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.
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.
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