(Magic Bag, Ferndale, MI - October 9th, 2016)
Having been here to our shores, and indeed the very same venue back some two and three years ago now, Ultravox front man Midge Ure brought his Live+Electric North American show to the Magic Bag again last night. The Grammy and Brit Award winning musician kicked off his North American tour a few weeks back and here, on a very acceptable, very tolerable October night just outside of Detroit, MI (and with only a handful of dates left yet to play), the accomplished guitarist took to the stage.
In a small, darkened club, on a black stage with a black backdrop, at 9.10pm Midge Ure quietly, semi-unnoticed, came from behind the black curtain. Joined on stage by L.A. based bass/keyboard player Tony Solis and his drummer, Right The Stars‘ BC Taylor, dressed head to toe in black (as is his thing), Ure begins to fiddle with the new strings on his guitar, before gently opening the show with a delightful ‘Dear God’. "How are you all doing?“, the he inquires to the devoted Ure fans in his midst. “It’s great to be back. Talking of back, I’m going to go way, way back now”, he smiles, as he and his backing band then bring us a storming ‘The European’.
“Thank you very much” he once again says, which was also a running theme for the man who, after 40 years, has become a staple of music collections everywhere. “Are we missing the big debate?“ he asks them, referring to the televised official second debate between Trump and Clinton. “I’m not”, he laughs. “Ok, this is old as well. I read on Twitter, because I’m hip with the kids, you know, that this next song was #1 in the UK 35 years ago. So that’s old. It was #1 everywhere … expect here”, he adds, dryly, before launching into his hit solo single, ‘If I Was’. A vibrant ‘Call Of The Wild’ is next, before some more chit chat. “So, the last time I toured I had no friends with me”, he laughs, referring to his 2015 Live+Acoustic tour, “and, as you can see, I still have no friends with me” he sarcastically notes, as he steps back to point at both his band members. “I found these two outside busking in the cold” he adds, before announcing the next song. “This is a special song for me. It was written 25 years ago and if you know it, and know the words, please sing along. If you don’t know the words, then please don’t!”. And with that he get a wonderful rendition of Visage’s ‘Fade To Gray’.
As the song comes to an end, the red and blue lights that had once lit it merging back to white, Ure speaks, once more. “This is something different. I wrote this 20 years ago watching bombs hitting targets on TV. You never saw where they came from, but always saw where they landed. It made war into a video game for me”, he adds, before bringing us the poignant ‘Beneath A Spielberg Sky’. “Ok, you know those moments when you go see your favorite bands and their songs take you right back to good times. And then the singer says, Here’s something new … well, here’s something new”, he laughs. ‘Become’ from his last solo album, Fragile is now on deck, and is easily one of his best solo recordings to date. “Right, back into my history again” Ure says, as he and the band bring us a brilliant ‘Hymn’ which is followed by yet another spot of bother for Ure with his aforementioned new guitar strings. As he stands there working on them, come completion (for that moment), and before the next song, he audibly mumbles, “You don’t see Bono fixing his guitar or moving his own speakers!”
A smashing, and given he is delving back into his early Ultravox days and trying to make these live versions as authentic to their original creations as possible, chillingly dark and mysterious ‘The Voice’ is next. Ure plays keys the whole way through, and just closing your eyes you can hear the crisp quality of the live sound as if it were a CD playing instead. “Good singing”, he says, “Thank you very much. Great stuff … but not on this one”, he tells them as he brings forth the spine tingling ‘Vienna’. The heavier guitar work combined with an overall darker sensibility, this was the first time I’d ever heard it sound so raw, so honest. It was breathtaking, there’s just no other way to say it. That seamlessly then bleeds into a pulsating ‘All Stood Still’ which was also performed and sung in this very same moodier structure. Huge applause rang around the room, everybody up on their feet (where they should have been the moment Ure came on stage, in my humble opinion). “That song was written 37 years ago”, Ure reveals. “You guys were awesome, thank you. Ok, here’s some more older stuff”, and with that we get one of my personal favorites of the night, ‘Passing Strangers’, before a sincere, and thoughtful guitar solo moment, not to mention a subtle lead in from the drummer, finds its path into ‘Dancing With Tears In My Eyes’.
“Thank you” he says, once more. “We’ll see you soon”, he adds as he and his band make their way backstage. Back on stage some 30 seconds later, he introduces the two band members (as his sons!), before talking one last time, in earnest to the audience. “We wanted to do something special for you next. We lost so many people, so many brilliant musicians this year … and in February in NYC we lost one of the biggest stars that the world has ever known.” With that Ure and his band bring us a hauntingly spectacular ‘Starman’ from David Bowie. With Ure’s vocal tones matching the cadence of Bowie’s perfectly in the opening to the song, this was, without a shadow of a doubt, the true highlight of tonight’s show. Come the songs end, and with the audience applauding loudly, Ure thanks everyone for the last time, waves goodbye and is gone for the night.
Review & Photos by: Russell A. Trunk