The “1980 Tour: The Finale” Captured Peak Midge Ure [Part 1]

Midge Ure 1980 Tour
Midge Ure Band Electronica lovingly captured the music of Ultravox and Visage

I have to say that one of the benefits of the Covid-19 lockdown and lack of live concerts were the streaming solutions that popped up to sate the market demand. While viewing a concert on streaming was a distant second to actually experiencing live music, it’s infinitely higher on the enjoyment scale than not seeing or hearing anything at all.

I can’t help but think that when live shows open up again with tours and the like, that streaming options might be a valid way of further monetizing the gigs that happen on a more regular basis. A streaming ticket for a gig at $20 [this show streamed live for $23 and for 30 days with extras at $30] might be a fraction of the live seat in the venue, but the potential is there for so many more eyeballs to experience the shows that way. After all, the infrastructure has now been established to do this with some regularity.

This show featured Midge Ure with what he calls Band Electronica. His three man band who play with him on his UK/European gigs. Cole Stacy on bass/synths. Joseph O’Keefe on synths/violin. And Russell Field on drums/loops. The show kicked off with a bang. The Phil Lynott synth-banger “Yellow Pearl” with Midge playing an instrumental version since most of his audience would possibly recognize it as the theme from “Top of The Pops” where the driving electro-rocker was the theme for several years in the early 80s. I would have been game for Ure to gave given the lyrics a go, but perhaps out of respect for his absent friend he opted for letting the music speak for itself. And the words it spoke were stirring and eloquent!

I can never get enough of “Yellow Pearl” and find it to be the acme of Midge Ure’s career outside of Ultravox and Visage. It showed him steeped in the sound of Krautrock and bringing it to the English shores as David Bowie had done a few years earlier. This track is always pure excitement and the flanged bass synths and arpeggiators soared over the motorik electric drums that had Mr. Field playing a Roland kit for this show with a heavy emphasis on a notably synthetic sound.

The tantalizingly brief speedrush of “Yellow Pearl” segued right into the song I had been waiting to hear live forever, when the Visage portion of the show began. Ure started at side one, track one with the electric title track to the “Visage” album; my favorite song from the album from day one. Ure had moved from his synth rig to the trusty guitar to give the propulsive track the requisite rock crunch. As Ure had stated whenever he had a platform, by 1980 he and Rusty Egan were more interested in fusing rock energy with electronics which ultimately led to the Visage project.

Hearing it played live, reminded us of how it had taken place in an era when there wasn’t even MIDI to make it all simpler. Ure sounded like he was holding back his vocals to occupy a similar space in the music that Steve Strange had when originally making this music. So this wasn’t a case of Ure belting it out 40 years later but trying to fit within the original parameters of the music. An in a contrary move, the song ended with a new coda instead of seguing into the next track. The drums and guitar dropped out to let the synths lave the last word. Ending on a very similar note to… Tubeway Army’s “Me! I Disconnect From You!” Color me surprised [and delighted].

And the next track was still “Blocks On Blocks.” Just like the Visage album. This was one of the tracks that lent itself to live, rock band playback most readily. Ure, was starting to warm up vocally and it was interesting hearing him sings the lyrics as it was much easier to discern what he was singing, even though the song still had a touch of vocoder as on the original. The middle eight was every bit as muscular as on the album thought the sound design on the synths was a bit more aggressive. The track still segued into the next song, the rousing instrumental, “The Dancer.” The orchestral stabs were a little polite but the guitar of Ure managed to fill in admirably for the missing sax of John McGeoch.

midge ure playing synths live
Midge switched between a synth rack and his trusty guitar

Next came a shocker. An expanded, re-arranged take on the first Visage recording. The cover of “In The Year 2525!” The original track as released on the “Fade To Grey” singles collection was a little tentative, but by now, it’s been re-imagined as the ultimate version of the Visage cover version. Ure was really hitting his stride vocally by this point and the extended intro and coda gave the track more gravitas.

The sound of children heralded the single “Mind Of A Toy” and the stripped back sound gave the spotlight to Mr. Stacy’s bass guitar. The next song was a ringer in the Visage set that had me startled. It ended up being “Glorious,” the song that Ure had performed on the Rusty Egan solo album of a few years back. While the song featured something close to the typical Ure lyric of his mature period, the music was pulsating electronica that sounded pretty great to me. Well, it was co-written between Ure with Chris Payne and Rusty Egan. I’m glad their chemistry hasn’t faded over time. The song ended with a drum solo breakdown that made sense considering that Egan had been drumming for the Visage set during the earliest legs of this original tour.

