Midge Ure @ The Earl, Atlanta 10-15-16 [part 5]

ure-vienna-1

Midge Ure gets hands on with his synth

Following “Vienna,” what else could Ure do but perform the bracing follow-up that was “All Stood Still?” It performed the same function on the “Vienna” album, and even here, 36 years later, it still managed to be the final Molotov cocktail from the dark heart that had spawned “Ha! Ha! Ha!” This vicious, apocalyptic number was always a jolt to the system and here was no different. My love for this song has grown much in the intervening years, so I was gratified to hear it in the set.

Then came the song that got me hooked on Ultravox back in the fateful September of 1980. “Passing Strangers” possesses in its recorded form, a middle eight that actually changed my perceptions of the world. I had never heard synth riffage so powerful before. To that extent, all live versions I’ve ever heard of this song have failed to deliver so potent a payload in comparison, and this night was no different. The general paring back of the keys this evening from the LP version, managed to make it seem more of an aesthetic choice than any failings of Billy Currie [or in this case Tony Solis] to match the electric power of the mid eight solo over the years. In any case, the secondary payload of this number has always been the suavity of Ure’s delivery of this scenario. I had hoped that he would add the fantastic guitar coda that the song has had in the years following “Vienna” and he certainly complied. Too bad the studio version didn’t have that ending as well, but Ure probably worked it out in concert afterward.

When the next number began, I was thinking that Ure was tuning his guitar for a minute or so. He had frequent tuning issues throughout the evening [thank goodness for digital tuners, which can speed up this process], but when I realized he was not tuning but instead noodling the riffs from “Dancing With Tears In My Eyes.” as an extended intro, I had to admit that it really didn’t work for me. While I realize that the tune was one of the two commercial singles that Chrysalis US had bothered to release by the band in America, with the evening’s emphasis on the rock energy of Ultravox at the forefront, might that have been better served by the appearance of “One Small Day” instead? In any case, that track was on the B-side of the “Dancing With Tears In My Eyes” 12″ single too. Considering what had come before, I would have put “Dancing” at mid-set.

With the last chords of “Dancing With Tears In My Eyes” still fading out, Midge Ure came forth and admitted that the game of encores is sometimes best forgotten, and then he made a comment on all of the musical losses we’ve suffered through in 2016 and launched into the one cover version of the evening, from the pen of Mr. Bowie. But instead of my first thought, “The Man Who Sold The World” [from 1982’s “Party Party” OST] or even my second [“Lady Stardust” from his 2006 covers album “10”], he went straight to the number than any UK teenager who lived through Top Of The Pops in 1972 would always hold as their gateway drug to Bowie. “Starman.”

The Ure respect for the Bowie canon gained a little more breadth that evening. While it might have been more expected to sing one of the Bowie songs he’d recorded, the emotional tug of this one couldn’t be denied. As “Passing Strangers” introduced me to Ultravox, so did “Starman” to a generation of UK fans older than me. After that the band left the stage as my wife told me how much she enjoyed the concert. I don’t think she had quite the proper mental picture of Ure, and if you just listened to his solo albums, I can almost see why. The time period in which those albums were made do them no favors. In 2016, he was a much more engaging performer.

I had planned to buy the tour shirt but the usual problem at tour leg’s end reared its ugly head and there were only small and medium sizes left, so I demurred. I can fit into a medium, but a few dryings in the dryer and one s left with more of a corset, than a t-shirt. The rest of the merch was largely live acoustic CDs I’d rather pass on or albums I already had on CD in expanded versions. As I was finally seeing a major core collection artist for the first time, I carefully pondered which release in my large collection should I bring for an autograph. I eventually settled on my extra clear vinyl UK 7″ of “The Voice” as an appropriate choice. It was an iconic “Rage In Eden” single, and more to the point, I had two of them in my collection. One to keep and one to have signed.

And that was the way it was going to be except for kismet intruding just a few hours before the show. I had planned to visit Wuxtry Records in Decatur during this Atlanta visit, since the single time I had been there in 2012, I had seen pretty wonderful records that I had no money to buy on that trip. Subsequent Atlanta trips passed the store by, but this time I was interested in making the effort. I was well rewarded for my decision. The shopping there was top drawer, and ironically, the store had two [!] UK 7″ copies in black vinyl of “The Voice” in their excellent 7″ bins. How often does one see that in this fallen world? But that was nothing next to the US LP of “Vienna.”

This was the record that had immeasurable impact on my life back in December of 1980 when I finally found a copy of this album that I had been searching for, for three long months. Worse, my personal copy had foolishly left the Record Cell back in 1985, when I bought the UK CD of “Vienna” in a feat of stupidity that would see me selling off this and many core collection albums when buying the CDs of same. To my eternal regret. In subsequent years, I managed to find a Yugoslavian LP of this title, but until this fateful day, just a few hours before seeing Midge Ure for the first time, it was my only copy of the album on vinyl. Until now.

