Simply Red with special guest Natalie Imbruglia, perform their Big Love tour at the Capital FM Arena Nottingham on Wednesday 9th December 2015

Images and Review by Kevin Cooper

When Simply Red played what was billed as their final concert at London’s O2 Arena in December 2010, Mick Hucknall was adamant that there would be no going back. But five years after that emotional farewell, the group are back with a new album and UK tour to celebrate their 30th anniversary.

With special guest being the clean cut former soap star from Australia, Natalie Imbruglia, who bounced on to the stage to treat the Arena to tracks from her first album in six years, Male.

Opening with Wishing I Was There from her hugely successful album, Left Of The Middle, her voice was impressively powerful from the start. Her album White Lillies Island was also given a visit as she treated us to Beauty On Fire and Wrong Impression, whilst Counting Down The Days was really well received. A real highlight was the heartfelt Smoke that had the audience hanging on to her every word.

New tracks, Instant Crush and cover of The Cure’s Friday I’m In Love showcased just how classy Imbruglia still is. But it was her defining Ednaswap’s cover Torn, that brought the house down, before she finished her set with the upbeat Big Mistake.

Having warmed this Arena up nicely, the crowd were eager to engage in mass singalongs and a bit of dad dancing, but that was not how Simply Red’s set started. With just a red-lit curtain behind him, Hucknall came on to the stage with his acoustic guitar and delivered what was the most beautiful version of Holding Back The Years ever. With a near silent crowd, it was a perfect way to prove that his vocals are as rich and golden as ever.

Almost spoiling the moment, the band came onto the stage, and whilst Simply Red for all its notoriously frequent personnel changes, showed that they still remain capable of tasteful touches of jazz, soul and funk. Say You Love Me and You Make Me Feel Brand New had the crowd singing, whilst Thrill Me really ignited the party atmosphere. And thrill is certainly what Simply Red did as hit after hit from the band’s extensive back catalogue sent the crowd into sing along and sway along heaven.

It’s Only Love, Stars, and The Right Thing built the frenzy to an inevitable carnival crescendo as they finished the main set with Fairground.

Back on for the first of two encores, both Shine On and the 1985 Valentine Brothers’ cover, Money’s Too Tight To Mention, were absolutely brilliant, whilst for the second encore, Something Got Me Started had everyone up on their feet.

Finishing the set with the gorgeous and lamentable, If You Don’t Know Me By Now, Hucknall ended just as he had begun; showcasing his silky voice, his natural sweetness and his passion for his craft.

Simply Red may have been celebrating their 30th anniversary, but you wouldn’t want to bet against them touring to celebrate their 31st.