Then a drumbox loop paved the way for a surprisingly irreverent take on the classic “Fade To Grey.” With soft synths, there is every capacity for the artist to sample their master tapes and replicate the sound design of a cut down to the last detail. Usually OMD opt for this method as they are convinced that their fans won’t have it any other way. Myself, I prefer letting the song and sound design breathe a little. I appreciate some variation, otherwise we could all be in playback hell. And Midge Ure obviously sees things this way as well.

The main riff hook to “Fade To Grey” was played here with a different sounding patch that made it come a little closer to the sound of the Datura version with a hint of the rave. Ure’s was really cutting loose vocally here, and Cole Stacy offered the subtle backing vocals. I liked the new coda solo by Mr. O’Keefe as well, which led into a new cold ending for the song. That ended the Visage portion of the show and we’d gotten about half of the album as well as a few unscheduled treats. The only omission that I was perhaps missing was the berserker electronic fury of “Malpaso Man,” which, forty years later, is shaping up to be a surprise favorite. But maybe that was too much energy to get put into this song arc.

When the “metal beat” of a CR-78 faded up we knew it was time for the “Vienna” portion of the set. This would be a first as I’ve never heard the album played in full before on any other occasions. I was interested in seeing how this band would differ from recordings I had of the reconstituted Ultravox leaning heavily on this material from their 2009 concert I had in full on CD/DVD. With “Astradyne,” what was served was a classic take on the distinctive instrumental. The sound design stuck very close to the original template. The reverbed piano leads and violin solo paid fealty to the time-honored original recording, but the drum fills by Field dared to step outside of the Warren Cann rhythmic blueprint for the occasional flight of fancy.

midge ure playes new eurpoeans
Midge Ure plays “New Europeans” with gusto

I liked the differences in “New Europeans” with a clean hard sound to the arrangement with less of the atmosphere that Conny Plank had invested the song with. The tattoos of snare that Field was daring to place into the song were subtle, but appreciated. And over it all, Ure managed to really emote on his lead vocals that had hit hitting the highest notes of the evening thus far.

red lightiing on the middle eight of New Europeans
a dash of red lighting for emphasis on the middle eight of “New Europeans”

The middle eight had the lighting design for the show, which was almost completely into the blue spectrum for most of the show shift dramatically to red as Ure’s vocal lacked the filtering on the original album production for less of the remote distance of that version. O’Keefe’s piano solo on the coda synched perfectly with the last gank of Ure’s guitar for the famous cold ending.

Next: …Promises Kept

About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | remastering vinyl • record collector • satire • non-fiction
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16 Responses to The “1980 Tour: The Finale” Captured Peak Midge Ure [Part 1]

  1. negative1ne says:

    Hi Mr. Monk,
    What an amazing show. One can only hope it
    has been archived, and will show up as a
    physical release at some point as I was not
    able to watch it.

    Ultravox has been going wild with vinyl, and
    cd releases, with all the activity, so that’s a
    good sign. Midge Ure has also been busy
    too, so let’s see what happens.

    later
    -1

    Like

    • postpunkmonk says:

      negative1ne – -sputters!- Are you saying to me that you are spending $300 a month buying Ultravox records and you didn’t buy a 30 day ticket to watch this show as many times as you want for a month??!! Bad form. But there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.

      Liked by 1 person

      • negative1ne says:

        Mr. Monk,
        Good point. But due to family issue (father is sick with cancer),
        and other things. Timing was bad. The main thing is that I
        don’t have access to highspeed interenet at my house.

        Also I’m not vaccinated and my parents don’t want me coming
        over to their house, unless its absolutely necessary.

        I am using a shared wifi hotspot with my phone. So streaming
        is out of the question. Although I could have found
        a place to watch it within a month.

        later
        -1

        Like

        • postpunkmonk says:

          negative1ne – Wow, under the circumstances, I totally get it. Sorry to hear about your father. Mine died of cancer many years ago and that’s an event that really takes a toll. I hope things get better for you there.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Tim says:

    I’d pay to see something like this streamed in a movie theater.
    Not $30 pay but you know, regular ticket price would do. We have all this technology but we don’t really exploit it.
    But Mission Impossible: 9, will play on 13 screens at the same time so yay technology!

    Liked by 1 person

    • postpunkmonk says:

      Tim – We get operas streamed in our movie theatres but nothing cool like this! Truth to tell if I could see Midge Ure in freaking -Atlanta- [the NYC of the southeast, truly] in a dive bar that held 106 people, I can’t hold out much hope for such a scenario. Philistines!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Tim says:

        The place that we go to streams opera and sportsball as well as the occasional concert. Thing is they have to do this often with a variety of conent and they’ll see that people are game for it. c-the success of Hamilton in the past year, for example. Don’t know until you try but oh, my. god. Buckets of Crud 14 is out in 3D and Dolby Atmos and you have to see it so we’re playing it on 9 of our 30 screens!

