Prince has a lot to answer for. I couldn’t get the golden tickets for my mum so to make up I sacrificed my Saturday night for Simply Red.
Which turned out to be a pretty good night out of the purple – I mean pouring – rain. I ended up knowing most of the songs as I grew up listening to my mum’s favourite band, hell I even bought her A New Flame on cassette as a kid.
Mick and his six-piece band had just flown in from Sydney so he could be forgiven for thinking it was Friday (twice). They’re here for five dates, touring off last year’s Big Love and also celebrating their 30th anniversary. Mick got onside with the crowd early by saying “Most of you don’t look a day over 30”.
It’s only been six years since their ‘farewell’ tour, but a packed Vector Arena were gagging for their flame-haired hero. After the band got into the groove of the funky Look at You Now, 55 year-old Mick Hucknell finally strutted onto the stage and the party started.
Mick’s distinctive soul-fuelled voice was in fine form and the band was tight. He’s with the same group that previously toured here (apart from a new drummer) including the highly animated and longhaired guitarist Kenji Suzuki. And what’s an 80’s band without a saxophone? Ian Kirkham, who’s been with the band since 1986, was a highlight with repeated solos.
Mick noted their biggest hits have been the love ballads, and the gig had a more sedate first half with tracks like Never Never Love and For Your Babies. Simply Red can sound a bit samey but Mick totally surprised me by pulling out the acoustic guitar and sang Holding Back the Years, a track he wrote when he was 17.
This totally broke the night up and once the band kicked in halfway through there was no looking back. The crowd were up on the feet for early 90’s hit Stars and my mum even rang her best friend (and fellow Red head) for a listen.
Mick was obviously enjoying himself and had the crowd eating out of his hand, waving at fans and throwing the microphone out for a bit of group karaoke. And the crowd got in full voice for The Right Thing and the extended initial closer Fairground.
It was only quarter to ten so of course they came back for two entertaining encores. Mum was back on her feet for Simply Red’s cover that put them on the map, The Valentine Brothers’ Money’s Too Tight (To Mention).
After Something Got Me Started Mick pulled out his phone and got the crowd to smile for a panoramic shot to commemorate the night. This was a perfect way to slow things down for their biggest love ballad If You Don’t Know Me By Now. It was arm in arm for most for the final singalong, with Mick leaving the crowd satisfied as they popped umbrellas for the walk back to the car.
It was my mum’s third date with Mick and she said it was his best yet. Thanks Prince, we might not have heard Little Red Corvette but Simply Red was a quality mother son outing.
If you’re in Napier you can catch Simply Red at Mission Estate Winery tonight, then its Wellington on Wednesday, Queenstown on Friday, with a final stop at Horncastle Arena in Christchurch on Saturday.
Click on any image to view a photo gallery by David Watson:
Simply Red Setlist:
Look at You Now
A New Flame
Never Never Love
For Your Babies
Holding Back the Years
It’s Only Love
The Right Thing
Come to My Aid
Money’s Too Tight (To Mention)
Something Got Me Started
If You Don’t Know Me By Now