Like many Americans, Ultravox was not on my radar until I happened to see the video for “Passing Strangers” on a show called “Hollywood Heartbeat” [Bob Welch hosting music videos very pre-MTV] exactly 36 years ago. As someone already listening to the Ultravox knockoff [Gary Numan] I was more than primed for the real thing. A few weeks later, Ultravox were playing in Tampa, and I lived in Orlando, but that was 90 miles away, no car, no friends drove yet, etc. So I missed the “Vienna” US tour. There was no “Rage In Eden” US tour, and a scant 20 dates for “Quartet” at least 500 miles away and that was all she wrote for Ultravox MK II in America. In the meantime, they became my favorite band and a bedrock of my musical taste and development.
Sure, sure. Following “Quartet,” the red flags started to show. The spotty “Lament” album had Celtic leanings that were indicative of Misge Ure’s future solo career that ultimately did nothing for me. I was still an Ultravox “collector” so until his third album, “Pure,” I duly purchased anything that came near me with Ure’s name on it. That album, apart from the jaunty “Cold, Cold Heart” and the reasonably fiery “Rising,” completely passed me by.
Following that, I merely dabbled in Ure’s solo career. I dipped into his next two solo albums casually only to find that while better than “Pure,” there wasn’t too much there for me.
The last new Ure product I bought was when in Manifest for the first time in Charlotte in 2002, I was shocked to find a Midge Ure live DVD out domestically on Eagle Rock called “Rewind.” It was a career overlook type of show with some very curious direction choices. About 1/5 of the program was a strange shot from the opposite corner of the venue, stage right, with the entire band and stage filling only the upper left quadrant of the frame. In the new millennium, I actually began looking back on Ure and discounting much after 1984, though I did love his 1986 non-LP single “Call Of The Wild” [the 12″ mix] a whole lot.
The Ultravox revival in 2008-2012 was fine for concerts. The live recordings of the UK/German tour were fantastic. Ure’s mature singing completely steamrolled his youthful live recordings that I had. He’d lost some top end but gained immense power in his age and maturity. I was rightfully trepidatious regarding the notion of a new album though, and 2012’s “Brilliant” was all I feared and more. There was about an EP worth of “Quartet” caliber material there with some of the worst stuff either by Ure or Ultravox and that’s taking into account the ill-advised 1986 “UVOX” album even the band regretted. Ure’s vocals were hugely problematical for me. While live recordings were powerful and great, he was singing in a deliberately weak voice for reasons I could not fathom. His decision made no artistic sense to me though the plodding tempos on many of the songs may have impacted his decision to do so.
It goes without saying that I never managed to see Midge Ure, live either. Any of his solo tours pre-1994 never came within spitting distance and in the pre-web era, it was difficult staying on top of things. I used to keep up with Cerise Reed of Extreme Voice fanzine after Billy Currie referred her to me when I bought his second solo album mail order back in 1992. After 1994, all of his North American tours, some of which I did know about, were acoustic solo things which I had zero stomach for. So it was with some surprise that I saw last month that Mr. Ure was staging a two leg North American tour in October 2016/January 2017 with an electric band in tow. A two man backup on drums and bass/synth.
The first leg ended in Atlanta on Saturday, and after some deliberation, I decided that I had been too uncharitable towards Ure of late, and maybe this was the time to actually drive the 200 miles to Atlanta and see him. Finally. I found it effortless to skip his acoustic gig there [even though Murray Attaway opening was actually tempting] in January of 2015. This time, I weighed the considerations and decided to go for it. I have to say that when I found out the venue was a smoky, dive bar with show room type place, I went to Midgeure.com and emailed Ure directly using the listed email address for the man himself asking if he could get a non-smoking show, since my wife would simply leave, putting me in a state of cognitive dissonance. The venue will stage non-smoking shows, but the talent has to request it. I thought “he’s already signed the contract. I’ll bet it’s off of the table,” but on October 2nd, I received the following email:
My agent tells me this has been resolved. Enjoy the show.
Wow! Two thumbs up for Midge Ure.
Word has it he was playing half of his set from the Ultravox songbook. Against my anti-Google policy, I caved and checked out two of the videos online. Not too shabby and the three piece band managed to get up a head of steam on the ‘Vox material. He was playing four cuts from “Vienna” so this was really unfinished business for me. My wife said she’d go even though she’s more of a John Foxx fan. We drove down to Atlanta on Saturday and had a fantastic bite to eat at We Suki Suki [a Global grub Collective] across the street from The Earl the afternoon of the show. Afterward, there was time for some record shopping, but that’s another story. We made our way to the venue by around 9 p.m. which was door time. The Earl was every inch the smoky dive bar of my imagination, so it warmed the cockles of my heart to see the “No Smoking Show” sign at the end of the corridor taking us from the bar area to the venue room.
Next: …His modern world revolves around the synthesizer’s song