Simple Minds frontman Jim Kerr got some headlines (and raised some eyebrows) a few days ago when he took to his band’s Facebook page to urge New York area fans to attend their Roseland Ballroom show this Thursday night (October 24). Kerr, who at the announcement of the tour also took to Facebook to tell fans “Should these shows be less than well attended, it is most unlikely that we will get another opportunity to return.”
This week’s message was: “Re: Thursday’s upcoming show in NYC. Uh….maybe with a capacity of 3,300, that was a little adventurous, or putting it frankly, we still need to have a lot more people to turn up in order to make the kind of red hot atmosphere we all would want to ensure a great last night in North America – and a great way to end this fantastic series of dates. Therefore, if any of your friends ‘are thinking of coming down,’ try and get them to seal the deal and come down.”
It was an uncommonly frank way to address the audience and the situation, so Radio.com got Kerr on the phone to discuss the tour, and what it means for the band’s future in America. “It’s been like, eleven years or something (since we played America),” Kerr said, “And there was lots of reasons for that. (But) We were playing eerywhere else around the world. Our fans here were – rightfully – feeling gipped. I started to wonder, ‘Will we ever get a chance to play America again?’ And then when we got a chance, I thought, ‘Well, this better work – or the promoters won’t ask us back.’” He’s quick to point out that his Facebook post from the summer wasn’t a threat to fans, although some may have interpreted it that way.
“I said, ‘If you can come to these shows, do come. Because kind of everything hinges on it.’ It was more a rallying call than an ultimatum. I was telling it like it was. And lo and behold, people have come. People responded well to my rallying call. All the shows have sold out exccept the other night in New Jersey, which was 85% (sold out).”
So what happened with the Roseland Ballroom? “I think the promoters were a little too advernturous, doing two gigs in a 50 mile radius,” referencing the fact that the New Jersey show, at the Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank, isn’t too far from Manhattan. “I think we would have sold out Roseland, but having done a couple thousand in New Jersey the other night, that may have been a bit much. So I had no qualms getting on Facebook and asking fans to give their friends a ‘nudge.’ I didn’t do it in a desperate way, and I think the fans appreciate the candor.”
Kerr realizes that, while many of his fans discovered his band via college rock radio in the ’80s and are familiar with their entire career, there’s also lots of people who became fans via their MTV-era hits like “Alive And Kicking,” “All The Things She Said,” and, of course, “Don’t You Forget About Me.”"Well, you know, it is what it is. We had five albums out in most of the world before we had a domestic release in America. We never got the chance to grow organically here, becuase this moster hit landed in our laps (“Don’t You Forget About Me”)… and we’re not gonna complain about that, either!”
The show is billed as a “greatest hits” tour, but he points out that the concert is more than just their MTV smashes. “Last night in Montreal, we started with a brand new song (“Broken Glass Park”), which went down like a storm. We played songs from our third album (1980′s) Empires And Dance, and our fourth album (1981′s) Sons And Fascination, sprkinled among the big songs that people would want to hear from that MTV time, and there’s no lull, there’s no one dispapering through the doors to buy a hot dog. Even if you don’t know (all) the songs, they’re based on grooves that suck you in. We play two sets, we change three or four songs every night. In America, the set is slanted towards the MTV years, but we also throw in a few songs to give a nod to the kids that were listening to college radio and buying the imports. We try, and want to, keep everyone happy.”
As a music fan growing up, Kerr identifies with the obsessives who searched out every b-side (obviously a bit more difficult in the pre-internet era): “We love those people, they had to seek us out. we weren’t rammed down their throat. But on the other hand, I got in a taxi the other day, and the driver said, ‘Oh I love that song, we played it at our wedding!’ I said, ‘Do you know our other songs?’ He said ‘No,’ but that’s fine. If you even know one, that’s great.”
In conversation, Kerr comes off as grateful for his place in life and in music. “People walk around with a history of music in their pocket on iPods. If you’ve got even one of our songs there among the Beatles and everything else, I can’t complain.”
As for the Roseland gig, well, tickets are still available as of press time. But the bigger news is that the tour has been a success.
“This reigniting of our relationship with our US fans has been a great experiment. It worked out,” he says. “We are going to come back. This (tour) has only been six dates, but it’s turned our heads. We now think there’s no reason why North America wouldn’t be on our schedule every time we tour, and this was the first step toward that.”
– Brian Ives, Radio.com