April 16, 1996

Adelaide Music

Filed under: Archive,Music


Simply Red

Entertainment Centre

Adelaide, 15 April, 1996

Murray Bramwell

The last time I saw Simply Red they were touring the second album Men and Women. Their mix of reggae, soul and Brit pop had, even with their debut Picture Book, made immediate impact. The band was on its way and they knew it. Singer Mick Hucknall set the pace;  brash, cocksure and blessed with vocal gifts to rival Marvin Gaye and Sam Cooke. Like other UK stylists such as Eric Burdon, Joe Cocker, Paul Young and Boy George, Hucknall was to take the action back to  the heartland on its own terms. The sound had come from the studios of Chess, Motown and Atlantic but the urgency came from England’s post-industrial north.

Twenty three million albums on, the band is synonymous with Hucknall. Spending time equally between Manchester, Paris and Milan, his Simply Red is now also Simply Rouge and Simply Rosa. Made-over for his New Flame and Stars incarnations, Hucknall has gone from doughboy to doge, his carroty curls smoothed into shoulder length cascades, his flowing robes a fantasia from Maxfield Parrish.

On a world tour with the new album, Life,  Simply Red is absolutely in the pink. Mick Hucknall is looking relaxed and affable and a lot more real. Rather more the apple-cheeked Mancunian than the Milanese medici, he leads a seven piece band through a repertoire which has made them rulers of Europe.

Opening with It’s Only Love,  Hucknall’s keening tenor dominates as he soars effortlessly above the band driven by bassist Steve Lewinson and Velroy Bailey on drums and supported by back-up singers Dee Johnson and Sarah Brown. Life predominates in the early part of the set. So Many People, So Beautiful and Never Never Love with pivotal work from the old firm -original member, Fritz McIntyre’s ubiquitous keyboards and longtime associate Ian Kirkham’s well-judged sax.

Duetting with Heitor T.P. on acoustic guitar, Hucknall unleashes his pop masterpiece, Holding Back the Years, fresher than ever in its pared down lyricism. The older material is still distinctly strong –Red Box and The Right Thing get the band firing, although even such ho-hum songs as Thrill Me and Hillside Avenue are given room to expand, displaying both Hucknall’s ranging vocals and the unity of the band.

The crowd is swooning with Stars – punctuated by a firmament of pinlights on the backcloth-and brought to the boil with Money’sToo Tight.  Hucknall doesn’t miss a beat, working the crowd to the final encore with genial ease. Signing off with Fairground,  Simply Red is in full furl.  Not as dangerous as their early promise, they are still indisputably a great pop unit. And if Mick Hucknall ever decides to shoot for more, they could really catch a fire.      

“Vintage Red holds back the years” The Australian, April 16, 1996. p.15

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