(Magic Bag, Ferndale, MI - January 17th, 2013)
Ultravox front man Midge Ure announced just before Christmas a rare North American solo tour. With 16 dates confirmed, inclusive of a single Canadian show also, he is taking the time to test the water re: the possibility of bringing the reformed Ultravox over later in the year.
The trek, which Ure announced on his Facebook page, actually had the singer/songwriter himself imploring his fans to spread the word, as "it’s a long way to come and play to 3 people and a dog!”
But he needn't have worried for cometh the hour cometh the man. At precisely 9.30p Midge's backing band (and opening band Right The Stars) take the stage, with Midge just behind them. Greeted by a hearty round of applause, he nods his appreciation to them before launching into 'I See Hope In The Morning Light' (from his 1991 Breathe album). Wearing an all-black attire of suit, tshirt and shoes, Midge looks just like he did some twenty years ago. And aside from a "man flu" he's picked up that wrestles with his high notes, he is on fine form tonight.
During some slight technical difficulties, Midge then reveals something: "I hate technology," he laughs. But when it's all fixed, he tells the crowd that "It's great to be back", before bringing us the first Ultravox song of the night, a rip-roaring 'Love's Great Adventure.' It truly is a song that sets the tone for the incredible music to follow tonight.
"This is something old, just like everything else I'm gonna play tonight," he laughs again, before giving us another Ultravox cut, 'Call of the Wild.' It is such a fantastic song to hear live and still sounds so fresh, so radio-now to listen to. "Where have you all been for 25 years," he next asks the crowd. "I've been waiting over there on a plane, but nobody called me back! Oh, and I might be losing my hair," he jokes, before explaining more about the next song, 'Fade To Grey.' "This is something I made a long time ago, but I only wrote and produced it. Never really sang it. So this is my version of it." And, trust me when I say, as a true fan of Midge's various works, that this Visage hit was the BIG highlight of the night to hear live (for me, at least!).
"You're all very quiet tonight," he states, as the crowd end their gentle clapping of appreciation for a song that, perhaps, they had never even heard before. "I thought all American's were whooping and hollering at concerts? Anyway, I wrote this a long time ago," he again laughs, "and when I did I convinced myself it was the best song that I'd ever done. And two years later it turned out to be the worst song I'd ever done! But then it featured on a watch commercial and became a success. But not here and not in the UK!" This was his comical anecdote for the simply stunning 'Breathe.'
Swapping guitars, the pounding keyboard keys the intro to one of his great solo hits, 'Cold, Cold Heart,' a song that you can see his love, his passion for in all his vocal expressions throughout. "We were at the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame this morning," he continues afterwards, "which is a great day out ... if you like looking at guitars! I did ask someone where the Midge Ure wing was and he said this was the closest I was ever going to get to this building," he playfully laughs. 'Answers To Nothing' is next, with more chat following: "Thank you, thank you very much. I honestly haven't played that in years, can you tell? I'm suffering right now though. I've got the Man Flu. So forgive me if you think there's yodeling in the middle of the songs!"
The all-out rocker 'Just For You' is next, before Midge intro's the next song: "I didn't write this next song although I wish I had. I heard this when I was doing a radio show back in the '70s. When I had a #1 record. One that I didn't really even play on! They didn't even want me to! But, I heard this song and said that one day I would do my own version of it. So, here it is now." And with that he launches into an iconic version of the old Tom Rush ballad, 'No Regrets.' Then, with a slight nod to the drummer, we are quickly lead into the musical world of their classic known-throughout-the-world #2 hit single, 'Vienna.' And my goodness, the song brings chills to your spine to hear live; especially with the original lead singer at its helm.
After a poignant, and heartfelt 'Dear God,' Midge thanks the crowd once again: "I've just completed a three month tour with Ultravox of Europe and if I can get their old sorry asses over here we might be touring here this year," he reveals to a rapturous crowd. "So keep your fingers crossed. And this is something we played on that tour." And that leads us into a pulsating 'One Small Day,' a song that still sounds perfect for the radio today. After thanking us all again, Midge's voice is noticeably getting hoarser, which he addresses: "I've realized that over the past few years that I've been writing songs in high keys! I should have been a Bee Gee," he laughs.
Then, as he is slowly warming up into the beautiful Ultravox song 'Hymn,' some moron from the crowd slow-claps him! "That's quite possibly the most off-putting thing that I've ever heard," Midge admits, glaring at him. The man then shouts out that he sold his house to see the show tonight, to which Midge smiles, and a woman from the crowd comically adds the punch line of 'Welcome to Detroit!' Singing the song, he then thanks the crowd before bringing us the last song of the set - his biggest solo hit back in the UK, the bouncy 'If I Was.' And then, once sung, he thanks every one, jokingly tells them he'll see them again in another 25 years, smiles broadly, waves, and is then off backstage.
Coming back out alone from behind the black backstage curtain, Midge reveals something else to us all: "This is my pet hate. Not doing encores, but pretending to do encores! It's all bollocks and you know it! In reality, I'd meet you all at the door, shake your hand and say 'Hi, I'm Midge and I'm gonna be the one making all the noise tonight. And I'm not gonna do an encore, but I'll sing all the songs I was going to sing.' But you would still want an encore," he laughs.
And so with that, he performs some solo guitar work, the band come back on stage, and they launch into a stirring 'Dancing With Tears In My Eyes.' With his vocal chords obviously ripped by now, two of the band take over his usual trademark high pitched chorus yelps, but they blend in seamlessly. "Thank you, thank you all very much," Midge says, guitar down, band to the fore. This is my band, Right The Stars. Thank you." And then he's gone, behind the black curtain, another show on this 16 date Ultravox trial run successfully under his belt.
Review & Photos by: Russell A. Trunk