Mark Salisbury – ‘Melody Maker’ 19th May 1990 (UK)
“Verona”, Simple Minds’ first full-length live concert video, is the group’s answer to U2’s “Rattle And Hum”, a 90-minute amalgam of concert footage and behind-the-scenes documentary filmed in a Roman ampthitheatre in Verona, Italy, during the final few days of the band’s “Street Fighting Years” World Tour last September. And, as you’d expect, the build-up to this has been typically pretentious. Adverts in th music press have consisted of a photo of Kerr with the words: “Simple Minds The Video – Live And On The Streets May 18th.” The accompanying press release describes it as “the music event of the year”. Yet, even given Virgin video’s vested interest in plugging the thing, the hyperbole is, for once, fully justified.
Directed by pop promo merchant Andy Morahan, the emphasis here is on the visuals. It’s a concert video (both words are of equal importance) not a video of a concert, that manages to capture the essence of a live show with all the energy and techniques associated with slickest of today’s opo videos, turning a proficient, if admittedly slightly dull, stage sgow into a spectacle thanks to the miracles of modern editing. It’s not exactly Simple Minds “live” since the video for “Belfast Child” and snippets of the first Mandela day gig are included, and Kerr changes costume mid-song at least half a dozen times, but technically it’s stunning. The editing is frighteningly fast (too fast perhaps) even for those of us reared on MTV,
images flashing on and off screen in a frenzy of delirious cutting. Morahan and his 16 cameras cover every conceivable angle, arty black and white photgraphy merging colour, super-eight with 16mm, to produce a remarkable visual feast, a lavish document of a band and their fans at perhaps the peak of their powers. If Kerr’s vocals sound at times strained, at times wishy-washy, at times overdubbed, it was a long tour. For your money you get 14 songs culled mainly from “Street Fighting Years” and “Once Upon A Time” albums (only “Waterfront” with it’s hard-edged guitar sound appears from the pre-“Breakfast Club” era) with lots of audience footage – preening, good looking Italians – before, during and after the show.
Kerr opens his mouth only to sing. We get “Mandela Day” (Kerr draped in an ANC flag) and “Belfast Child” but we get none of the pompous pontificating, fist clenching and shouts for sanctions that have recently soured his reputation. If only it could always be like this. With his mind concentrating solely on musical matters, Kerr proves himself one of rock’s elite frontamen. He’s engaging, athletic, heroic, stoic even. You understand exactly what an ego trip it is to be a rock star, standing on stage in front of thousands of adoring fans. Kerr’s face when the crowd chants “Don’t You Forget About Me” “la-la-la-las” is the face of a man given over with something tantamount to orgasmic pleasure. Morahan chucks in a few interviews with the band along the way but you can barely understand a word anybody’s saying. It doesn’t matter, it’s the music and the look that are important.
For Minds fans “Verona” is as compelling and near perfect a record of the band circa 1989 as is possible to capture on film. For purists of the live-in-concert form it may not possess the panorama of “The Cure In Orange” (shot on 35mm with Tim Pope directing) nor the extravagance of Prince’s “Sign ‘O’ The Times”, but it’s far better than the multitude of similar videos currently occupying the shelves.