Though the group first rose to fame in the 1980s as a result of the R&B ballad “Holding Back the Years,” the two hour evening would prove Simply Red was harder to peg stylistically than as just ringleaders of the blue-eyed soul scene. Sure, the sweltering horn-soaked grooves of opening cut “It’s Only Love,” a jaw dropping cover of The Stylistics’ “You Make Me Feel Brand New” and that inaugural hit fit the mold, but there were plenty of other artistic nuances.
Hucknall and the six-piece band coasted through the jazz leanings of “For Your Babies,” gave a shout-out to Sly & Robbie during the reggae-infused “Night Nurse” and even tipped its hat towards the British Invasion with a revitalized cover of the Moody Blues’ old war horse “Go Now.” Yet it was the band’s final stretch of songs that took the sold out audience straight into the heart of a sweaty dance club thanks to the pulsating stompers “Sunrise,” “Fairground,” “Something Got Me Started” and “Money’s Too Tight To Mention.”
Of course, the obligatory “If You Don’t Know Me By Now” closed out the set, but even if Hucknall’s sang it a billion times before, that redundancy level never showed. Instead, the curly-haired front man made the Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes’ track his very own and found fans swooning their way towards a top of the lungs sing-a-long. As spectacular as that rendition and the near two dozen tunes that came before, it appears as though the only way those who missed the swansong set can get to know Hucknall in the future is through a solo career, which is slated to hit full tilt next year.