[MUSIC/Synthpop/New Wave ~ UK]
Tue 17 Mar, 2020
One of my favourite Ultravox songs is Dancing With Tears In My Eyes from the 1984 album Lament. It is the tale of a couple spending the last few hours together as an unstoppable apocalypse bares down on them. Vocalist Midge Ure’s delivery full of pain and the heartbreak of everything about to be over…
“Dancing with tears in my eyes.
Weeping for the memory of a life gone by.”
There is a somewhat reduced (yet healthy) audience braving the COVID-19 fears at The Gov tonight. People not wanting to miss one of the most distinctive voices of the 1980s as he plays the classic Ultravox album Vienna in full. People are giving themselves a bit more room than they otherwise would.
People forget that Ultravox was the fourth charting band Midge Ure was in. Firstly, there was the Bay City Roller-esque Slik, the new-wavey Rich Kids (with ex-Pistols Glen Matlock and future Visage collaborator Rust Egan), and then the Steve Strange fronted Visage. He was not the original voice of Ultravox; that was John Foxx who split to launch a solo career. Midge came in for album #4, like Brian Johnson in AC/DC or Sammy Hagar in Van Halen. But like James Freud joining The Models, Midge just brought the magic fairy dust that took a great band into being an incredible one. None of his bands ever made it to Adelaide (Ultravox did a brief East Coast tour in 1982) and Midge did a solo visit in 2017, but for many this is their first chance of seeing the man called Midge.
Always a snappy dresser, Ure is wearing a very smart suit dark suit and ready to go as the band hits the stage and launch into Yellow Pearl, a song he co-write with Thin Lizzy front man Phil Lynott for his first solo album in 1980; an unexpected pleasure. Then it’s Visage (by Visage – keep up) after which Midge welcomes us and thanks us for coming. “This song is for probably half of you who have been dragged here by your partner and only know two songs.” and he is right, of course, because as Fade To Grey starts everybody is on their feet singing along. Such a classic song.
The Vienna album opens with the atmospheric, instrumental (and seven minute long) Astradyne complete with electric violin solo. It is hard to convey just how modern and even futuristic bands like Ultravox, OMD, Simple Minds, Human League, Gary Numan, etc. seemed in the early 1980s; New sounds, new technologies and a breath of fresh air in the musical landscape. There had been bands using synths and so on before, but not everybody found joy in the pomposity of Yes. This was like prog strained through punk and new wave, with added fashion and confidence.
A lot of the songs Vienna are dripping with that attitude New Europeans, Private Lives, Passing Strangers, Sleepwalk and a rapturously welcomed and Krautrock-esque Mr X (also seven minutes long). The sing-along on the massive worldwide hit Vienna was spine tingling. “That was the other one,” Midge quipped at the end. The man’s voice is startlingly good, such power and tone. Sometime singers from by gone heydays present only a shadow of their former glory, but Ure, like recent visitor Tony Hadley (Spandau Ballet), has really looked after his voice as he still continues to tour regularly.
His biggest solo hit If I Was is such a fantastic song and sounds as fresh as it did 35 years ago, but somewhat surprisingly it was the only one of his solo songs performed tonight. It meant there was no That Certain Smile, Dear God or No Regrets, any of which would have been warmly welcomed by this audience. There are a couple of lovely rarities in the form of Glorious, a song Midge co-wrote for his Rich Kids/Visage partner Rusty Egan’s album Welcome To The Dancefloor which came out in 2019 and I Remember (Death In The Afternoon) an album track from Rage in Eden from ‘81.
A clutch of terrific Ultravox hits takes us to the end of the set Reap The Wild Wind, Love’s Great Adventure and the afore mentioned Dancing With Tears In My Eyes. As his vocals soar on the chorus we are reminded that this virus stuff has only just begun. The band returns for a two song encore of The Voice and Hymn.
If this turns out to be the last gig I get to see for a while I’m very happy it was so great.
P.S. The day after Adelaide Midge cancelled the rest of his tour due to the COVID-19 Pandemic.
All images courtesy of Ian Bell