Review Date January 14, 2013
Review By Eric Thom
Location Hugh’s Room, Toronto, Canada
Don’t get me wrong; I was never a huge fan of Ultravox, but I always had time for Midge Ure and his singular, stylish voice, following him into his solo career and beyond-none of which would properly prepare me for what I would witness at this show. It opened innocently enough-Midge had connected with California band, Right The Stars, who opened the show. They were good, not great, probably because the packed house was clearly there to see somebody else. You know the feeling. Opening can be awkward, especially for unknowns. Somewhat locked in another era of meaty-to-airy Brit-pop, landing somewhere between the Psychedelic Furs with a dash of The Fixx, they proved to be better players when they slowed things down, as proven by songs like “Train To Glasgow.” A phenomenal bass player, Alex Balderston upped their potential for being somewhat adventurous, if not somewhat atmospheric, with their menu of sounds. The band seemed at a bit of a loss as to their true identity, musically. One would never expect them to be up to the task ahead of backing up the indefatigable Mr. Ure. One ten-song-set later, I’d be proven very wrong. Enter Midge Ure, consummate professional, dressed to the nines and looking like a million bucks even before opening his mouth or strapping on his Les Paul. A tiny, passionate man, balder than Mr. Clean, with piercing but friendly eyes, he jumped up on the stage and ripped into “Fields Of Fire” with something more than vigour, neither his voice nor his demeanour showing any signs of age (beyond the loss of those patented sideburns). Somewhat surprisingly, Right The Stars rose to the occasion, rejuvenated by the energy of this Scottish fireball. As guitarist, Asaf, took hold of the mighty synth keyboard, he became part of the Scottish thunder which ensued, as if William Wallace, himself, was leading a horde of Scots over the moors against the Longshanks. Highly spirited songs like Ultravox’s “Love’s Great Adventure” and “One Small Day” grew into massive groundswells of love and memories rekindled, while the inspirational “Hymn” became anthemic in scale, growing the audience into something powerful that went well beyond participation. Joking that some of his biggest hits were had by others using his work-or he using theirs-Ure singled out “Breathe,” a song resuscitated by Swatch advertising, preventing it from forever being his worst-selling album. Another, “Fade To Grey,” became a massive hit for Ure prodigy Visage and, here, the audience embraced it on a slightly frightening scale, singing their hearts out as if they’d reconnected with a long-lost love. The expected “Dancing With Tears In My Eyes” elicited dance fever, Ure peppering each of these songs with his own piercing leads and adding real muscle to what was once simply neo-romantic pop fare. “Vienna” and “Dear God” made complete putty of his fans, as if no time had passed since this music was born, rejuvenating it with his own ferocious lead guitar bursts. Ure’s own “Just For You” was given a harder-edged, rock feel, providing bassist Balderston with a springboard for his talents. Another iconic song, “No Regrets,” provided Ure with another opportunity to lament that; although it had became his signature song, it had somebody else’s signature on it-Boston folkie Tom Rush. “Answers To Nothing,” albeit a subdued rocker, was buoyed by power chords and propulsive percussion. That there was an equally thunderous call for an encore was no surprise, the dapper and deserving Glaswegian basking in the crowd’s appreciation and, without leaving to come back, performed “Don’t They Know It’s Christmas?”-Its crowd-friendly chorus of “feed the world’ providing the audience a means of getting closer to giving something back. Far from the grey-hued, somewhat melancholic character I expected to encounter, Midge Ure and his still-vital music proved a force of nature. A joyous, enthusiastic individual clearly in control of his next move, here’s hoping it returns him to the rightful position he has earned many times over.
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