On Friday evening, around 12,000 fans cheered for the British cult band Simply Red in the almost packed Wiener Stadthalle. But instead of soft cuddly hits and romance, Mick Hucknall and Co. focused on a lot of funk, disco and good humour. Just the soundtrack to a party night. On Sunday, Simply Red are still playing in the Graz Stadthalle.
The tickets say “Blue Eyed Soul” tour, but from this, the latest album Simply Reds, there isn’t a single track to be heard on the concert evening. These are the peculiarities of the corona pandemic that are still buzzing through the scene. Originally, the British cult redhead Mick Hucknall and his buddies wanted to present some material from his late work, which was published in 2019 and was really successful, but the timing was unintentionally bad and the work will be rather go down in the history of the band as a forgotten footnote. Instead, the septet from Manchester simply goes for “All The Hits Live” and does Vienna a special favor – instead of wallowing too much in ballads, Hucknall has spontaneously adapted the set list that has been in place for weeks and focuses on speed and momentum. Vocally superbFree after the According to his motto “Friday Night Is Party Night”, the band gets off to a flying start with “Look At You Now” and “She’s Got It Bad”, before their foot comes off the gas pedal for the first time, at least for a short time, with “Thrill Me”. Hucknall charmed the visibly enthusiastic ladies with skin-tight leather pants, a T-shirt with the sympathetic imprint “No Nationalities” and a clearly slimmer line compared to the last Vienna rendezvous in 2015. At 62, the bard looks incredibly fit, but what is most relevant is his flawless vocal range. Where former greats like Bon Jovi croak through their stadium concerts with great effort, Hucknall catches the highest notes with bravura in songs like the top hit “Holding Back The Years” or “Your Mirror”. Anything but a matter of course with the songs, some of which are incredibly difficult to sing. Simply Red doesn’t need brilliant pyro effects or confetti cannons, the power of the music is completely sufficient. The stage has the character of a Las Vegas show, flanked by two massive video walls, while four cuboids directly behind provide moving and transformable moving images. Again and again sunsets, pinball machines, globes or impressions from the old days slide across the screen and despite the optically accurate video amplification, all eyes are on the main protagonist. The sunglasses fit perfectly, the red curly hair almost in Robert Smith’s bird’s nest look and on top of that completely unembarrassing hip swings. In addition, the Brit is blessed with an enviably loose mouth and a lot of shame. When he introduces his guitarist Kenji Suzuki, the self-confessed football fan can’t resist a tip in the direction of the World Cup: “Japanese kicks German and Spanish ass.” “Never Never Love” reminds Hucknall of his collaboration with the Jamaican musician and producer duo Sly & Robbie. Robbie Shakespeare died almost a year ago as a result of kidney surgery, which is why Hucknall dedicates today’s concert evening to his old friend. Again and again, brisk disco beats follow rapid funk salvos, the usual reserved Viennese audience takes its time with the big cheers, but at the latest they warm up with the very successful Barry White cover “It’s Only Love Doing It’s Thing”. Yes, Simply Red are broadly a ballad and covers band, but Hucknall and his knowledgeable cronies make themselves a snappy song like Homer Banks’ “Ain’t That A Lot Of Love” or the classic The Valentine Brothers cover ” Money’s Too Tight (To Mention)” with the art of playing and joy. Another immense advantage of this evening is the unusually crystal-clear sound for the location, which is particularly evident in the top hits such as “Stars”, “Sunrise” or “Something Got Me Started” proves to be an accurate auxiliary weapon. Hucknall loves Vienna and vice versa. If the singer needs a short breather during his numbers, trumpet and saxophone are on hand for expert solos. With “Fairground” the last seated people finally rip off their chairs. At some point nobody can resist the big hits anymore. At the beginning of the encore section, Simply Red try to mix a brand new number called “Better With You” with audience interaction in the chorus. It works well, but the song itself is unfortunately only a tired imitation of the big hits of that time. With the smug anthem “If You Don’t Know Me By Now” (a cover, of course) a really high-quality, but with 90 minutes playing time also very short evening full of top hits ends. In spite of everything: a bit of the new album wouldn’t have hurt.Sonntag in GrazThe “time of his life” was also supported by the likeable Austrian Luke Andrews and his band. He is not only a guest on the Simply Red tour in Vienna, but also a large part of the entire European tour between Paris and Budapest. A good opportunity to test songs like “Laura” or “Coming Home”, which are very successful on local radio, in front of a really large audience, which thankfully doesn’t send the very well-rehearsed band to hell, but lets themselves be carried away by the nice songs and honestly meant applause of respect. In between, Andrews tells sympathetic stories about fulfilled dreams and bird acquaintances in lockdown. Simply Red and the Luke Andrews Band can also be seen at Graz Stadthalle on Sunday, December 4th. There are still a few remaining tickets left – it pays off!