Review: Hamilton's Summer Concert Series drowns in nostalgia - as do audience thanks to mother nature

Simple Minds and Texas at the Summer Concert Series.
Simple Minds and Texas at the Summer Concert Series. Photo credit: Greenstone / Newshub

REVIEW: The signs were there from the start, really.

With performers repeatedly talking about rain and being "moist" on stage - even though local band White Chapel Jak who opened proceedings with tremendous gusto, funk and pluck ironically chose to throw in Dragon's 1983 hit, 'Rain' - it was always going to end this way.

One could argue nature was having the last laugh after Scottish rockers Simple Minds joked about having earlier banished the rain - when their final song 'Don't You (Forget About Me)' suffered 'concert interruptus' due to extreme weather posing a serious risk to the safety of the mainly boomer audience at Hamilton's first ever Summer Concert,  it was all canned 10 minutes from its scheduled end.

But up until that point, despite a grey, constantly rainy and cloudy day at Claudelands Oval - a venue appointed after the usual Coromandel joint was sidelined by bad weather in 2023 - the spirits were high throughout the day the rain would dissipate.

From plenty of barefoot bogans disinterested in the rain but more concerned with the Jim Bean cans and surreptitious vaping, to large swathes of poncho-clad gumboot wearers, everyone expected the rain to simply go away.

Much like the precipitation, nostalgia hung heavily in the air throughout the day. From a carefully curated OST of 80s hits pumped out between acts that were reminiscent of Kiwi blue light discos, to Aussie band Pseudo Echo really blazing a trail after hometown heroes White Chapel Jak set the bar so high for energy and crowd-pleasing antics, nostalgia was on the agenda from early on.

While Pseudo Echo's mix of rock and keytar saw the crowds go absolutely ecstatic for a 12-minute mix of their 1985 smash hit 'Funky Town', the crowd were on side early on, thanks to a tightly presented set that oozed technically impressive playing.

Initially less impressive and with lead singer Ed Roland ambling on like the bastard son of Steven Tyler from Aerosmith, Rod Stewart and The Wrestler-era Mickey Rourke, Collective Soul looked like they were cruising on nostalgia and rock'n'roll endeavours rather than musical flair.

But by the time 1993's 'Shine' had finished with its riffs and the crowd had surged to the makeshift moshpit, it was clear Roland, while occasionally sounding like he was struggling to hit some of the notes, was living the rock'n'roll legend he believed he was. Equally, lead guitarist Jesse Triplett, frequently prowling the stage, delivered some ferociously blistering work in a seemingly casual way.

'December', 'The World I Know' were all part of their comeback after 20 years away from Aotearoa's shores (the former still benefiting from a slinky riff and a series of licks) but all served to thankfully cause collective reassessment in an initially indifferent crowd. (Though having Ed reference how brilliant REM were, a fellow band from their hometown of Georgia. before launching into AC/DC's 'Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap' was perhaps the oddest decision of the day).

However, it was truly the Scottish invasion that set Hamilton's Summer Concert apart - led chiefly by Texas and their cheeky cheerleader Sharleen Spiteri, and followed by a performance-heavy Simple Minds. 

Hammering out a tight set that included all their greatest hits ('I Don't Want a Lover', 'Halo'), yet still finding time for their effervescent lead singer to banter with the crowd, Spiteri's group shocked with the news that in all their 36 or so years as a band, they'd never been to New Zealand to play outside of scheduled promo appearances.

Which based on the highly charismatic Spiteri's back and forth with the audience, shows there truly is no justice in the world.  Dressed from head to toe in burgundy and with a green guitar, there was little sign that the 'Say What You Want' singer had recently had shoulder surgery, constantly asking if the audience was happy and "Are you joking me with this bloody weather?"

Texas may have been around a while now, but the Glasgow band found an affinity with the audience from the moment they appeared on stage. Near the end, Spiteri lamented she'd "stay all night" having made all of Hamilton jump for 'Black Eyed Boy' - and in truth, it remains criminally sad the band weren't headlining as their good time vibes, taut live show and string of eminently catchy tunes was more than the tonic for the increasingly appalling weather and dampening spirits.

Pity then poor Simple Minds who had to follow that - but they gave it their best shot until the weather rained them off stage.

Kicking off a world tour in Taupo before hitting Hamilton, Jim Kerr and his band of troubadours (including a truly sensational Cherisse Osei on drums), knew exactly what the crowd wanted - but sadly the weather deprived them of some of their biggest hits, and their setlist saw them confined to rock anthems that felt a little too staged at times rather than crowd-pleasing sing-along numbers.

Affable yet intensely performance serious, Kerr's varying gestures of thumbs up to the crowd when they sang back to him and theatrics may still show many they're a band which takes themselves too seriously, despite a somewhat deadpan sense of humour in their leading man.

But coming on stage to Sparks' 'May We Start' and launching into 'Waterfront', the rockers delivered what their core and long-loyal audience wanted. Some wry banter and rumination on the weather ("this is a day for making love in a field in Scotland") may have definitely tempted fate, but having asked if "anyone was up for a little bit of nostalgia", nothing could top Kerr's goosebump-inducing voice when 1989's 'Belfast Child' about the troubles in Northern Ireland rang out.

Even the rain held off as the crowd stood absolutely still in the Claudelands Oval, silent and mesmerised by a song that continues to haunt 35 years on - and which feels incredibly prescient as the world wobbles amid further conflict.

The crowd may have been there for the singalongs, and at least we got to sample 'Don't You (Forget About Me)' before Mother Nature ripped us all a new one and ended proceedings, but even as we departed, evacuated and rain-sodden, it was hard to shake the distinct feeling Texas should have been the headliners - rather than the more reflective and studied Minds.

Ultimately, the Summer Concert series makes a great argument for a nostalgia sampler, with bands delivering some 45 minutes of their back catalogue. But perhaps a juggling of the order could have seen this year's iteration of the tour soar even higher.