If you're too young to recall who Midge Ure is straight off the bat, it might be wise to ask your mum or dad who he is. The Scottish singer is best known as the face of 80's new wave band Ultravox, whose songs 'Vienna' and 'Dancing With Tears In My Eyes' are classics of the genre, while he also played a leading hand in the Visage hit 'Fade to Grey'.
While new wave and synth pop might have been where Ure carved a name out for himself, his performance at the Gov on last Thursday night was on the contrary. The layers of synthesisers and drum machines that are stamped all over his career were gone, with organic instrumentation in their place. On stage, nothing more than an acoustic guitar, a mandolin, a violin, and the occasional keyboard were used; the latter three of which were supplied by support act India Electric Company, whose set of gypsy-Irish folk was emotive as well as scene-setting for Ure's set ahead.
As Ure put it so succinctly and so often throughout the night, the set was predominantly 'ancient history', with a significant chunk of the setlist were Visage and Ultravox songs. But unlike all those classic 'greatest hits' tours we have become so comfortably acquainted with, Ure's stage presence recalled that of something akin to a children's storyteller; warm, funny, and connecting to the crowd with so much ease. Five minutes in, however, Ure asked the audience if they knew how they came to see 'all those old artists to play their classics', before playing something new. His answer to a rhetorical question? 'Well, here's a new one.' His wit didn't end there though - when talking about initial practice sessions for the Ultravox reunion in 2009, Ure described it as 'four bald old people not being able to recognise each other in the same room, much like how I'm sure you all couldn't recognise me'.
When it came for the audience to recognise the material however, it was a different ball game. The arrangements that the songs took were sparse but beautiful, while the minimal instrumentation allowed songs to breathe in situations where they might've been busier back in 1981. Following a steady build of crowd murmuring for the first hour, Ure and his support band finally played 'Vienna', leaving the crowd burst into cheers, applause, and atonal screaming of 'it means nothing to me' being the absolute zenith of the night. But while the power anthems of 'Dancing With Tears In My Eyes' and 'Fade to Grey' were the closest that Ure came to recapturing the raw emotion that 'Vienna' had pushed to the brink just twenty minutes earlier, they were simply on a different level to the hit that put Ultravox on the map all those years ago.
But then, as Ure had put it, it was all 'ancient history' after all.
Header image via alanwildphotography.com.
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