Shelf made a great comment that was full of interesting points to discuss a short while back in the comments for my Midge Ure review. Now that I have a little extra time to reply, I want to address the intriguing topics that he raised. For convenience, I’ll repeat his comment in full, below.
“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.” – Shelf
Ferry vs Ure: the steel cage match?
Shelf had read my guarded review of Bryan Ferry’s recent tour and thought that I was “hard to please.” Well, for movers and shakers like Ferry, yes. I think that I am. Ferry is among a handful of artists who have influenced generations of my favorite artists. You know the type. It’s an exclusive club of Lou Reed, David Bowie, and Bryan Ferry… and even Bowie and Ferry are indebted to Reed. So, yes, I look(ed) to those artists with an exceptionally critical eye. None of them were unimpeachable; they all had their artistic ebbs and flows. Now, Ferry is the last man standing so it’s all on his shoulders now, though I hasten to add that Bowie left this mortal coil on a most impressive artistic note.
I felt that Ferry had an air of the perfunctory to his performance, as great as the setlist was. I sensed hat he was falling back on his past as a crutch in the present. It was very disappointing to have fragile and heartbreaking performance of “Johnny And Mary” being a high point of his “Avonmore” album and to not have it as part of the performance. Say what you will about covers, but Ferry has proven time and time again that a cover version can be a valid artistic statement. With “Johnny + Mary,” I felt it was a surprising burst of late-in-the-game artistic growth that frankly, I did not expect from him. That it was played on the PA when the lights came up was damning to my eyes. Ferry obviously felt that it should be heard that evening that same as I did, and yet he lacked the courage to include a performance that intimate in his set.
With Midge Ure, the initial tour info was misreported by me. For that I take the blame. The “Something From Everything” tour is actually the name of the current UK leg of his tour. Those audiences are currently getting Visage deep cuts and Rich Kids material – as performed by a band of acoustic Irish/folk musicians called the India Electric Co.
Therein lies the gist of my happiness with the recent Ure show. For the last 30 years, Ure has shown strong trends of moving in a Celtic acoustic folk direction. As much as I have decried Simple Minds move in this direction of late, their mere dabbling is nothing compared to Ure’s experience wallowing in this realm. If one were to be honest about it, Ure’s acoustic folk performances actually form the bulk of his career over the last 40 years. The eight straight years of electric rock music [’78-’85] can almost be called a footnote to the seemingly endless thread of Irish folk music, acoustic troubadour touring [particularly in America] and albums that did nothing for me at all.
Let me make it perfectly clear, I really, strongly, dislike acoustic folk music with an Irish bent! When artists I like cling to this genre, they basically lose me as a customer. And Mr. Ure has shown distinct signs of clinging to it for at least 25 years straight, barring the occasional Ultravox reformation. Which I didn’t like either. The years of Midge Ure not performing to my personal preferences are many and I have voiced my opinions so often, that I was actually tired of doing so following 2012.
I was in a dialogue with commenter Jordan about Midge Ure, and he is a music industry professional who also feels that after 1985 [he openly rates “The Gift” while I admire it only grudgingly] Ure has not done much that he was fond of either. We discussed the last Ure concert tour of North America, the Fragile Troubadour Tour, which probably represented the apex of everything I was not interested in from Midge Ure. In the winter of 2015, Ure toured North America as a one man show. One man with an acoustic guitar, driving himself across North America to often small gigs promoting his latest album, “Fragile.” No manager, no driver, no crew.
The so-called Fragile Troubadour Tour was a response to a class that Ure had been teaching at the Liverpool Institute Of Performing Arts wherein he realized while discussing the industry with his students that they would never have anything remotely like his experience of the music industry going forward in their lives, so he booked the most d.i.y. tour possible and made a film about it. I passed up seeing him perform in Atlanta that winter because I didn’t want to hear him sing acoustic music, but I came away with a measure of admiration and empathy for what he was willing to put himself through. It was at that point that I began to feel that I was perhaps being unfair to Mr. Ure. After all, I honestly looked to him as a performer to follow with the utmost of my attention for the best years of the 80s.
Next: …More on Ure and show lengths