A long time coming…

A long time coming…

I managed to get a few moments in with Mr. Ure as I promptly forgot say all of the things that I wished to say to this man as he politely listened to my blatherings. But it was my wife who took the prize when she told him that we would be seeing him again in Nashville, on the end of his next North American tour leg in January. Weather willing, there will be another Midge Ure concert in our future three months hence. Right now, Ure is in a great place for me. He’s finally touring with rock music backing for the first time in years and seems more the interested in revisiting his Ultravox legacy and I’m happy to strike while the iron’s hot.

– 30 –

About postpunkmonk

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14 Responses to Midge Ure @ The Earl, Atlanta 10-15-16 [part 5]

  1. Steve says:

    Now I want to see him…and he’s already played NYC!

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  2. jordan says:

    Glad you enjoyed the show.I may go see him then in San Diego.I just read a review where he played in the UK an acoustic version of I think, Night Train or The Damned Do Not Cry.Not sure if I would want to hear that.

    I agree with you on those two versions of Ultravox.All Stood Still was always much stronger live than the LP.Passing Strangers,the LP version was stronger IMO.

    Even though I also did the transition to CD with Ultravox,I never sold any of my vinyl,primarily to have large versions of the artwork.I have not played any of them since 1985.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      jordan – It seems from evidence that the show in the UK was one of his acoustic forays. Visage acoustic? Just Say No! I hope that his West Coast leg is more of the same electric fire we caught in Atlanta. I’d hate to drive 300 miles [one way] for that! It does seem like the UK tour is the one that’s getting more Visage and the Rich Kids material… with the caveat that the whole freaking show is the dreaded acoustic opus that makes me tremble in my boots! His backing band India Electric Co. are electric in name only! They’re folk musicians!!!! Gaaaaaaah!

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  3. Shelf says:

    Happy to read that you enjoyed the show! However, it seems that our respective opinions on Ure’s tour differ greatly. After reading your thorough deconstruction of Bryan Ferry’s Nashville date from this past summer, my initial thought was, “Damn – the Monk is difficult to please!” I attended the Philly stop of that tour and was very happy with the performance by Ferry and his band. Of course, with Ferry and Ure, we’re not comparing apples to apples, though.

    Midge Ure’s show at World Café Live in Philadelphia (a far nicer venue than The Earl, judging from your description) featured Richard Lloyd as the support act. I’ve never been a fan of Television, so Lloyd was of no interest to me; however I did catch the last couple of songs in his set. Lloyd was either drunk, high, or both. After Ure came on, Lloyd would occasionally stumble out from back stage to check out the show and lure ladies back to the dressing room area. Lecherous and bizarre, Lloyd’s demeanor was unintentionally amusing.

    Ure came on around 9:00 PM. My first major gripe is that the tour theme of ‘Something From Everything’ is very misleading – I reasonably expected Ure to play material from all phases of his long, illustrious career, including: Slik, Rich Kids, Visage, Ultravox and solo (Thin Lizzy not required, thanks). What he delivered: seven Ultravox tunes, five solo songs, one Visage track, and a Bowie cover. In fairness, the tune selections were mostly inspired, but including “Beneath A Spielberg Sky” in the set was a case of poor judgement.

    I thought the ‘power trio’ band concept was lacking in depth and fullness, and the two backing musicians were no better than adequate. However, Ure sounded very good – both in voice and on guitar. Unfortunately, I felt that his wonderful between-song banter was sometimes more entertaining than the songs that preceded or followed it.

    Ure finished his set at 10:20, which leads to my other major complaint: any artist should be capable of performing for a minimum of 90 minutes – any less and I take umbrage. Even if the act plays an outstanding set list and sounds great, I still expect a solid hour and a half of stage time.
    I couldn’t be bothered with post-show meet-and-greet, especially given that I was disappointed by the performance. Perhaps if I had not seen Ure live in 2013 (which I felt was a better experience overall), my review of the recent show would have been more favorable.

    Going back to the length of the performance – as a topic for open discussion, what do you consider to be an acceptable duration for a concert? In September, I saw Echo & The Bunnymen, who, like Midge Ure, also walked off after playing for only an hour and 20 minutes (and the show was weak, to boot). That same month, Book Of Love barely managed an hour on stage. I’m not suggesting that every artist adopt a Springsteen-esque marathon setlist approach to touring. But should there be some correlation with ticket price? If one pays $50 or more for a ticket, is it too much to ask for a two hour set? Whereas, is a 75 minute concert acceptable for $20 or less? And don’t get me started on ticket scalpers/touts – resellers have completely ruined stadium events.

    Most of the shows I’ve seen this year have been less than memorable – Modern English was a surprising exception. I don’t want to make any generalizations related to artist age or mojo or whatever, but not every act is up to the task of touring anymore.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      Shelf – You have posited a deep can of worms that demands a reposonse taking more time that I have right now. Can I I.O.U. a response? I may have to make it into a blog thread, but I’m very interested in your comment, honest!

