Scotland – Two Gigs In Antitheses (For A Girl From The Antipodes)

It all started very early. About two and a half years ago, in fact. These two gigs, Aberdeen and Glasgow, were originally scheduled to happen a few months apart. I can’t even remember the original dates now – but I think Glasgow was in April and Aberdeen was for August. Then the shit hit the proverbial in March 2020 and numerous reschedules saw the two gigs placed a day apart. Taking all logistical factors into account, the best option for Aberdeen seemed to be to drive – so the theory went!

We (me and the OH – the only driver in this relationship) set off at 10.15 am. I had arranged to get a Ultimate Fan Experience ticket from my friend, Thomas. Information sent out to Ultimate Fan/Soundcheck Experience ticket holders stated that registration for the VIP experiences would take place between 3.30pm and 4.25pm – ie: get your butt there by 4.25 AT THE LATEST! 

The travelling started well. We got to Dundee in good time, arriving around 12.15. We stopped at an ASDA on the outskirts of the city. One with charging bays so we could top up the EV we hired. That was the theory! In practice…? Firstly, the charge points at the ASDA were not compatible with the connector to our EV. So I searched for another. There was one a mile away. Great! Nothing much lost in having to travel a mile along the road to the next one…. Except, that mile was done in crawling traffic and then I followed the Google Maps navigation to a T and it gave me the wrong entrance point for the garage where the charge point was. By the time we got into that garage, about 45 minutes had elapsed. 

No worries! It’s a fast charge point. It’ll get us topped in no time at all! Except…it wasnae working. Fuck! Okay….where’s the next one? Camperdown Leisure centre. Okay! It’s only another mile away. The charge point was the wrong type. Then to Camperdown Country Park. Too slow! Then, FINALLY to one by a community centre in the east of the city. We sat there for…I can’t even remember how long….maybe an hour…possibly. FREEZING TO DEATH.

Anyway, we topped up enough to get us to Aberdeen. JUST enough. We spent the rest of the journey looking at the miles we had left to travel compared to the charge left in mileage on the car. And the time it would take to get to the P&J Live arena. If it all went okay from this point, I would get there about 4.15pm. Real touch and go shit.

We make it to the P&J car park with SEVEN MILES of charge left and we arrived at 4.12. I was BUSTING for the loo! I get to the VIP registration desk and get myself checked in. Then I head straight for the ladies. I find Thomas and his wife in the queue to go into the arena for the soundcheck. I’m relieved to have made it but am so worried that the OH will not find a fast charge point to charge the car up – especially with the limited range left. I left her in a complete state of panic about how critically low the car’s charge is. It’s all I can think about.  

I want to be excited to be there but my worry for the OH and the car and her anxiety and my own stupid anxiety of being in front of Jim for the first time in over two years is just churning me up inside and making me want to wretch. Having made it to the meet and greet on time was no comfort. I felt guilty for my relief at making it, and guiltier still for putting my OH through this kind of crap. And on top of all that, if I got an “icy” vibe from Jim…? That would just make the day a hell.

The soundcheck was great. Very relaxed. There were some great questions asked and Jim had the rest of the band engage in the Q and A. I wish I could remember the question the lady asked that I liked the most – but I was in such a state at the point, I’m surprised I can remember any of it!

Jim and Charlie at Aberdeen meet and greet. (Meet and greetin’ in my case.)

The soundcheck ends, and those on the soundcheck experience only leave the arena for those partaking in the meet and greet to stay behind. I was the penultimate turn. I nearly tripped over the step of the barrier on the way to being stood in front of Jim and Charlie. I said some gobbledegook of some kind – trying to form words, not really being able to look at either of them. And before I know it, I am being asked to face the camera for a couple of photos and are then given my marching orders. 

Worry and stress all got the better of me. I was so low at that point…I probably misread things. I dunno. The day felt cold…

Our seat were side on to the stage. The P&J is a strange shaped arena. I’m not sure I like the arena set up much, in all honesty. Theatres and those approximately 3000-5000 capacity venues are what I like most. 

The venue wasn’t to capacity. I’d say it was maybe three quarters full. The band sounded great! Security were having fun controlling some people in the crowd and a scene kicked off right by where we were seated to the degree where I Travel was completely interrupted for me. 

Celebrate wasn’t though. And Jim did his sexy “she rag doll” delivery – which  I liked (understatement!).

The audience in Aberdeen were otherwise quite subdued. The acoustics in the place was pretty good. It’s a strange rectangular shape. 

As for the band themselves? Amazing. Like they had not had a two year enforced break from performing AT ALL. The only hiccup during the whole night was just at the start of the second verse of Belfast Child, Jim’s mic cut out on him. It took all of 60 seconds (quick as a flash!) for a guy to come running on stage with a replacement. They started the song again from scratch and it was perfect!

