Review: Zyllah Moranne-Brown. Pictures: Ken Harrison.
Venue: Town Hall, Birmingham.
At the end of the 70's Midge Ure found himself in transition. He'd been part of a 'pop' band (Slik) and also a 'post punk' band (The Rich Kids) and had even been a stand in guitarist for Thin Lizzy. In 1979 he found himself working on a project with Billy Currie - Visage. Visage; a synth pop group at the start of the New Romantic scene included Ure, Currie, electronic DJ Rusty Egan, plus Magazine members - John McGeoch, Dave Formula and Barry Adamson - plus Steve Strange. Visage’s single ‘Fade To Grey’ from the band’s debut eponymous album became a global hit. At the same time, Currie invited Ure to join Ultravox. The electronic pioneers were in need for a replacement to John Foxx - who'd left to develop his own solo career and, with Ure, Ultravox produced the seminal album 'Vienna'.
The guitar-driven dominance that had propelled rock and punk throughout the decade was about to end, as synthesizers signaled the sound of the future and video transformed the look of the pop charts. The 1980s were about to explode into life and nothing would be the same again....
"Autumn 1979 was a pivotal point in my career trajectory,” Midge Ure explains. “Over the previous two years I had grown from ‘pop band’ (Slik) to ‘post punk band’ (The Rich Kids) to being a stand in guitarist for Thin Lizzy. Over the course of autumn into winter 1979, while working on the Visage project with Billy Currie, I was invited to join Ultravox. The work we did that winter on the ‘Vienna’ album was an exhilarating rush of creativity the likes of which I had never experienced before."
Support tonight comes from Tiny Magnetic Pets. Hailing from Dublin and names after those cute collectable Japanese pets, the trio of Paula Gilmer, Sean Quinn and Eugene Somers, have been endorsed byy some key names in electronica. They recently toured with Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (OMD) and now join Ure on this tour. Gilmer's vocals compliments their Moog and pure style electronica throughout their half hour set.
And so tonight's set brings that snapshot in time. Set starts off with 'Yellow Pearl' a song written with Thin Lizzy's Phil Lynott and one time theme tune for 'Top of the Pops'. Then to 'Visage' and a raft of tunes form the time. Ure applauds the crowd - this is the first sell out night. And acknowledges Steve Strange, the charismatic face of Visage of died nearly five years ago. He quips that 50% of the audience have been dragged along - so to the track that everyone will know - 'Fade to Grey."
Then to Ultravox. To the 'Vienna' album. The very first time in 40 years that the album has been performed in its entirety. There is an underlying dark, dystopian feel to tracks - and the stage set and lighting gives all the more atmosphere, starting the journey with the exquisite interlude that is 'Astradyne.' 'Mr X' - who is he? And the early Ultravox mark II hits - 'Sleepwalk', "All Stood Still' and of course, the rousing, atmospheric title track 'Vienna'.
Encore - to the B side of Vienna 'Passionate Reply', the nuclear dysptopia of 'Dancing with Tears in my Eyes', the Big Brother-eque ' The Voice' and the rousing 'Hymn' completes the set.
Midge Ure and his Band Electronica, have brought us a beautiful snapshot in time. Ultravox of Ure, Curry, Warren Cann and Chris Cross, spilt in '88 before reforming nearly 20 years later for two successful 'Return to Eden Tours' and a tour album 'Brilliant in 2012. It's highly unlikely we'll see Ultravox again as Currie declared in 2017 he'd left the band. So Ure and his band tonight gave full justice to Ultravox and to Visage - a glorious electronic night out.
'Fade to Grey' Album
Blocks on Blocks
In the Year 2525
Mind of a Toy
Fade to Grey
All Stood Still
Dancing with Tears in my Eyes