Midge Ure

Live Music: Midge Ure Live in Cleveland, January 16, 2013

Photo by: Andy Siddens

Photo by: Andy Siddens

Midge Ure has engendered quite a bit of goodwill over the years, thanks to a long musical career spanning myriad genres. In the ‘70s and ‘80s alone, the Scotland native did time in amiable rockers Slik, Irish hard rock legends Thin Lizzy, post-Sex Pistols project the Rich Kids, synthpop innovators Visage and New Romantic hitmakers Ultravox, while also developing a solid songwriting and solo career.

He leveraged that goodwill into a well-received—and well-attended—show on January 16 at Cleveland’s Beachland Ballroom. (Although Ure was in Thin Lizzy for only a short amount of time, many in the audience apparently came because of that stint.) Backed by Los Angeles band Right The Stars, which also opened the show with its own set, Ure began his 16-song set with a rich rendition of 1991’s gospel-tinged “I See Hope In The Morning Light.” Throughout the soaring song, he had a beatific look on his face, which only increased after the song ended. “It’s nice to be back,” he said jovially, his Scottish accent readily apparent. “In fact, it’s nice to be anywhere!”

The rest of the set alternated between Ure solo hits, choice cuts from Ultravox’s catalog and several songs he wrote or co-wrote, including Visage’s electropop classic “Fade To Grey” and an encore rendition of Band Aid’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” To its credit, Right The Stars handled the stylistic jumps with ease. Ultravox’s galloping “Love’s Great Adventure” revved like a running engine, buoyed by jagged rock riffs and Dungeons And Dragons-triumphant keyboards, while the upbeat 1986 solo hit “Call Of The Wild” evolved into a muscular ‘80s AOR jam reminiscent of Def Leppard. The brisk highlight “Cold Cold Heart” was even better, a whirling pop gem with flute-like sounds and uber-retro synths; another highlight, 1991’s towering “Dear God,” was anthemic alt-rock in the vein of U2. A cover of Scott Walker’s “No Regrets” was another pleasant surprise, a dramatic arena-lounge number on which Ure sounded like Bowie with a brogue.

Of course, the biggest hits in his catalog drew the most rapturous response. Solo smashes “If I Was” and “Breathe” went over well, although the latter felt somewhat wobbly vocally due to a cold from which Ure said he was suffering. That same ailment also robbed some of the power from Ultravox totems “Dancing With Tears In My Eyes” and “Vienna”; on the former, members of Right The Stars noticeably had to help Ure with the high notes. Still, he did an admirable job preserving the majesty of “Vienna,” throwing his head back in dramatic ecstasy during each chorus cry of the title and unleashing some biting prog guitar. And Ultravox’s “Hymn” was a thundering darkwave epic stacked with eerie synthesizers and thematic gravitas.

Earlier in the night, Ure lightly referenced his “retro” status, in particular because he saw several Ultravox LPs in a nearby vintage thrift shop, and jokingly made note of some of his poor-selling albums. Still, the brief concert showcased how well-constructed his songs are—and how well they’ve endured over time. He also teased the possibility of Ultravox coming over to the States for some dates—calling this solo tour “hopefully the precursor to dragging” the band over—which would be very good news indeed. Until then, however, it was certainly a pleasure having Ure play solo.