Opera House Forecourt, October 12
MICK HUCKNALL, the force behind ’80s hit machine Simply Red, has been written off as everything from a middle-of-the-road soul-lite crooner to a tubby ginger lothario. The internet hums with Hucknall gags.
But who’s laughing now? Simply Red have had worldwide smash hits, sold 50 million albums and landed Hucknall a $60 million fortune.
So Hucknall has nothing to prove as he appears before the sails of the Opera House for the Sydney leg of Simply Red’s farewell world tour (which, he points out, is being filmed.
Looking surprisingly trim, with those familiar collar-length red curls, he opens with Out on the Range, which has an adoring, mostly female, audience immediately dancing in (and sometimes on) their seats.
Hucknall has gone through two dozen band members in 25 years but lets the current crew take centre stage early, especially the lead guitarist, Kenji Suzuki, and the saxophonist, Ian Kirkham.
By the time the Talking Heads cover Heaven arrives, it’s obvious what made Simply Red huge: Hucknall’s powerful yet soulful voice, which remains in remarkable shape. For Your Babies provides the evening’s first big singalong.
The monster hit If You Don’t Know Me By Now follows, curiously moving only the right-hand side of the audience into a standing ovation. The only minor dip in a well-paced show comes with Sunrise, with its cheesy Hall and Oates backing track, but a disco-infused Come to My Aid gets even those up on the Opera House steps grooving.
Hucknall, whose dance moves until now have been limited to the odd knee-bend, undoes a couple of buttons on his shirt then growls and claws at the audience for his signature baby-making song, The Right Thing. They get to their feet and stay there for Money’s Too Tight.
Two encores feature the favourites Stars, Fairground and Something Got Me Started then comes the second global smash, Holding Back the Years, where fittingly, before a swaying crowd, Hucknall nails his last high note.