Image courtesy of Erika Tooker PR.
“You’re a young one, why are you here?” That was the question the increasingly-drunk lady behind me asked me midway through a Midge Ure concert Friday night. In many respects, it was a fair question; I was a millennial amongst a sea of Gen X-ers and boomers. Then again, why can’t younger people be musically cultured? To be fair though, I look anywhere from five to ten years younger than I actually am. The truth is, I was long familiar with Midge Ure – his stage name being a phonetic reversal of Jim – and a vague knowledge of Ultravox and Thin Lizzy, and knew that he was a co-founder of Live Aid, but I would have been hard pressed to name an actual song of his.
The show in question was different then most I have attended in the past. The venue – Hugh’s Room Live – finds that delicate balance between classy and pretentious – and on this night, played host to a solo acoustic show from Midge, interspersed with an audience Q&A. I had been to exactly one of these before – Randy Bachman in Vancouver – that was a bit more raucous, mainly because of the crowd and venue. I was a little unsure of the show at first; not all aging rockers have maintained their voices 40 years into a career, and there were times where I could sense Ure straining a little bit. With his typical self-deprecating, dark Glaswegian humour, a Brexit joke and reference to Doctor Who, Ure quickly won me over.
The audience “questions” largely consisted of song requests (hello “Vienna” and “Dancing With Tears in My Eyes”, which Ure finally admitted may be a love song), to Thin Lizzy Memories, and his favourite ever collaboration – it’s Kate Bush. Inevitably, Live Aid was brought up and, after a bit of prodding, Ure relented and crooned “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”. While that means he technically played a Christmas song in January, I’ll give him a pass this time around.
While there were other great moments – his memories of Visage – his rendition of “Fade To Grey” which had most of the audience in unison during the chorus, stands out as a particular highlight for its simple yet powerful beauty. It had an almost anthemic quality to it. What I appreciated most about Ure, was that he didn’t come with a prepared set-list; he chose what to play based on the audiences desires and feedback. That’s how I knew it was entirely an exercise in vanity, and he truly was doing it for the fans.
In his memoir, Bruce Springsteen noted that if was going to become a true rockstar, it would be because of songwriting rather than his voice or guitar skills. I feel the same way about Midge Ure. His voice, while certainly not terrible, is not what makes Ure memorable. As I never got to see him during his new wave or rock days, it is difficult to musicianship on an acoustic instrument from the back of a crowded jazz club. I have to hand to him though, he played solo after his multi-instrumentalist back-up musician pulled out hours before they were scheduled to leave the U.K. due to illness. At the end of the day, it was the way he used his words to navigate a story and re-capture the joy so many of us seek. In a world dominated by derision and decision, it felt nice to be united, however briefly, with the lovely group of people I was surrounded by. Except for you drunk lady, except. Music often brings strangers together; Midge Ure certainly did that. – DM