-shirt from 2019 has any right to be. There must be thousands of eager admirers waiting for Sir Hucknall on board. That song from Picture Book, originally released in 1985, sounds both ancient and futuristic at the same time. Their seemingly endless popularity can be attributed to the fact that so many of their songs are classics.
Some of the most inebriated concertgoers in the audience are already on their feet and dancing as Mick takes the stage.
As he begins to sing, I find myself wondering how on Earth a human being is capable of producing vocals of that calibre. When I was younger, the songs “Holding Back the Years” and “Money’s Too Tight to Mention” really stood out to me. Yes, all your favourites and the old standbys are here.
Amazing to be back in the Arctic. So nice to have you here tonight. “I really appreciate it,” Mick says with enthusiasm. Even though it’s 40 degrees outside, I’m going to pretend it’s sunny outside. As he begins to play “She’s Got it Bad” from his multiplatinum album Stars, he jokes, “Ohh sweltering today isn’t it?”
The computerised graphic equaliser effect used as a backdrop for the band is rather basic. Nothing fancy, but it does the trick nicely.
Finally, the year 1988… I’ll let you all finish. “Try to see if you know this one,” Mick challenges.
Live, “A New Flame” is incredible, especially with her voice; my mouth is agape as one of my fave songs plays. There isn’t a single misstep, misspoken line, or dull moment in the entire performance. Hucknall has perfected his ability to work an audience over the course of several decades. And when the crowd joins in with the classics, it’s a great moment.
“Sing it up there,” Mick motions to us in the stands. There’s no need to urge us too much.
In 1992, I spent twenty pounds on a CD of Stars and, like millions of other listeners, played “Your Mirror” over and over. Where the previous 30 years have gone, nobody knows, but that was a fantastic performance of a lovely song.
At the start of Holding Back the Years, time travel takes over completely. Many of us are transported to the mid-1980s, where we are singing along to one of the most emotionally resonant songs ever written.
Mick tries to take our minds off the light rain by transporting us to a Jamaican beach where we drink the native lager, and then he launches into Night Nurse lore. It’s fitting, as by the end of the night many of us have a tickle in our throats from belting out our favourite songs.
Of course I don’t love every song, but there’s so much fantastic stuff here that I’m pumped during the majority of the performance.
Of course “It’s Only Love” is a classic, but I think Mr. Hucknall could also sing “My Old Man’s a Dustman” and give it a depth and richness that wasn’t there before.
It takes a second for the connection to be made when Mick gestures towards the twilight sky. But then ‘Stars’ comes on and holy cow. What an amazing adventure.
Sunrise is great too, especially the part where it transitions into Hall and Oates’s “I Can’t Go For That.”
Something Got Me Started” is another old favourite of mine that still holds up well today.
Hucknall has great wit, and his stories about his time working with Barry White are priceless. The fact that there are thousands of us here makes no difference. The thrill of striking up a conversation with an intriguing stranger in a bar is replicated.
When the encore rolls along and we’re treated to a couple more old favourites, it’s natural to wonder if we’d ever get to see them again. Unlike another band I love but felt rather removed from at the same arena recently, I have no doubts about seeing Simply Red perform. Make it a goal in life to see them perform live if you haven’t already.
On a dreary, cloudy night, props to Mick and company for performing like young, vibrant stars. Outstanding.
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