Midge Ure @ The Earl, Atlanta 10-15-16 [part 4]

Midge Ure + band © 2016 Ms. Monk

Midge Ure + band © 2016 Ms. Monk

One of the advantages of seeing a long known act live, is that one has the chance to hear the artist talk in-between songs, some times imparting new insights about their material. It was news to me to hear Ure sardonically make an oblique reference to what was obviously our election season before explaining his meaning behind “Beneath A Spielberg Sky,” from his “Move Me” album of 2000. Not being a Spielberg fan, I’d assumed it was referring to the director’s sappy romanticism. The title alone, blocked my attention. Ure said that he and Chris Cross, who directed many of Ultravox’s videos, used that phrase as a code for foreshadowing dark events about to happen. Apparently, the director used stormclouds as a metaphor. Who knew?

With one relatively recent song played, the set now featured the newest song we’d hear this evening. Ure sarcastically commented that with everyone grooving nostalgically to a set filled with well-burnished gems from the past, the point that everyone dreads s when the singer says “now here’s a new one”  after which he said just that much. “Become” was sampled online on the release of his last album, “Fragile,” and it did not inspire at that time. Here tonight, it benefitted not only from my enjoyment of the very different Visage version of the song on their last album “Demons To Diamonds,” but also from the fact that tonight, the rendition of the number was radically superior to the twee synthpop version on “Fragile.” While the music bed on the original was not inspiring, it was Ure’s singing on the album version that I had the most problems with. It was Ure’s recent penchant for singing in an ill-suited, strained vocal style that ultimately did him no favors. This was certainly not a problem this evening.

Tonight, he sang the tune with his normal gusto, giving it a new life and making it sound as good as the Visage version was. The sturdier backing that BC Taylor and Tony Solis added to the performance didn’t hurt either. Banishing the soft synth loops also added much to the song, and it gave me a whole new appreciation for it tonight. The addition of Ure’s guitar was also a huge stepforward for the song. I could even detect some “Passing Strangers” DNA in his approach on the playing. Delightful!

Next, it was time for some”Quartet” love with the anthemic “Hymn” getting a rendition. Here it was stripped of Billy Currie’s pomp and circumstance and was an instance of “less is more” triumphing. It became something far less ponderous minus any synths. I was enjoying this leaner, stripped back approach to Ultravox, even though it was my first exposure to this material live. Truth be told, I’ve listened to live renditions that were more in line with the album versions of these songs for over 30 years. It was fresh hearing them done in a different way that still managed to rock.

After “Hymn,” the evening’s dip into the iconic “Rage In Eden” album would be “The Voice.” This one featured Ure leaning heavily on his synth and the audience really got into singing along, as the video below proves. I could hardly believe that I was finally hearing music from this album 35 years after the fact.

The reliance on keyboards would reach a climax following that when the iconic title track to “Vienna” was played with both Ure and Solis leaning heavily on their rigs. But most of all, Ure leaned heavily on his lungs. At one point, before launching into a song, Ure quipped that if he had a time machine the one thing he would do would be to go back in time and ask his youthful self not to write the songs in the keys that he chose then. “Who knew I’d still be singing these songs forty years later?”

This means a lot to me ©2016 Ms. Monk

This means a lot to me © 2016 Ms. Monk

But he has seasoned his instrument plenty in the intervening years. While he has lost some high end, he’s gained immense power and control to compensate… and then some. Having heard the Ure of the early 80s on live recordings, there’s no question who I’d rather be hearing this night.  “Vienna” is still the melodramatic tour de force that’s its been for the last 36 years. Hearing it is still a spine-tingling moment – even after hundreds of plays; especially when Ure is standing less than ten feet in front of us giving it loads.

Next: …It quickly passes, time goes, time goes by too soon

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Midge Ure @ The Earl, Atlanta 10-15-16 [part 3]

Midge Ure - electric at long last © 2016 Ms. Monk

Midge Ure – electric at long last © 2016 Ms. Monk

As we settled in for the show, there were a pair of ladies in front of us, but we were still about eight feet from the stage and when a black-clad Midge Ure joined Tayor and Solis onstage, the show began in earnest. And earnest is nothing if not the word to describe Ure’s 1988 single “Dear God.” It was probably the one solo video I caught at least a number of times on MTV, indicating that it may have entered the Billboard Hot 100. It was bold of him to put it as a set opener since it was probably the most well known Ure song that anyone who was not a fan might be familiar with.

The band were basically a power trio for much of the music this evening, with synths and MacBookPros relegated to some of the more elaborate Ultravox material. The song still had Ure’s dulcet tones and that ecstatic guitar solo that really redeemed it, but the pared down band arrangement cut out much of the song’s “waste calories” for a tighter, tougher version of the song. As I’d hoped, the no-nonsense trio approach resulted in some of the softer solo material moving closer to the rock spectrum favored by Ultravox.

Next came a “Vienna” deep cut that was like a buried treasure digging itself out of the soil and popping its lid open for your inspection. How else to react to “New Europeans” making an appearance just the second song into the set? Ure’s serrated guitar skank cut through the room effectively even as the synth textures the band would rely on throughout the evening made their first appearance here. This was probably the first time the song had been aired in America since the “Vienna” tour, 36 years ago, easily! I could not have been happier to be right in front of this man as he was belting it out.

The next song he performed was one I would be in no hurry to hear, actually. His #1 UK hit “If I Was” represented a sound that I really didn’t appreciate from him; all airy DX7s, grandiloquent crescendoes, and sappy lyrics. While there was nothing that could be done about the crescendoes and lyrics, the performance of the tune this evening was, again, tougher and more muscular [as if that adjective could even be in the same sentence as this song!]  than any previous playback of the song had been, making it go down a lot easier than history would have it. Ure’s decision to bring a trio approach to the arrangements, which were only worked out immediately before the tour in rehearsals, paid off in spades here. If this was my least favorite song of the evening, then this was shaping up to be a fantastic show.


L-R: BC Taylor, Midge Ure, Tony Solis © 2016 Ms. Monk

Next came a song I was hot to hear, his 1986 non-LP single “Call Of The Wild.” Though he proffered the less intense 7″ version, I still had enormous fun adding my own vocals to the backing chorus of “don’t go” with his backing band while Ure stayed on the lead vox. Of all of the Ure/Mitchell numbers from the period of his first solo album, “The Gift,” this was by far my favorite, and great fun to hear live, eight feet in front of me.

When Ure introduced his next number as a song he had wrote and produced, I knew I was in for a treat; his spaghetti western solo treatment of the seminal “Fade To Grey.” Now that’s what I call a gift! The synth loops set this one up while Solis got busty on his rig. The song’s crystalline middle eight saw Ure switching to synth leads on his rig as well, as he extended the bridge for twice as long as the single version. This was also great fun to sing along with and a supremely gratifying moment for me. This was the first iconic song of the evening for me, but it would not be the last.

Next: …Running through memories like thieves in the night

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