When Tom Jones opened the first of 2022 Live at Chelsea in the open-air courtyard concerts, he had perfect weather where all eyes could be on the stage instead of up in the sky out of fear that buckets of rain would ruin the festival. Simply Red was less lucky, the temperature had fallen, and the clouds were permanently dark and sporadically burst.
For every item of merchandise purchased, another three ponchos were bought. Those who had come in shorts and t-shirts were shivering, and no matter how many cups of coffee at £4 each were consumed, the chills remained.
Support act "country singer" Megan McKenna herself misjudged the weather and addressed the stage in a florescent hen party styled dress and white shoes. Whilst 2022 marks 30 years since Simply Red's Stars LP was released, their Love and the Russian Winter or Blue albums may have been more relevant indicators of the atmosphere before Simply Red addressed the stage.
Mick Hucknall dressed simply in black, and his six-piece band opened the set by playing two lesser-known Picture Book LP songs, "Look At You Now" and "Come to My Aid", from their debut 1985 LP. "Ring That Bell", from Simply Red's latest LP, Blue-Eyed Soul album, allowed Hucknall, now 62, to demonstrate that his vocal capabilities had yet to peak.
After Hucknell joked about ensuring people had brought sunscreen, the audience began to feel more confident by standing up and moving forwards as Simply Red began playing Stars material and hits, including "A New Flame" and "Holding Back the Years". The nostalgia in keeping the same arrangements was given a nod of approval by the poncho-attired masses. The late nineties dance music arrangements on "Ain't That A Lot of Love" and the early nineties dance music piano chords on "Something Got Me Started", where bassist Steve Lewington sang "Yes I would", were staples decades loyal Simply Red fans could not do without.
Hucknall spoke about how the sixties was the best era for music and wished Paul McCartney a happy eightieth birthday; he was born on the same day as his daughter. From impersonating McCartney, Mick imitated Barry White and covered White's "Its Only Love, " featured on Simply Red's third 1989 LP, A New Flame.
Many of Simply Red's hits have been covers that the band has reinterpreted with either reggae or a funk and soul twist where Mick was able to showcase his full singing capacity. Over five cover songs beginning with Gregory Isaac's "Night Nurse", were played at the Chelsea Royal Hospital. "Money's Too Tight (To Mention)", originally by The Valentine Brothers and "If You Don't Know Me by Now" by Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes proved to be the most poignant.
Despite Stars being shortlisted for the 1992 Mercury Music Prize, Simply Red played just four songs in total from this album. The most poignant amidst the current geo-political climate provides to be the Simply Red original "Your Mirror" as Hucknall sang ", I've got to stand up for myself this society don't care about nobody else" and "I've got not to care even if I know that this world is meant to share…". Simply Red also played their 1995 number one hit single "Fairground", which, unlike the other songs played, had an enhanced added Latin twist injected into it.
Whilst Simply Red offered few reinterpretations of their classic hits, band cohesion, Mick's soulful voice and soulful soundtrack with occasion funk, dance and reggae elements were crowd-pleasers. Simply Red fans received everything they could have expected the band to have delivered and quickly forgot about the quintessentially British summertime weather.
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