One of the venerable acts in the Kew the Music series of concerts, Simple Minds draws a mostly middle class, middle aged crowd. But don't let that put you off. With the help of Pinot Grigio, Jim Kerr can rabble-rouse even the most self-conscious forty somethings and fifty somethings into action. But, when you arrive, it can be disarmingly serene. You walk past Kew's magnificent and curvaceous Victorian Palm House and a row of refined stalls and hawkers selling picnic rugs, wine, gastronomy and various picnic condiments. You might even be offered free teabags. There is plenty of sustenance on sale, but most people are already equipped with food, wine, picnic rugs and even fold-up chairs. The well-heeled punters settle down in front of the full-scale concert stage (appropriately sponsored by John Lewis) overlooking a picturesque lawn surrounded by towering trees. To get a good spot near the dance area in front of the stage, you probably need to be queuing before the doors open at 6.30pm. But you may still be able to secure a few square metres of space under the trees as late as 7pm.
In 2014, support act Ben Montague kicked off the proceedings around 7.30pm. It is basically just Montague and his guitar, but he can sing and is a gentle warm up for the ageing rockers to come. With so many anthems to choose from, Simple Minds could kick off a concert with any number of tracks. On this occasion, Kerr arrived on stage to the stirring opening chords of Waterfont. From there, Simple Minds trotted through many of the classics, including the inevitable Don't you forget about me, the archetypical eighties hit Glittering Prize and the irrepressible Alive & Kicking, interspersed with a few lesser known numbers. The dozen deep dance area in front of the stage quickly fills up with arm-waving fans, but it is far from rammed and you should be able to squeeze in.
You don't quite get the promised two-hour set - Jim Kerr takes a break in the middle, letting his soulful backing singer Sarah Brown take over temporarily and, after numerous encores, Simple Minds might finish a little early, giving way to the fireworks. Like many vocalists these days, Kerr is prone to pointing his microphone at the audience, giving his voice a break. And you might hear cries of "crack on
Jim". But Simple Minds has still got it - the anthems come thick and fast and are mostly performed with gusto. Moreover, Kew Gardens is a glorious setting for a mid-summer concert. 8/10