CHRIS Lloyd talks to Jim Kerr about bringing Waterfront to the Riverside.

THERE has never been anything small about Simple Minds, and so they have just released a big new album, full of big songs, sweeping strings and soaring solos, and they are embarking upon a stadium tour which comes to Chester-le-Street's Riverside cricket ground on August 19.

Lead singer Jim Kerr doesn’t do small talk. “I guarantee you that the band is in great form,” he says in his broad Glaswegian accent. “Durham will hear and see one of the great bands – it certainly won’t be for the lack of trying if you don’t.

“It might be the only time many in the audience ever see Simple Minds, and we want to show them what we have done with our lives. Each and every night, we will not give less than our damnedest.”

Big Music was the title of the Minds’ last proper studio album, released in 2014, but the new Walk Between Worlds is bigger still, with the band using an orchestra for the first time in their 30-year recording career.

“The music was calling out for it, we could hear it, we could feel it,” says Kerr. “Towards the end of the recording process, we were looking for two or three new baubles for the album, and the full orchestra at the Abbey Road studio was one of them.

“Another new bauble is that some of the arrangements have lengthy instrumental passages and Charlie Burchill is playing his first full solo, and it’s an Eddie van Halen or Mick Ronson solo.”

The Minds are regarded as a synth band but really the electronics just provide a steady canvas for Burchill to paint his guitar upon. His explosions of colourful chords put him up with the best guitarists of his era.

“I feel Charlie is not recognised as he should be,” says Kerr. “The Edge is very much out and out the sound of U2 but for us, Charlie was the axis between the guitar and the keyboards, sometimes secondary to the keyboards.

“Charlie puts his guitar through a gazillion effects so you would think it is a keyboard when actually it is a guitar.”

Only a truly big sound requires a gazillion effects.

The widescreen nature of the Minds’ sound enables them to tackle big ideas. Perhaps their biggest song is 1983’s Waterfront, with its pounding, looping one-note bassline covered with Kerr’s emotional vocals and peppered with Burchill’s exploding guitar.

“Waterfront was written in Glasgow when the city was on its knees,” says Kerr. “The industrial age had come and gone, and we had grown up in a ramshackle city full of unemployment - you could see the monuments of the past rusting away and everyone assumed that that was the way things were.

“I remember that I had come back one night and was out for a walk – I do a lot of walking, every day, every night – down to the River Clyde and amongst all that decay the river looked beautiful, the current was swirling. These things are cyclical, and Glasgow has reinvented itself just like Simple Minds have. The song is trying to put over the joy of that, it’s impressionistic.”

So on August 19, Kerr will be bringing Waterfront to the Riverside. For the first time, the Minds will be supported by The Pretenders, fronted by his ex-wife, Chrissie Hynde.

“Let’s talk about it musically,” he says. “She’s one of the all time greats, and Charlie and I were great fans. We have been trying to make this happen for a while. It came close a few times but slipped through our hands. As it happens, Chrissie and I have kids and grandkids together – she sent me a message about them only yesterday, so we have always had a good dialogue.”

The Minds are proudly Scottish, but the Durham show does represent a return to their roots.

“In our teenage years, venues in Glasgow were closed down, and for one-and-a-half years, bands only came as far north as Newcastle, so Charlie and I would hitchhike down to Newcastle Mayfair, City Hall or Newcastle poly to see bands,” he says. “The lifts were always great, but when we saw the Stranglers we came a cropper and ended up in sleeping in a phone box near Gosforth Park.

“That’s rock and roll for you.”