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.
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