Midge Ure & Paul Young
(Magic Bag, Ferndale, MI - June 14th, 2018)
Having been here to our shores, and indeed the very same venue for a few years now, Ultravox front man Midge Ure this time brought his fellow '80s pop star friend Paul Young with him to the Magic Bag in Michigan for the self-proclaimed The Soundtrack Of Your Life Tour 2018.
The Grammy and Brit Award winning musician kicked off his North American tour a few weeks back and here, on a very humid, yet very tolerable June night just outside of Detroit, the accomplished guitarist took to the stage as "opener".
In a small, darkened club, on a black stage with a black backdrop, at 9.00pm Midge Ure quietly, semi-unnoticed, came from behind the black curtain. Joined on stage by his (and Young's) traveling band of musical minstrels, dressed head to toe in black, Ure politely waves at the packed house, before opening the show with a stunning ‘Passing Strangers.'
"How are you all doing?“, he inquires to the devoted Ure fans in his midst. “It’s great to be back ... and I'm bringing my old pal Paul with me this time," he adds, to rapturous applause. Next up comes a pair of his big solo hits, the first being 'Dear God,' which he backs ("Let's see if you know this one ...") with the monster chart topper 'If I Was.'
"Are you having fun so far," he asks the crowd, before jokingly adding, "because I'll soon stop that! This is something from my last album, Fragile," he continues, as he then launches into 'Become.' A simply stunning 'I Remember (Death in the Afternoon)' is next and after Midge thanks the crowd once again, he then passively berates the fact that they, as artists on stage, are fighting a new era where when a song ends, people (like the one he points out in the crowd in front of him), instantly go to their cell phones to check Facebook and/or other forms of Social Media!
Introducing the next song as one for all those people, the Visage classic (that he co-wrote) 'Fade To Grey' is up next. Then a classic Ultravox quartet (no pun intended) of hits come flooding through his still-amazing guitar work. Starting off with a vibrant 'New Europeans,' he then backs that seamlessly with 'Hymn,' before the always-brilliant-to-hear 'Vienna' is swallowed up whole by the adoring crowd.
But then comes the true highlight of the night, for me and most all the crowd, for Ure unveils an Ultravox song that, to my best recollection, he just doesn't perform live all that often; and yet it's a song that symbolizes the '80s just perfectly: 'All Stood Still.' My goodness, bathed under the most perfectly-suited, densely green spotlights, it was both an audio and visual delight.
Bringing his set to a close (sadly) with the title track from his last solo outing, 'Fragile,' and then (after a minute's worth of guitar creativity) powering up the monster 'Dancing With Tears in My Eyes,' as the crowd sung along, Ure's last moments on the stage were as prolific a musical genius in motion sight as they must have been back 30+ years ago.
But, come to and end it must, for 20 minutes later and with the backing band now returned, on strolled the enigmatic '80s crooner himself, the uber well dressed, suited and booted Paul Young.
Opening with 'Some People,' between that and his infamous cover of The Four Preps' 'Love of the Common People,' he informs the audience that he's "... enjoying this little tour together" (with Ure); and why wouldn't he, let's be honest.
I mean, Young might not exactly be able to command a stage, or an audience, or even a vocal riff any more, but he's on a high profile tour of the US nonetheless!
Moving on and after thanking the audience for their applause, he admits that he made a mistake in not coming back to the US for 25 years, and that he was going to try and make up for that tonight. He didn't, far from it, but watching him sing his "drunken" old man karaoke set was, however, highly entertaining!
His big hit of the day, the Marvin Gaye classic 'Wherever I Lay My Hat (That's My Home)' is up next and is appreciated by the now-thinning crowd, and then a song that he manages to passably crawl through, 'Everything Must Change' is up next. A totally butchered 'Senza una donna' (the Zucchero duet) is up next before he dips into his recently released Good Thing album re: Memphis Soul tunes, for what turns out to be one of his best vocalized songs of the night, 'Gotta Get Back to You.'
"Thank you very much,", Young adds after the song, for as much as the crowd was now down to only half that watched Ure perform, the ones remaining were actually enjoying Young's set. 'What Becomes of the Brokenhearted' (Jimmy Ruffin) manages to sound half decent, given the obvious and severe lack of vocal range Young now showcases, and then we get a rallying cry from Young on a cover of his own Q-Tips ode to Southern soul singer Joe Tex, 'Get 'Em Up Joe.'
Expertly backing that up with more Memphis Soul (which is truly where his vocals are now best suited) in the form of the vibrant 'Slipped, Tripped and Fell In Love,' Young then sings (and I use that word very loosely) one of my own personal favorites (before tonight), 'I'm Gonna Tear Your Playhouse Down.' Man, oh man. Wow. Young just doesn't possess the lungs for this rock/pop vocal depth any more and it was a noticeably big mistake to try and bluster his way through it tonight.
Bringing the set to a close with both his big UK hit 'Everytime You Go Away' (Hall & Oates) and a rangy, over-reaching 'Come Back and Stay,' leaving the stage to an overly-generous amount of applause, he's soon back out though for a duet, of sorts, with Midge Ure on the thunderous Thin Lizzy cover (that Ure also co-wrote), 'The Boys Are Back In Town.'
Sadly, Young's vocals have all but gone at this juncture, but he tries to make his stage presence felt with some '80s mic stand spinning and cheesy lean-in poses with his guitarist. He fails, and as much as Ure was always going to be the stand out performer of the night, Young did at least give it his best shot; but came up well short, nonetheless. Sorry, mate.
Review by: Russell A. Trunk
Live Photos by: Eric J. Wertanen