Midge Ure @ Birmingham Town Hall, 7 October 2019

1980 turned out to be a pivotal year for pop music in the UK, as the punk scene faded and the focus started to shift more towards synth-led pop. For Midge Ure, it would mark the year that he would find success initially as a member of Visage before becoming the new frontman of Ultravox, with both bands releasing defining records before the year was out. To celebrate this period of time, Midge is embarking on “The 1980 Tour”, performing the classic Ultravox album Vienna in full alongside some highlights from the first Visage record, some of which have never been performed live before. As well as being backed by Midge’s “Band Electronica”, Midge is also joined by former Visage drummer Rusty Egan, providing auxiliary percussion and backing vocals on the band’s self-titled ‘Visage’ and ‘Blocks On Blocks’. A vocoder-heavy version of Zager & Evans’ ‘In The Year 2525’ follows alongside the catchy ‘Mind Of A Toy’ before Midge tells the audience “most of these songs were written 40 years ago, but this one wasn’t”. Midge moves on to play ‘Glorious’, a 2017 collaboration from Rusty’s solo album which fits in nicely alongside the more electronic material. This part of the set ends with Visage’s hit single ‘Fade To Grey’, which sees some of the audience move tentatively out of their seats to dance. 

The main course tonight is undoubtedly the performance of Midge Ure’s debut album with Ultravox, Vienna. The album played live begins with the lengthy instrumental track ‘Astradyne’, a futuristic overture accompanied by stage visuals and electric candles to signify that things have stepped up a notch. Midge’s punk beginnings show through notably in ‘New Europeans’ as he focuses on a more guitar-orientated sound, clearly enjoying being able to let loose and attack his instrument.Indeed, the first half of Vienna has more of a traditional new wave feel, with ‘Private Lives’ and the poppy ‘Passing Strangers’ showing a range outside of the predominantly electronic setup. In contrast, when Midge switches back to synths for the tense ‘Sleepwalk’ you can almost pinpoint the moment of transition at the turn of the decade. The experimental ‘Mr. X’ takes a Kraftwerk-inspired sound and accompanies it with screens of static for a darker, robotic tone, something carried over into ‘Western Promise’. Of course, the album’s stone-cold classic title track ‘Vienna’ is the natural climax, receiving an ovation, yet this is probably the only point in the set where Midge’s vocals strain to really do it full justice. Still, with the sheer effort he puts into hitting the notes it’s hard not to be impressed. The upbeat ‘All Stood Still’ completes the album with the audience up on their feet. Two encores follow the main set, firstly to include a b-side from the era, ‘Passionate Reply’ and later hit ‘Dancing With Tears In My Eyes’. As Midge shouts “well, are you dancing, then?” the crowd take to their feet. Finally, Midge and the band return to perform his solo #1 single ‘If I Was’ and Ultravox’s ‘Hymn’ with the freedom to simply enjoy themselves, ending on a high note. The affection afforded to these songs by both the audience and the artist shows that the concept for the tour is undoubtedly a positive step, and the revisiting of this era in such a suitably impressive venue makes for a great experience all round. 



Reviewer: Ian Paget 

Photographer: Ian Dunn

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