When Midge Ure reunited with the other three members of Ultravox in 2008, the band embarked on discussions to tour. To determine the reunion tour setlist, the four band members each voted their preference from a list of potential songs, and those songs that received four votes would definitely be part of the set.
As it turns out only four of those potential songs received four votes. One of those songs, the archly lush and mournful “Lament” also landed on Midge Ure’s solo setlist Sunday night at Bethesda Blues and Jazz Supper Club in Bethesda, Md., in the last stop of a tour in support of his 2014 album Fragile.
Although Ultravox attempted to go about its business in as democratic a fashion as possible, Midge faced no such considerations on this tour. He remarkably undertook the U.S. portion of the Fragile tour completely on his own — without any roadies, management or other tour support. He traveled without any support whatsoever, bringing only a single guitar onto stage to powerfully perform more than 20 songs to audiences like that of the supper club, which nearly managed to sell out all of its dining tables to the eloquent Scot.
And so songs like “Lament” were rendered to their bare essence, its author’s thunderous voice and melodic chords. And it wasn’t the only Ultravox song that Mr. Ure brought onto stage in stripped down acoustic arrangements. He also performed “Hymn,” “Dancing With Tears in My Eyes” and top-hit “Vienna”—all somewhat expected given Midge’s love of and loyalty to those numbers. Somewhat less expected was “Reap the Wild Wind,” which Midge attempted a few nights ago in response to an audience request and revived again Sunday night in Bethesda with great success. It’s an amazing song to hear live, particularly given its jaunty refrain:
You take my hand and give me your friendship/
I’ll take my time and send you my slow reply/
Give me an inch and I’ll make the best of it/
Take all you want and leave all the rest to die/
And Midge closed his encore with perhaps one of the most anticipated Ultravox songs of all time: The Voice. He enlisted audience participation for the backing vocal of the chorus “ooooh-ooooh-ooooh-ooooh” as he sang of the “shape and the power of the voice.” As we all know, Midge Ure, of course, is “the voice,” and he was in damn fine form.
Midge Ure performs “Vienna” acoustically on Irish TV in 2014.
Midge played plenty of solo material as well. He was, after all, touring in support of Fragile, an amazing album that demonstrates the man is still in peak songwriting form after all of these years. He opened with the atmospheric “Let It Rise,” written by German electronic artist Schiller. And he hit the title track “Fragile” in his encore, a typically and wonderfully sad song of loss from the heartfelt pen of a terrific songwriter.
The lead singer of Ultravox also broke out other solo material, including some of his best-regarded numbers like “If I Was,” “Dear God” and “Breathe.”
In reflecting on “Breathe,” a song of love and life, Midge recalled how the song was not a strong performer commercially in the first two years of its existence after its release in 1996. Then an Italian fan took it to a Swiss watch company, Swatch, which put it into a rather comedic commercial. From there, the song saw new life and started to receive radio play in response to requests across Europe.
The Swatch commercial in question
Midge punctuated his anecdote with the observation that many of his songs, including “Breathe,” are still relatively unknown in America. The audience naturally politely but vocally murmured its disagreement.
Ultimately, Midge’s experiment in touring utterly solo appears to have been a smashing success, and therein lies the proof of his durability in the States after a string of West Coast dates in the summer and East Coast dates this winter. Unfortunately, his DC-area show was the last of his tour, as he is now off to the United Kingdom and Australia in the coming months. When he returns to the United States or wherever he may go, it is worth your while to catch this singularly powerful and earnest performer. To borrow a phrase from one of his greatest hits compilations, you’ll certainly have “no regrets” doing so.