Brimming with bonhomie, Midge Ure reflected upon the 2012 reunion of powerhouse quartet Ultravox and the resulting album Brilliant during his recent performance at City Winery DC.
Midge recalled reconnecting with his old bandmates for a series of performances, and the surprise offer of a record deal that was offered promptly to them.
Ultravox turned the offer down initially, spurning the thought that they would have anything new to say after last collaborating on new material in this configuration several decades ago. But then the idea stuck with them, and the band began to imagine what that record would sound like. That inevitably led them to the 12 tracks comprising Brilliant, which Midge considers a strong and underrated record. At City Winery on Nov. 2, he performed “One” in the first third of his set to cap his reflections on the time.
The memories of that last Ultravox effort touched off a series of Ultravox tunes, which dominated the show. Midge, ever the gentleman, warmly recalled the experimental band’s heyday in the 1980s, sharing stories with the audience as to how the group came to create “Lament” and “Vienna” — two album title tracks that perhaps served as the heart of Tuesday’s show.
Watch Midge Ure perform “Vienna” live with an orchestra for BBC in 2018 on YouTube:
Singing with passion, Midge stood center stage with only his guitar, pouring his entire body into the instrument as he delivered each word with power and emotion. The Scotsman kept the focus on the fine music of Ultravox, sharing memories of collaborating with the late Paddy Moloney of The Chieftains toward the end of the show. Midge chuckled at the memory of Ultravox, the standard-bearer of “all things plugged in,” working with The Chieftains, poster boys for “all things unplugged,” and how the collaboration yielded the single “All Fall Down” from Ultravox’s 1986 swan song, U-Vox. Midge then crooned a wonderful rendition of the evocative number.
Although Ultravox consumed much of the show, Midge took care to present some of his very best solo numbers, including “If I Was,” of course. For good measure, he added “Breathe” and “Fragile,” from those respective albums, admonishing his younger self for writing in high keys without care that his older self would not be able to hit those notes. As with all of Midge’s comments, the humorous aside made the audience feel as if they could share a laugh with a good-humored familiar friend, who also just happens to be one of the world’s greatest singer-songwriters.
Midge said he scheduled this current USA tour as a means of showing his musical colleagues back home on the British Isles that they could indeed start touring America now after a period of pandemic lockdowns. Let’s hope they take his advice!
Here are some photos of Midge Ure performing at City Winery DC on Nov. 2, 2021.