In the state I was in, I had tears rolling down my face for Hunter And The Hunted, and again for Someone Somewhere In Summertime.

I had the briefest of chats to GG (Olvier Gerard) afterwards and he gave me a setlist, which I was grateful to receive. 

I left the arena with a heavy heart. A mix of relief, anxiety, dread and melancholy that I was worried that I wouldn’t get to shake for Glasgow. 

The guesthouse we were staying at was only a couple of miles from the P&J. The OH was able to collect me from the underground car park she dropped me off at. We were at the guesthouse around 11.15pm and we were settled in bed just after midnight, hopeful of a restful sleep for an early setout the next morning. 

The view from the room in Aberdeen.

The day started sunny in Aberdeen. I was only mildly hopeful that it was a sign. A sign that, if nothing else, the journey home would be smoother. We set off at 7.45am. We had a near to fully charged car (with a 3 mile critically low charge the night before – the OH finally found a working fast charge station and got the car back up to 95% capacity) – more than enough to get us to Dundee safely and with plenty of time on our side.

We were going to head straight to the chargepoint that worked out for us in Dundee the previous day. We got there just after 9am, but the charger was being used by someone else, so the search began again. This time I knew exactly what type of charger to look for and found another set of chargers just a couple of miles away from where we were. It had FIVE charge bays – and rapid ones too. We got there and were able to make 50% recharge in around an hour. It gave us more than enough charge and buffer in reserve to get us back to Glasgow.

We got home at around 12.30pm, drained but thankful to be home in plenty of time with an uneventful drive. Time for me to chill a bit. Have a coffee, a shower and just get myself prepped for the Hydro gig. 

VIP goody bag – Aberdeen – meet and greet goody bags have gold labeled envelopes with a signed poster – soundcheck posters are unsigned in a silver labeled envelope.

I didn’t want to turn up late again, so I had the OH drop me by the Hydro at at 3.45pm. I go in, get to the VIP registration desk and the lady serving me says “your question has been chosen for the Q and A today”. She hands me a piece of paper and says “Here’s your question. Erm, hang on…that’s your name, isn’t it?” – pointing to my name on the sheet. I had forgotten the ticket was booked in my OH’s name and so my name wasn’t matching up with the name on the VIP list. “Yes, that’s me. My partner booked the ticket for me.” “Oh, right. Okay, that’s great. If you could make sure that you stand by that popcorn kiosk just over there by 4.20pm so I can take all the people asking questions in together as a group, that will be great.”

Before she showed me the paper in my head I’m thinking “I’m going to get to ask Charlie a question, that’ll be fun!” as I had put questions in for both Jim and Charlie separately. And so…I just assumed it would be a question I had asked Charlie that got chosen, but when she showed me the paper, I saw it was my question for Jim that got picked. Oh, holy fucking shit!!!! After the embarrassing crap and that…vibe I thought I felt in Aberdeen the day before, I now had to have a microphone thrust in my face so I could ask Jim a question!!! OMFG!

Then the fun begins! I keep reading the question. Trying to implant it in my head so I wouldn’t have to open the page up and ask him – I’d just be ready. But with each read, the more it was galvanising the realisation that I would have to speak directly to him! 

Two ladies were standing around the popcorn stand with me. After a while one of them asked “was your question picked too?” “Yes”, I said. “Are you nervous?”, she asks. I nod a yes. “Aaw, you’ll be fine! I bet you have a way better question to ask than me. Mine’s a silly one. I can’t even believe it got chosen! They mustn’t have had many to choose from.” I said, “Hey, they couldn’t have thought it that silly, otherwise it wouldn’t have been picked.” “Oh, no”, she said, “it’s really stupid.” But it wasn’t, it was a fab question!

I’m freaking out in the soundcheck. Again, worried how Jim will react when he sees me there – AGAIN! Pretty sure I’m a main contender for the “Stalker of the Decade” award or something. I’d be sick of the sight of me, that’s for sure! I know my question will be asked of me last which of course just ramps up all the anxiety and nausea. I try and wash it away so I can enjoy everything else, take in everyone else’s questions and take in the songs – watch Jim without being soooo obvious it hurts. 

There’s a French lady that asks a question before me, and they took some time answering that. When the questions are more broad, Jim opens it up for the rest of the band to reply. So, I know it’s the penultimate question and as the band are giving their responses, my heart rate has jumped to 120+ BMP. It actually feels like it is going to break out of my chest. It’ll be my turn next. I see the lady with the mic extending the pole so it can reach me – that heightens my anxiety further. All through the soundcheck I am saying my question over and over. “Get the wording right! Don’t fluff it! Don’t stumble over your words. DON’T DO YOUR NERVOUS LAUGH!” 

