‘Live In The City Of Light’: The Day Simple Minds Conquered Paris

The band’s show at Le Zénith on August 12, 1986 became the basis of a double live album.

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Simple Minds 'Live In The City Of Light' artwork - Courtesy: UMG
Simple Minds 'Live In The City Of Light' artwork - Courtesy: UMG

On August 12, 1986, Simple Minds conquered Paris. The multi-platinum Scottish band were in what Jim Kerr has latterly called their “pomp and circumstance” when they arrived in the French capital to play that night at Le Zénith.

Just to make sure the world could hear all about it, they recorded that night’s concert, and the following night’s. They became the basis of the double album they would proudly unveil the following May, Live In The City Of Light. The Parisian adventure came two months after the band had headlined the Milton Keynes Bowl Pop Festival, where the bill also featured the Bangles, Lloyd Cole & the Commotions, The Cult, Big Audio Dynamite, and others.

The international Simple Minds tour of 1986 came in the wake of a triumphant year in which they hit the top of the UK album chart with Once Upon A Time and smashed the American market with “Don’t You (Forget About Me),” their US No.1 from the soundtrack of The Breakfast Club. They followed with further huge American sales for “Alive And Kicking” and the further rock radio staples “Sanctify Yourself,” “All The Things She Said,” and “Ghost Dancing.” That Once Upon A Time set would eventually go triple platinum in the UK, and gold in the US.

Listen to the best of Simple Minds on Apple Music and Spotify.

All those songs apart from “All The Things She Said” became part of the double album package created at those Paris shows, with one further track recorded in Sydney that October. Live In The City Of Light included such early Minds numbers, already cast-iron favourites, such as “Waterfront,” “Promised You A Miracle,” “Love Song,” and “New Gold Dream (81/82/83/84).” The live record only reached No.96 in the US, but back in Britain, it became their third UK No.1 album in a row.

Buy or stream Live In The City Of Light.




  1. MarcoC

    August 14, 2014 at 2:35 pm

    I never could understand why a lot of Simple Minds fans are snooty about this album, calling it bloated, pompous, etc. I guess it’ because it marks a turning point when the band (at least for a while) changed its sound and stage show and embraced ’80s stadium rock. I imagine this annoyed some early fans who liked their early punky, new wave, experimental sound. I can’t agree with them about this album though – I think it sounds great, is full of energy, and particularly like the keyboard and guitar work – Charlie Burchill’s guitar, in particular, soars on this album far more than it did in the studio versions of these tracks. I just wish they had hi def video of these shows that they could put out as a blu-ray….

  2. Carlos Jose

    August 14, 2014 at 7:14 pm


  3. JSC

    August 14, 2014 at 7:49 pm

    Their best album ! Magic ! ! !

  4. Ian

    August 14, 2014 at 8:29 pm

    The album of my life. Wonderful album, so atmospheric.

  5. Ashley O'Grady

    August 14, 2014 at 8:38 pm

    Still one of my top 5 favourite albums 30 years after I bought it.

  6. Henry

    August 14, 2014 at 9:37 pm

    I’m one of the few American fans that bought the album. Listened to it incessantly as soon as I got it. Definitely full of energy, ambition, and passion to say the least. 🙂

  7. Peter

    August 15, 2014 at 7:16 am

    I have been addicted to this album since i first bought it in 1987. Its because i love their live stuff. Personally i find their studio work dull. The energy of this band is a huge part of their attraction and it just doesn’t ooze out of the speakers when its engineered in a studio. But a huge fan none the less.

  8. Véro

    August 16, 2014 at 4:25 pm

    WOW ! Magic !!!

  9. Helen

    August 18, 2014 at 10:28 pm

    This was the first Simple Minds Album I bought and one of the last things I bought on vinyl. The album is brilliant and made me want to see the band live. (Something I didn’t manage till 1995). New Gold Dream, Once upon a Time and Don’t You are stand out tracks for me.

  10. Oliver

    August 20, 2014 at 12:16 pm

    It is somewhat of a flawed masterpiece – a masterpiece because of that version of New Gold Dream, but flawed because the rest of the tracks were edited (eg Waterfront shortened by 5 minutes); overdubbed (eg Lisa Germano’s violin parts in Someone somewhere) and all Jim’s vocals were rerecorded (bar NGD which is TOTALLY live). Heck he even sang extra bits that were never performed like the “shelter me from storms” outro to Big Sleep, and the “There’s only one love” intro to Miracle. I loved it when it came out but this knowledge has somewhat changed my opinion of the album, and I only wished they had been braver in their choices at the time, and opted to choose highlights from other shows (the Paris gigs overall were a bit sloppy – listen to the boot), and not mess with the tracks in any way. At 20 minutes each on 4 sides of vinyl a decision not to edit may have only cost them 4 tracks from the 14 that made it. Oh and they left off a stellar fast and furious version of Hunter & the Hunted which was unforgivable! Go seek out the “Alive in Rotterdam” TV special on YouTube for the real Once Upon A Time tour experience.

    • Darren

      September 2, 2014 at 8:42 pm

      I have to agree with you about this album. I went to the Milton Keynes Bowl concert and NEC Birmingham dates on the Once upon a time tour and the live in the city of light album captured nothing of just how good Simple Minds are live. When it was released I was so disappointed, over engineered, barely here the crowd in Paris. There new recordings of the new stuff however simply brilliant. Long live the best band live, Simple Minds.

