Midge Ure (2015)
(Magic Bag, Ferndale, MI - March 5th, 2015)
Having been here to our shores, and indeed the very same venue back some two years ago now, Ultravox front man Midge Ure brought his ‘Fragile Troubadour’ one man show to the Magic Bag again last night. The Grammy and Brit Award winning musician kicked off his North American solo acoustic tour back in early January in Portland, OR in January and on a cold, bitter night in Ferndale, MI (and with only three tour dates left: Milwaukee, WI, Chicago, IL, and Bethesda, MD), the accomplished guitarist took to the stage naked; so to speak!
In a small darkened club, on a black stage with a black backdrop, at 9.20pm Midge Ure quietly, semi-unnoticed, came from behind the black curtain to the solitary mic stand. Dressed head to toe in black, he begins to fiddle with the leads and wires associated with his, yup, you guessed it, black guitar. "I've just got to get my bits together," he gently announces, as the politely filled venue begin to roundly applaud his arrival. "How are you all doing," he asks, as he continues to fiddle. "These are the joys of doing this tour alone," he adds, "I just don't know how all this stuff works. When I toured with Ultravox we had people to do this for us," he smiles broadly, having now accomplished his connection to his one and only amp.
After thanking everyone for coming out, the only thing now lit in the whole room is Midge himself under a dull yellow spotlight, the first song of the night is 'Waiting Days.' "I've just driven down from Canada this morning and it was warmer there than it is here," he comments afterwards. "What's wrong with you people. You live in a fridge!" 'Call Of The Wild' is next, before Midge makes the "more astute" of us aware that he doesn't have any friends with him on stage tonight. He then relates a story about how he dreamed the next song, 'Dear God,' one of the only times he's awoken and remembered the lyrics, before telling us about how the popularity for 'Breathe' came about. "I thought it was the best song that I'd ever written, but the world never agreed. A fan in Japan submitted it to Swatch and they used it for a TV advert and then it became huge all around the world! Except for here and the UK! So, I'm gonna play it for you now to make you all feel guilty," he smiles.
The opening track from his new solo CD, 'I Survived' is next, before he lets the applause subside to pay tribute to his late friend, and fellow band mate, Steve Strange. "Life throws you some strange and odd curve balls and just before I left for this tour a dear friend of mine passed away way too early. I wrote and produced this for Visage back in the day and so tonight, this is for Steve." A quite hauntingly beautiful 'Fade To Grey' is then brought forth. "Scottish accents seem to be everywhere these days," he randomly next throws out. "Like some sort of disease!" After naming TV characters with them, fake or otherwise, Midge then slides into a story about his time back 25 years ago in Berlin, watching as the Wall was being knocked down. After going into great detail about how he was meant to be working when all he was doing was watching as gun towers and roadblocks and the Wall itself were being demolished, he decided to write a song; in the style of a 1930's cabaret, 'Tumbling Down.'
That bleeds right into the always-impressive 'Hymn,' and then taking a break from singing, Midge relates how he got to town earlier than last time (in daylight) and that he walked around Ferndale. "This city is really nice. I love it here. It's really fabulous. And on top of that you get me too," he laughs, before he continues to converse about next playing a song that he didn't write, but he still thinks is "the most beautiful song ever written." That song turns out to be Fleetwood Mac's 'Man of the World,' written by Peter Green.
"I've been asked to play so many songs in this acoustic style on this tour. Some are just downright stupid and this was one of them! But it seemed to kinda work so I'll give it a try again for you now." With that he brings us a stunning 'Reap The Wild Wind' in all its unplugged, save for the obvious electrified implement to his side, glory. The Scotsman is truly at his finest on this song, throwing his head back and forth in an attempt to layer the vocal power. After the applause dies down, Midge talks about the dawn of MTV, how he was amazed that anyone got the funding for the channel to begin with, and all without any actual music videos to play. Save for all the bands in England that had them ready to go.
Next Midge plays two love songs back-to-back, 'Light in Your Eyes,' and 'Guns & Arrows,' before relating the story of how Ultravox regrouped back some five years ago now. After 25 years apart, they felt "we wanted to go out and play these songs one last time the way we wanted them to sound." Midge then tells the long story of how the foursome came together in the same room to decide which songs were to make the set list. To make that decision, they all had a list of Ultravox songs on a sheet of paper, ticked the ones they each wanted to play and whichever songs got four ticks was on the set list. It turned out only four songs were chosen in that manner, one being 'Lament.' "We kind of rediscovered this, because we had all forgotten the song," he then admits.
Straight after that, and without any introduction or hesitation, we get the one true song of the night that everyone had come to hear, the still-powerfully awesome 'Vienna.' Afterwards, as the applause dies down, he freely admits that for someone his age it was written "stupidly high," but then quickly introduces something new from Fragile. A song that he actually, in another form, had originally written for Steve Strange and his Hearts & Knives album for Visage back in 2012, 'Become' is now brought forth. A blistering 'If I Was' is next, before some highly intricate guitar play unexpectedly gives way to a brilliant 'Dancing With Tears In My Eyes.'
Thanking everyone for coming out tonight, one arm waving, the other holding down his shoulder slung guitar, he leaves the stage - only to return one minute later. "This song is the title track from my new album and I'm really pleased with it," he admits, as he gives us 'Fragile.' "OK, this really is the last song that I have to play for you tonight," he then laughs. "I have this pet hate of encores. It's just a load of bollocks! You all know I'm coming back out when I first leave so why don't I just stay here and play all the songs anyway," she shrugs, smiling. "Anyway, for this I will need your help," and with that he launches into a stirring 'The Voice' before again thanking everyone for coming out and for "keeping music alive."
Review & Photos by: Russell A. Trunk