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

About postpunkmonk

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

  1. Tim says:

    Speilberg doesn’t foreshadow, he bludgeons.


  2. Echorich says:

    I think we have reached a point where many of the artists we yearned to hear more from over the past 20 years, that really weren’t getting the opportunity that a core following provided them, have begun to get it. Sure you can take the benefit of a base of fans and release new material, but if you are taking advantage of that benefit, you really need to take their opinions, their favor, into account. I’m not suggesting an artist pander to their audience, but respect what made them fans. Ure stripping back the bluster and self indulgence of his music over the last few decades and honing in to what he can once again spark a flame live is a good sign that maybe if he makes new music he will give more weight to the success of his past.


    • postpunkmonk says:

      Echorich – Well, he is honoring his legacy, playing live at least. One can hope that it spills over into the studio next time. His heavy, eighth month burst of career overlook touring [pretty much October – May, worldwide] is down to paying fealty to his back catalog, though America wasn’t getting any Rich Kids material. As for the American legs, I think they can be put down to two factors. His last completely solo tour, and the inability to get any US tours for Ultravox, who are now on ice permanently [if you believe Billy Currie]. After the last tour, I’m guessing that Ure has now had his fill of acoustic guitars, hopefully for good. He’s expressed his disappointment that promoters couldn’t get behind a US Ultravox tour enough to make it profitable for the foursome. I was impressed that he persevered in doing this tour inexpensively enough for him to play a club in Atlanta with a 106 capacity! That’s not the act of an ivory tower man but a real pragmatist! How many Simple Minds tours have we missed because Kerr and Burchill have an inflated view of their worth over here. Doubly sad for SM because they actually managed to have some hits over here!


  3. Gavin says:

    Sounds good,thanks for the videos.
    ‘That’ drum sound on Vienna was epic.I see he still shakes his head away from the mic when he sings-I always want to grab him and stop it!


    • postpunkmonk says:

      Gavin – C’mon man! He’s projecting from the diaphragm at full force! He has to modulate or else he’d blow us out of the room! Trust me, he has to. It’s not just showbiz affectation… it’s mic technique.


      • Echorich says:

        For a good example of how limited Ure’s voice can be these days, just check out his murdering of Secret Life Of Arabia with B.E.F. a while back…It seems he may have gotten back on track with diaphragm/breath control now though…


        • postpunkmonk says:

          Echorich – There’s no way Ure can just step in for Billy MacKenzie! He would be doomed to failure without a serious re-think of that number. Maybe a woman could.


          • Echorich says:

            Agreed. If only there was some video of him performing it…I’d be happy with Billy’s video image commanding the stage while B.E.F. played. I think it is the greatest cover version of all time in my estimation.


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