  11. Clem7

    August 21, 2014 at 10:49 pm

    I’m addicted to Simple Minds’ music . I can’t start the day without them or even finish it , I would feel strictly awful . So…very much like you Peter .

  12. paul Evans

    August 22, 2014 at 10:36 am


    this was the 1st simple minds album i bought and was drawn in. i have every album they have done and have seen them 15 times since 1989 street fight years tour. i always await any news and just wish Mick Mcneil would return to the line up.

  13. Clem7

    August 22, 2014 at 1:29 pm

    PS : Sorry , very much like ALL of you here , a HUGE FAN too !
    Cheers to all !

  14. el_biqueto

    August 30, 2014 at 6:50 pm

    without Derek Forbes, this band was and still is doomed. And this album proves it. Period.

    • Clem7

      September 10, 2014 at 1:12 pm

      Hi el _biqueto ,
      I don’t agree with you ! Simple Minds IS and will always be the BEST Band in the world . It’s difficult to listen to anything else after a SM tune . Everything else is a bit dull . Their music is extremely moving because it’s so refined ! It is both UNIQUE and RARE .

  15. Lodger Dann

    September 4, 2014 at 5:04 pm

    el_biqueto……I can say that withou Michael MacNeil this band is not what they used to be…but it is wrong like you…listen to their new song Blindfolded or their previous album or almost whatever you want…It prooves that you are doomed….

  16. Snoopinator

    September 10, 2014 at 12:22 pm

    Maybe it’s been overengineered, and we couldn’t even hear the crowd… But I have listened to this album at least a thousand times, and it’s been a part of my young years. I have learned to play air guitar, standing on my bed, thinking I was CB… I sang all songs, in sweat, thinking I was JK in front of hundred thousands fans! Definitely this album is my favourite of all times, even if people think it is not perfect.

  17. Dave Pinnington

    September 13, 2014 at 12:14 am

    Live in the City of Light has to be one of the best live Albums recorded and produced by any group over the last 30 yrs. Very few artists have manged to capture the true live experience as have Simple Minds. Not forgetting the Live in Verona Album another master piece in capturing the live experience.

  18. el_biqueto

    September 14, 2014 at 9:45 pm

    Well, I’ve listened to any albums J Giblin or M Foster played on. Lame stadium rock…
    Eddy Duffy was good but he left. The last one Ged Grimes sounds annoying.
    Forbes came back in 1997 but seemed like Kerr didn’t want to hear of him on his record.
    So definitely doomed is the band.

  19. Joelle

    September 16, 2014 at 9:05 am

    I attended this gig in Paris on Aug. 12th, 1986 and it was a huge event, specially with the wonderful (and unheard of before) version of New Gold Dream. The album is always on my playlist…

  20. john oconnor

    September 21, 2014 at 6:32 pm

    this has to be one of the best live albums ever recorded so atmospheric especially the last couple of track the first live album i ever bought and still listen to it now .

  21. Aurora Borealis

    November 4, 2014 at 12:27 pm

    One of my favourite albums of all time.

    There is definitely some heavy ‘fixing and mixing’ (as described in the liner notes) going on with studio overdubs and edits aplenty, and so is quite far removed from those gigs and in fact any of the OUAT shows – but there are bootlegs aplenty if you want an exact capture of how any of those shows *really* were complete with all their imperfections, and occasional strained and tired vocals – which at the end of the day is only natural after almost a solid year on the road at that point, and Jim’s trademarks… ‘is everything still ok?’ / ‘let me see your hands’ every few moments.

    I for one appreciate the polishing Bob Clearmountain did on this album. It’s not bloated with excessive audience noise, either during or in between songs, and when there is some audience noise, its always low in the mix just as it ought to be imho, just to give it some ambience. I think it benefits massively from some of the wonderful overdubbing that’s apparent on many of the tracks too, particularly Someone Somewhere (In Summertime).

    Essentially, it’s kind of a live / studio hybrid album

    Don’t get me wrong I love live recordings, I pretty much heard every SM show in circulation between 1978 to 2002, literally hundreds of shows, but for an official release I really appreciated this hugely polished album, and it still gets played regularly by me almost 30 years on.

    I was listening to ‘Celebrate’ their recent live album the other day and whilst its decent enough, it’s blighted all the way through by some clown shouting ‘Go on Jimmy lad!’ every few minutes. I think I counted about 5 or 6 occasions, it does get a bit irritating after awhile – a realistic capture of the night maybe which is great, but for me LITCOL stands the test of time because of how polished it is. I doubt I will play the Celebrate album anywhere near as much as I’ve played LITCOL down the years.

  22. Post-Punk Monk

    March 7, 2015 at 4:44 pm

    Can’t join the chorus on this one! The first time I saw Simple Minds live was in America on this tour, and I still harbor the scars! The ensuing “live album” of said tour shows the band moving in the direction that would lose me for a decade with rocket boosters at full strength! That bootlegs I’ve heard from just two or three years earlier are the most exciting live recordings I’ve ever heard by a favorite band, show just how far off of the mark this was for me!

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