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  4. Echorich says:

    The perfect Ure show would have a middle interlude with Mr.X/Herr X for me.
    Vienna is a gateway album much like Replicas for Numan. Vienna added a certain romanticism to what was a primarily cold and somewhat strident synth pop/rock sound as the 80’s began.
    At the same time, I can’t listen to Vienna without pulling it’s half brother Visage out. They are the these albums bookend 1980 (with Numan’s Telekon in between) for me.
    I am so glad Ure did not disappoint Monk.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      Echorich – Really? I simply can’t imagine Ure ever tackling “Mr.X/Herr X” not the least of reasons is because Warren always handled that one. But the “Vienna” “Visage” combo was indeed potent. The first “Ultravox family” album I bought following “Vienna” was the “Visage” album. I naively thought life was always going to be that amazing from then on!

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  5. jordan says:

    Shelf.Interesting review and comments.I think that would make an interesting Monk thread.I also saw Midge on his 2013 tour,or was it 2014? Acoustic (great) and Retro (awful) tour.Since I have not seen this current band,I will refrain from any comments about the show.

    I certainly would not expect any Slik or Rich Kids.I would not be interested in hearing any of that.I think it is safe to say that 99% of his audience in N.A. do not know anything by him before Ultravox (including myself) so why bother.That is like expecting him to play a B-side.

    90 minutes.I never thought of it like that.Anything longer than 60 minutes would be satisfactory.It’s the quality of the show,much like it’s the quality of the album length.I am fine with an LP lasting 30-40 minutes if I love it.No need for filler.Anything over 90 minutes is too long generally speaking for myself,I start to drift.Of course,depends on the act and scope of production.I saw NIN a few years ago or Roger Waters The Wall and 120 minutes was fine.I remember seeing Jesus/Mary Chain in 1986 and the show was 30 minutes or New Order ( throughout most of their career until 1993 ) played an hour.I was fine with all that as the shows were spectacular.However cost does play into it vs perceived value.Cannot be helped as most people want X amount for their money.

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    • Shelf says:

      I agree that folks in North America may not be aware of Ure’s work outside of Ultravox and his solo albums; however, his other bands (and Band Aid/Live Aid) are mentioned on the tour flyers and promo materials. I was looking forward to hearing that earlier material, specifically because I am unfamiliar with it.

      Concert duration and album length are two entirely different concepts that are not comparable. Once again, I agree with you that 40 minutes is adequate for an album – any longer and you’re likely to get filler, as you noted. But an artist who’s been making music for over 40 years can barely scratch the surface of their career in a 80-minute live set.

      Thinking about all the concerts that I’ve attended in the past 30 years, with few exceptions (and to the best of my memory), every main act performed for at least 90 minutes. Of course, times varied for multi-artist tours comprised of three or four acts, as well as festivals, but that’s to be expected.

      The cost of a concert ticket has to cover a few expenses: compensation for the artist (anything from one person with a guitar to a multi-member band), road crew, and management, along with any stage production, transportation, hotels, insurance, etc. So determining concert ‘value for money’ isn’t a simple exercise, but most attendees probably think the band gets all the money, anyway.

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  6. jordan says:

    I was not aware that the current tour promo material mentions Rich Kids or Live Aid.I guess that is a grey zone.It probably is to make people aware of who he is more than a promise to play actual songs.

    You missed my point about duration.What I meant was that it is the quality of that duration that is the gauge to me.So an album of 40 minutes or a concert of 60 minutes or a film of 70 minutes or a book of 120 pages,if it is all quality and moved me,I am fine with it.

    No artist who has a 40 year career can touch their catalogue in several hours I would guess and I would not want to hear it anyway.A Springsteen or Phish or The Cure concert going on 3 plus hours,no thanks.I’ve attended concerts for well over 30 years and in all that time,anything above 60 minutes was fine for me.As an average,I would say 90 minutes would be fair and I am fine with that as well.After 90 minutes,I usually leave.

    I am in the live production industry and have toured quite a bit in my younger days so I am well aware of the expenses of concerts.It certainly can get expensive and yes,the artist on the lower end sometimes get very little.On the higher end,they are well paid.What I meant as far as value for the money is that it is in each individual experience.I have paid $250 for a concert (Roger Waters) and thought it was worth it for various reasons.I have paid $50 for Gary Numan and felt ripped off.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      jordan – Actually I see that the “Something From Everything” tour is the name of the UK legs of his tour. In North America, it was “Introduce A Friend To His Music” the North American promo was here: http://www.midgeure.co.uk/images/US%202.png

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    • Shelf says:

      Jordan – I do share your perspective regarding quality vs duration when it comes to media such as film, music, and print: good is good, regardless of length. However, unlike CDs, blu-rays, and books, a live performance is a unique form of entertainment that you experience (usually) only once. Again referencing the ‘value for money’ concept: a concert ticket costs more than a CD, for which most people maintain some minimum expectations. And because almost every show that I’ve seen has lasted at least 90 minutes, perhaps I have been conditioned to think that anything less is disappointing. Also, I can’t imagine leaving a concert early – traditionally, artists save their big hits for encores. But even if a show isn’t going great, I’ll still stay to the end. But to your point – every concert is different to everyone, and one person’s perfect show is a rip-off to someone else.

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