Scottish-born musician Midge Ure first came to prominence as the frontman of 80s synthpop band Ultravox, a role which he took on when former lead singer John Foxx left the band in 1979. He led the band through their biggest years, during which they had a string of five albums make it into the top ten in the UK. Along with Bob Geldof, Ure organized charity supergroup Band Aid in 1984, whose song “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” raised more then $24 million for famine relief in Ethiopia. After the dissolution of Ultravox in 1988, Ure went on to concentrate on his solo career. Though the band reunited in 2008 and released a new album, Brill!ant, in 2012, he has also continued to perform as a solo artist, and released his own most recent album, Fragile, in 2014. While his fan base in the US has never been large compared to the UK, he’s never forgotten about us, and his recent tour brought him to the DC area to perform at Bethesda Blues & Jazz.
Ure opened his set in Bethesda with “Dear God” from his second solo album, Answers to Nothing, released in 1988. But while he featured several of his solo songs throughout the set, Ure acknowledged that many in the audience knew him from his Ultravox days, and focused much of the show on tracks by the band, starting with “New Europeans” from 1980’s Vienna. While Ultravox was a big proponent in the synthpop movement of the time, Ure focused through most of the show on the guitar, resulting in somewhat different but still recognizable versions of the songs. “I’ve got so many pedals at my feet that I feel like I’m from Rush,” he quipped at one point between songs.
But of course the most distinctive thing that Ure brought to Ultravox was his voice. Despite claiming to be suffering from a cold that was limiting his vocal abilities, Ure’s voice was as robust and confident as ever, his strong tenor working its way through tracks including “Hymn,” “Vienna,” and “Dancing With Tears in My Eyes.” Ure’s set also included a version of the Visage track “Fade To Grey,” which he co-wrote during his time with that band, though the original was sung by recently deceased singer Steve Strange. Ure closed out the night with an encore paying tribute to David Bowie with a cover of “Starman.”
Former Television guitarist Richard Lloyd opened the night, playing songs from his recently released album Rosedale and his other solo albums. His set also featured one cover, The Velvet Underground’s “I’m Waiting For the Man,” and one Television song, the classic “Marquee Moon.”