Five songs into their set, Simple Minds singer Jim Kerr smiled at the audience and said, after taking a deep breath, “We’re exhausted already!”
He was kidding, of course, though it would be understandable if Kerr and the rest of the band needed to slow their heart rates after an opening blitz that included “Waterfront,” “Love Song” and “Up on the Catwalk.”
Decades after their last visit to Atlanta, Simple Minds returned on Monday, packing the Tabernacle and unleashing a barrage of material from their solid new album, “Walk Between Worlds,” as well as fan favorites (and U.K. hits) spanning their career from 1980 through the ‘00s.
At 59, Kerr proved a flexible and affable frontman. He was a constant whirl of motion – squatting, stretching, clapping – and doing it all with a crinkle-eyed smile.
He talked about the band’s Sunday night dinner in Atlanta, recounted an amusing (and possibly true?) story about a plane seatmate mistaking him for a member of Simply Red and graciously thanked the audience for their loyalty.
Those who have been waiting 20-plus years to experience Simple Minds in concert must have relished hearing the crisp guitar and thumping bass line – courtesy of original guitarist Charlie Burchill and bassist since 2010 Ged Grimes – of 1982’s “Promised You a Miracle” and the tongue twisting “The American.”
Even new material, such as “Sense of Discovery” with its shades of “Alive and Kicking” during the vocal interplay between backup singer Sarah Brown and Kerr, flourished.
Kerr sounded fantastic throughout the two-set concert, his voice creamy and booming, his trademark Scottish burr coating many lyrics. But the band, which also included guitarist/keyboardist Gordy Goudie and ace drummer Cherisse Osei - whom Kerr teased, “wasn’t born the last time we were here” – elevated Simple Minds’ sound to maximum effect.
The backdrop to the stage – three sets of light panels – was simple, but effective. Really, when you have Kerr twirling the microphone overhead while simultaneously moving his feet in circles and singing the moody, synth-rooted “Hunter and the Hunted,” what other effects do you need?
Although Simple Minds is known to casual music fans for their one gigantic, massive, inescapable, eternal hit – “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” from the soundtrack to “The Breakfast Club” (and yes, it was played) – Monday’s concert was a reminder of the potency of their expansive catalog.
And not only their other U.S. hits such as the blazing soul-rock of “All the Things She Said” and show-closer “Sanctify Yourself,” but their 2004 cover of “Dirty Old Town,” a rootsy read presented by the captivating Brown, and 1991’s layered acoustic and electric guitar-flavored “Stand By Love,” a mélange of gospel, soul and pop that explodes into a patented Simple Minds chorus.
The second set of the concert opened with a blanket of flashing strobe lights and chiming guitars – the 1981 instrumental “Theme for Great Cities” – but within moments, Kerr was back onstage in a new shirt, ready to tackle the atmospheric “She’s a River,” and twisting his microphone overhead with notable glee.
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