Simple Minds and their crew go global with four decades of hits

Glaswegian rockers, Simple Minds and their touring crew present their signature sound to over 18 countries, paving the way for post-lockdown world tours.

Simple Minds’ latest live campaign, 40 Years of Hits Tour, sees the Glasgow-formed band traverse the globe with over 80 shows in more than 18 countries – including a raucous homecoming show at OVO Hydro – at a time when global touring is generally considered uncharted terrain.

With four decades worth of material to share with reinvigorated audiences, each show was built on the ingenuity and familiarity of a tight-knit crew navigating a COVID-19 secure pathway through the ever-changing goalposts, legislation and legal hurdles involved in assembling and touring a show.

Due to obligatory rescheduling and date shuffling associated with staging shows in the COVID-19 era, the crew started with the arena package, then had to drop to a theatre package. With a couple of larger shows in the middle of the run, they collaborated with their technical suppliers to produce a sensible rig for the majority of the shows, coordinating local supplements as needed. 

Britannia Row Productions supplied audio, Lights Control Rigging provided lighting and rigging, while Universal Pixels handled video. Production Manager, Glen Thomson was pleased to retain the services of Phoenix Bussing, while UK-based TRUCKINGBY collaborated with Stokholm Transport A/S to cover the European legs of the tour. 

“Brexit is the biggest pain in the neck at the moment,” Thomson explained. “Until recently, COVID-19 was a close second, but that’s becoming less of a challenge with each week as regulations ease around positive cases.”

Thomson spent most of the lockdown period working for ITV as a COVID-19 Production Manager, so he found himself with a wealth of relevant knowledge when it came to advancing the production. “We implemented some fairly strict COVID-19 protocols and brought an extra person on the road to manage this. Beyond daily testing and rotating out crew who tested positive, it didn’t have a great deal of impact on the workflow,” he added. “Dressing rooms were still off-limits to all but essential crew, and there were no after-shows to get in the way of a load out.”

The crew started with the arena package, which ran from London to Hamburg, after which some kit returned to the UK. Thomson recalled Liverpool to Dublin back-to-back shows, as well as a following travel day to Amsterdam as some of the biggest logistical challenges of the campaign. “We had to produce four separate carnets to cover all the kit movements. To make things more difficult, this run was just when customs at Dover were having a meltdown, so we had to reroute through Hull to Rotterdam, arriving late in Amsterdam,” Thomson reported. “Thankfully, our exceptional crew achieved all this without any bother.”

By the time the crew reaches the end of the tour in August, they will be approaching their maximum stay of 90 days in Europe – meaning those of the crew without a European passport will be unable to return to Europe until the end of October at the earliest and won’t gain back enough days to make a European tour viable until the end of the year. 

“We keep hearing rumours of ‘visa-free touring’, but it hasn’t happened yet,” Thomson stated. “The government’s response has been limp and toothless – I fear for the future of UK touring crews if they can only enter Europe for 90 out of every 180 days.”

However, despite the headaches of Brexit, crew and kit shortages, Thomson, above all, was pleased to be back on the road. “It’s great to be back on the bus with this touring family,” he said. “Hearing the crowd as the band walks on always reminds me why I do this job. By August, we’ll have done 80 shows in 20 weeks, but the band aren’t stopping there. We have a few interesting one-off events they’ve asked me to be involved in that will take this to a whole new level.”


Lighting Designer, Mark Wynn-Edwards collaborated with Visual Director, John Minton on a bespoke design, which required what Thomson referred to as ‘left-field thinking’ and ‘Catalyst [media server] gymnastics’. “The results speak for themselves – it’s a high-impact show that takes up remarkably little truck space.”

The main design saw four flown trusses supported by video and light carts on the floor to create a wall of light and video. For Wynn-Edwards, the enormity of the project dawned on him while sifting through four decades of album artwork. “A huge amount of thought has gone into creating a design that not only commemorates four decades of artistry but is versatile enough to look the same regardless of the size of venue,” he said.

The lighting rig boasted ‘workhorse’ Claypaky Mythos fixtures, Martin by Harman MAC Aura, Atomic and Viper Washes along the front truss in addition to a Robe BMFL followspot system. Driving the show was a High End Systems Hog 4 console and Catalyst media servers. “I use all the technology that I know to get the best out of my ideas,” Wynn-Edwards remarked.

He referenced a sold-out show at Belgium’s Sportpaleis Antwerpen with over 20,000 fans in attendance as one of his highlights of the run. “It was a noisy riot of a show,” he stated. “It’s amazing to be back and a little emotional at times – I’m glad to be back where I belong.”


This was the first time that Universal Pixels (UP) had worked with Simple Minds and their production team. UP Director, Phil Mercer picked up the story: “We were originally brought in by Robin Scott in late 2019 and completed production rehearsals in February 2020, prior to the tour’s inevitable two-year postponement due to the pandemic.”