Here we go…crunch time! Mic in my face…I start with “Urm” – sssoooo professional! “Which line of a Simple Minds lyric are you most proud of having written?” I said it right, yes!! Here it comes! I know he’s gonna make a thing about me using the word “proud” – I know he will. But…how else do I ask this question? What other word can I use in its place?

BINGO! My brain is in meltdown right now so I can’t remember his exact words…but he said something about me choosing the word “proud”. I knew you would, Jim (as if he’s here. Lol) – I just knew you would! 

Didn’t know how else to ask it. And I had so many other scenarios in my head of how the reply would go. I kind of expected a slightly evasive response – in a way hoping that maybe the question would be batted back to me with a “what’s YOUR favourite line?” He might have been too scared I’d say “semi-monde” lol, or “she rag doll” or …. I dunno. But had it come back to me, I was ready – because for the past couple of years it has been “when the other side of midnight calls, remind me I’m glad to be here”. 

It didn’t come back to me – and in my daze I don’t remember how it all went (that…overwhelmed immediate mind blank I get when things mean far too much) but he mentioned misheard lyrics and spoke of a lady thanking him for writing her (then) 4 year old daughter’s favourite song. A song her daughter called the “Sadie Song”. “Why does she call it the Sadie Song”? “Because she thinks the words are Sadie One, Sadie Two, Sadie Three…” It was sweet. How could I not smile? My heart slowly melting away and my anxiety subsiding, just a little. Was I fully at ease? No! Was I enjoying it? In a weird sadistic sense, yes. Did it feel like a weight had lifted? Yes. Did Jim give a stellar performance? You betchya!

Obviously couldn’t video my own question being answered. Well, I guess I could have but it would have been fucking weird!

For the rest of the evening too. It was a truly stunning gig. This was my third Simple Minds “home crowd” gig – and this was the one that REALLY felt like it had that atmosphere to it. I didn’t feel the effect of that too much at the RCH in 2017 for the Acoustic tour – even taking into account that Jim’s dad was there and I saw other Kerr and Burchill relatives there and all that. And at Barras – the band – and Jim in particular seemed too nervous. It was the first show and the debut of a new album in full – I think the magnitude of it made it feel uncomfortable. That was my experience of the Walk Between Worlds Barras gig. 

But last night? It was PROPERLY electric! A party atmosphere. Everyone was there for a whale of a time and the band were TOTALLY “on form”. From the get go – amazing! My only criticism is…I’m not sure the structure of the setlist flows right. Love Song and the Belfast Child seems a little…jarring in contrast, to me, anyway. Again, with She’s A River and then Dolphins. 

I wasn’t sold on the setlist as a whole at Aberdeen. I was really saddened that due to how these past two years has panned out, any 40th anniversary nod to SAF/SFC has passed by and only Love Song and Theme For Great Cities remain. I’m gutted The American is off the setlist, but I understand why it is – it *is* meant to be a “hits” tour as Jim rightly points out three songs into the night by saying “We’ve just played three songs and none of them were ‘hits’!” It now being its anniversary year, it is right for New Gold Dream to have FIVE songs on the setlist. With four songs from Sparkle In The Rain and four from Once Upon A Time as well, it’s a setlist heavy with songs from the first 10 years of the band’s existence. If we discount Act Of Love as being entirely “new” – the most recent songs in the catalogue on the setlist are She’s A River (1995) and Dolphins (2005).

For me, I’m not sure whether I’d have a play about with the flow of it. 

The things that work are – the placement of Book Of Brilliant Things – and its arrangement now. It has taken me a looooooong time to warm to this arrangement of BOBT – it is ssooo vastly different to the album version. But I love Sarah’s arrival on stage for the performance and I love that Jim is actually dueting with Sarah on it this time. It’s fuuuunnnky! It’s great. 

The start of the second set is great. Theme then Waterfront is awesome. The stop-starts are Love Song then Belfast Child, then She’s A River then Dolphins. 

The addition of Chelsea Girl last night in Glasgow was great. It could do with being there permanently for me. (Maybe have The American at the soundcheck – she hints for Newcastle or Paris *praying hands*)

The stage props, the big screens, the lighting – all PHENOMENAL! It’s an AMAZING set. A mind-blowing backdrop. Wow!

From a wash of Laurie Evans’s photos used at the start of the show with Act Of Love, to the showers of gold for Glittering Prize, to the wonderful “Badlands” landscape images for Hunter And The Hunted, to the video images for Belfast Child, the Clyde images for Waterfront, the Once Upon A Time style images for the song itself – it all is laid out to perfection. Spectacular.

The crowd were electric last night. They were really feeding the band. You could feel it. It was an amazing gig. Even without the personal added joy of the soundcheck and my question being answered, I would have LOVED this gig.

I loved this gig! And I am so looking forward to Leeds and Newcastle in the next few days and Paris in the next few weeks. 

Thanks for reading!

I was sat way back, but recorded Celebrate anyway.

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