B-52's & Simple Minds

By Leah Victoria

Artist: B-52's & Simple Minds

Date / Venue: Tuesday February 14th, 2017 - Vector Arena, Auckland

A damp and muggy Valentines evening in Auckland, and droves of couples are making their way towards Vector Arena after pre loading on cheap wine in the car park. Tonight we are preparing to hear the sounds of 70’S American New Wave band The B-52’s and Scotland’s biggest selling rock band stemming from the same era, Simple Minds.

Although a contrasting line up, it sounded like a great combination for a night of reminiscing and reliving younger days.

Admittedly I arrived a little bit late, to a seated arrangement at Vector Arena only to find the seats surplus to requirements. The whole crowd were on their feet and listening intently as front man Jim Kerr delivered his famous half singing/half talking lyrics.

The first half of their set was full of songs I didn’t recognise. Maybe they were newer, or maybe I’m just a little younger than tonight’s 40-60-year-old demographic, but I could feel a slight sense of impatience as the crowd waited for the catalogue of well know anthems from their 5 UK number one albums to begin.

We didn’t have to wait too long, soon enough the 7-piece band including 2 female vocalists launched into their long list of hits, including 1982’s Hunter and The Hunted, Once Upon a Time and All the Things She Said.

The band seemed genuinely stoked to be in Auckland tonight, with constant grins and interaction with each other on the stage, they performed like it was the 90’s and the energy created between them was fully absorbed by all.

Mel Gaynor dubbed “the best drummer in the world” by Kerr performed solidly from the slight left of the stage. It was great seeing him placed alongside the rest of the band rather than being tucked away at the back, and the stage set up gave a real sense of unity. Guitarist Charlie Burchill was clearly having a ball, and stayed nice and close to his audience throughout the set and bassist Ged Grimes stood tall at the far side with a look of total concentration and appreciation for the turn out tonight.

I loved the 7-minute-long rendition of Don’t You (forget about me), there’s something really special about so many people singing La La La La at the top of their lungs reinforcing my belief in music being a universal language.

Simple Minds went off tonight, sounded phenomenal and there were grown men dancing in the aisles!

After a short intermission, and some time to queue at the bar, it was time for The B52’s to take the stage.

I honestly didn’t realise these guys were still going! I mean seriously, this is their 40th anniversary! How old are they?!! Walking onto the stage looking nothing like anyone even close to retirement, these 70’s rockers launched straight into Shake It, Shimmy. In a blink of an eye, Vector Arena had transformed into an old American diner, with fans munching pizzas and hot chips, jukebox style.

The B52’s are so innovative with their sounds, there really is nothing else like it in this world. With the Tin Roof Rusting cowbell, a toy xylophone and a cartoonish sounding whistle like those found in Christmas crackers, gives them a fun and unique edge.

Kate Pierson, more red headed than ever before, and Cindy Wilson with her famous bleached blonde bouffant looked and sounded as fresh as the day they stormed Georgia in 1976. Together with Fred Schneider and his instantly recognisable voice, they battled it out in a guy vs girls call and response vibe.

Long standing guitarist Keith Strickland has met his match in current touring bassist Tracy Wormworth as they constantly came together centre stage and duelled. Sterling Campbell on drums was pretty freaking epic. This guys armsseem to have a life of their own, and he played like he was one of the permanent fixtures in this band, and James Romanzo took control of the signature sound of tinkling keys perfectly.

They played all the classics!  Lava, Deadbeat Club, Roam, Rock Lobster, and of course Love Shack!

Although I felt like 50% of the audience were on a date they’d rather not be on, and a chunk of the crowd disappeared after Simple Minds, the rockabilly party atmosphere was not dampened!

Tonight was all smiles, singing and dancing. A band that can span 4 decades and still fill an arena on the other side of the world, that’s the kind of band that I love to see! I never dreamed I’d ever get to hear my high school anthem Love Shack played live to such a big crowd, this night was one of those bucket list items!