Once the tour was back up and running, UP was tasked with providing the upstage video screen, which played a significant part in the overall look of the UK and European arena show design. UP supplied LED comprising three custom onstage carts with 25mm ROE Vanish, 15 small flown screens with Leyard CLM 10, and two 45 sq m custom shaped IMAG screens with Leyard CLM10. UP also provided 3G for a PPU with three operated camera channels and four Robocams. The tour’s Catalyst Media Servers were provided by Wynn-Edwards.

To assist Video and Visual Director, John Minton on the road, UP also deployed four trusted freelance crew led by Crew Chief, Steve Jones. “Mark Strange, UP Project Manager, and I are enjoying working with Glen Thomson immensely. We’ve been very impressed with how he has expertly navigated the logistics of the COVID-19 restrictions that have been staggered and lifted across various territories,” Mercer continued. 

“It’s been great to see this production come together after the enforced delay and we are proud to be a chosen tour vendor that is able to support Simple Minds in celebrating an incredible 40 years of hits. It’s quite the achievement!”


“Every night, I render the artist’s music with the greatest care and integrity and make the energy and soul of the band come across to the audience to create emotion that binds everyone. It’s my deep commitment to their work,” veteran FOH Engineer, Olivier ‘GG’ Gerard said, explaining his process.

L-Acoustics K1 and K2 sound systems were used for the arena legs of the tour, while the latter was the go-to setup for the theatre tour that followed. GG mixed with a Solid State Logic SSL L200. His impressive range of studio-quality outboard gear included an SSL Fusion and Avalon 747 sp on the main bus, lead vocal channel processing with a ELX8 distressor and BSS 901. 

GG’s bass channel was rounded out with an ELX8 distressor and a Tubetech MMC 1, a multi-band compressor to maintain the readability of the bass. Bricasti M7, TC R4000, and lexicon L300 were used for external reverbs in addition to a range of plugins like Spa transient, AMS and Plate revels via an UAD Rack and Rupert Neve Designs compressors. 

“This show is programmed on my desk. As I’ve toured with the band for a long time, I have 100 songs on the desk. I work with snapshots as the repertoire spans 40 years of material,” he explained. “My passion is to find the right colour for every song, to reproduce the flavour of the original versions. If you have the right sounds in the right place, you are doing the right job.”

GG harnessed multitrack recordings during the rehearsals to find what he refers to as ‘the code’ of a song. “The artist has spent months making and recording a song, so every detail matters when it comes to mixing live,” he explained. “Music is an intelligent process – I must find out how it works. Gradually, as the tour goes on, I spend a lot of time tweaking and refining the process.

“Normally, you have the chance to build up the show during the club shows and then hit the arenas, however, we didn’t have the option this time around,” he added. “Thankfully, this is one of the best live bands on the circuit, so they know their craft and can surpass themselves under pressure.”

Shure Beta 91 and AKG DV12 mics were chosen for the kick, Earthworks DM20s for the snare and toms, DPA 2011 on cymbals, DPA 2028 on the backing vocals, with Shure beta 58a for lead vocal and guitars on kempers. 

“I have a strong relationship with Brit Row. They’ve been supporting us since 2012 and deliver a great service,” he said, praising the tour’s audio vendor. “I’m loyal and believe in people above brands.” Monitor Engineer, Michael Gibbard, who began his career with Britannia Row Productions, concurred: “I’ve worked with Brit Row for nearly two decades; I started my career there and will always try to have them support me with every artist I mix,” he added. “Their bespoke packaging and attention to the smallest detail make my life on the road easy.”

An SSL L550 was Gibbard’s desk of choice, run on around 100 channels. For monitoring, he chose a 10-way Sennheiser SR 2050 system, which covered most of the band and technicians. Guitarist Charlie Burchill performed with a pair of d&b audiotechnik M2s in front of him as well as a few spot wedges dotted around the stage. 

Bassist Ged Grimes played with a single M2 in front of him. Gibbard utilised a MGB for multi tracking, TC 4000 and Bricasti M7 for specific drum reverbs, as well as a Rupert Neve Designs 5045 to cut some of the spill of the BV mics nearest the kit. 

“I’m about to implement a UAD live rack system I’ve just bought. The stuff on the desk is great, and I use at least seven other reverbs, two delays, transient shapers and a load of dynamic EQ. The G series bus compressor is outrageous and that’s used across several stems I send to mixes on stage,” he reported. “The standout piece of kit, however, has got to be the SSL; there’s some voodoo magic that happens in the mix bus of that console. It’s so good it feels like I’m cheating!”

Gibbard recalled some of his favourite moments of the project. “There is nothing like seeing an arena package come together for the first time during rehearsals – especially having not really touched a desk for a few years. Another highlight was the band’s hometown gig at Glasgow’s OVO Hydro – the atmosphere was incredible, and we all know the Scots aren’t famous for being quiet,” he laughed. “It’s such an incredible feeling to be back touring again. People say you shouldn’t let your job define you. For me, this isn’t a job – it’s a way of life and my way of being creative. I live for it and couldn’t be happier to be back on the road.”

GG concluded: “Touring is not only a job; it is a lifestyle. The COVID-19 pandemic not only deprived us of our work, but the way we live our lives. Being able to tour and create art for audiences again has been a blessing.”

This article originally appeared in issue #270 of TPi, which you can read here.