        Liked by 1 person

        • KeithC says:

          I second paying to see Midge in a movie theater; both Soft Cells’ final O2 concert and The Cure’s Hyde Park 40th were shown in a movie theater up here in Calgary (both pre-Covid). Both the sound and picture were fantastic; there was a pretty good turnout for The Cure being about 50% full but Soft Cell was a bit of a downer with only my brother and I in the theater. Also a bit disappointing as I don’t recall David Ball doing anything other than kicking the next song off his sequencer and playing a few fills here and there. If I recall, tickets were about $20 and I ended up buying the standalone 2 Blu-ray Cure concert later as it was sonically much better than anything else live in my collection. As for Soft Cell, I picked up the Say Hello, Wave Goodbye 2 CD+DVD a few months later but I think the DVD was only ever removed from the case when I checked it for scratches as it came from the UK and a few of the teeth broke off during shipping.

          I missed buying a ticket for this as well given work issues but a quick check on the Stabal website looks like it is still available until Jul-14 (not sure if the 30 days ends then or if its 30 days subsequent from that date).

          Liked by 1 person

          • postpunkmonk says:

            KeithC – Good on you, son for seeing Soft Cell. I had no idea that was one of those cinema streaming thingys. Wow! Only you and your brother attending in a metropolis like Calgary is not too far from my first Midge Ure concert experience. Strangely enough, the second show we was much bigger/nicer in Nashville, Tennessee with much greater attendance! But since Soft Cell were a Synth Duo® it’s not shocking that Dave Ball would be highly “automated” in concert. If they had other musicians on stage it would have been more interesting, but then would that have watered down the Soft Cell vibe that was their essence? Tough decisions, either way.

            Like

          • negative1ne says:

            Thanks for the information.
            Looks like I might get a chance to watch this after all.

            later
            -1

            Like

          • Tim says:

            If I had a venue that did that sort of thing regularly there is a good chance that I would go every week just to support it, also would be a good way to get exposed to some music that I may not otherwise hear. I have mixed feelings about the attendance at your soft cell gig, on one hand, not good for sustaining this sort of effort. On the other hand, you had the palce to yourself! (that’s how I saw Bladerunner 2049, save for the one guy who was about 15 feet away from me and ate loudly nonstop for the 1st hour of the movie).

            Like

  3. Mathmandan says:

    A little bit off topic, but since this post mentions Rusty Egan, why is Rusty suddenly lashing out at Rubellan Remasters, of all people, on Twitter?

    Like

  4. I enjoyed the concert – especially the surprise tracks – a great deal. At first I assumed they would be likely to lower the key of the songs a tad to accommodate Midge’s aging voice, but it doesn’t seem like they did (impressive), though I did note several places where he pulled back from going 100 percent full-thorated (more so at the beginning rather than the end, where his voice was clearly fully warmed up), and exactly one instance (on a song late in the program) where he just “nope”‘d out of the high notes.

    This did not diminish my enjoyment in the slightest, as it is totally understandable and I was wholly impressed with his power and remaining range 40 years on!

    If I had to nitpick this near-perfect set, I would have to say that the total lack of audience – while it did nothing to diminish the quality of the performances – brought a hint of dissatisfaction, especially when Midge was at his peak in this concert. Finishing songs to eerie silence instead of “and the crowd goes wild” appreciation threw me off a bit, I must confess.

    That said, I am dumbfounded that more of our fave bands haven’t opted for this way of making a little extra money. As for the price, remember that when paying $50-60 for a ticket to a live show, that artist/band are incredibly lucky if they see $20 of that! This proves that even in the post-COVID era, groups would be smart to professionally record a gig near the end of the tour when the band are at their peak, and flog it for the many, many fans who couldn’t make it to the gigs in person! What I’d give for a certain Fantastic Mr. Foxx to pick up on this idea and run with it – particularly after the intense pleasure of hearing “Touch And Mr. X” (heh) live for the first time ever!

    Indeed, the early part of the Vienna portion of the show reminded me of how much Foxx’s ghost inhabited that album, but perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself! Roll on part 2!

    Like

    • postpunkmonk says:

      chasinvictoria – You make a point that I forgot to. Hearing hugely exciting musical performances in a vacuum was jarring. Wrong, on the face of it. It was like one of those “recorded live but without an audience” albums like some of our favorites [like Mr. Foxx, for instance] have made that allow us to have the closest thing to a studio album of the modern, newly arranged renditions of our old favorites. So that is surely some form of compensation for the weird vibe.

      Like

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