Monthly Archive: September 2012

Ultravox @Symphony Hall, Birmingham, 26th September 2012

Review for Gig Junkies. Pictures: Ken Harrison

Some bands take a few years between albums. Ultravox have taken it a tad to the extreme – it’s been twenty-eight years between their last outing and 2012’s “Brilliant.” And tonight, in the acoustically great Symphony Hall, they’re here for a long set – of the old, the pure class and the very new.

Tonight it’s just them, no support, just classic line-up featuring Warren Cann, Chris Cross, Billie Currie and frontman Midge Ure, all a tad older, but still hugely slick and professional. Their last release with this line-up, “Lament”, was released in ‘84. A time when vinyl ruled, we all tuned into Radio 1 on a Sunday evening to see what had made Number 1 in the Top 40, the nearest thing to copying a song was on a C90 cassette tape, CDs were yet to make their mark, digital downloads were a pipe dream and Steve Jobs was busy launching the Apple Mac computer, way, way, way before he dreamt of iPods and iTunes.

And so to a completely different musical world, after thoroughly enjoying their low key, yet hugely successful 2009/10 ‘Return to Eden’ tour, Ultravox went into the studio and emerged with another classic – “Brilliant”. Even the design on the ‘album’ cover, so sadly missed these days, is beautifully created and designed in thirties mono retro feel.

Tonight’s stage is draped in dry ice, the crowd cheer, Currie stands behind his keyboards lit up by a white light; the new album graphics blaze across the screen. The set starts with title track “Brilliant” accompanied by a bank of white lights stretched across the stage as Cann cracks the drums, white lit to his thumping beat. This retro, black and white, dry ice drenched, moody atmosphere is the theme for the night.

Then to older classics “New Europeans” and the eerie “Mr. X” featuring Currie on his electric violin. Then into “Reap the Wild Wind” – there’s few words said tonight – this is an atmospheric gig – Ure encourages the crowd to clap. Thirty one year old track “Rage In Eden” has Currie back on violin and a rolling Gregorian chant. New tracks like “Rise” fit in superbly – don’t think that a near three-decade break has diluted their sound. “The Voice” we sing the words to, before single drums are brought to the front of stage and Currie, Cross and Ure, stand silhouetted, thump the drumbeat in accompaniment to Cann. Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang Bang Bang. A tub-thumping finale to the first section and the crowd cheer.

A twenty odd minute break, and we’re back – opened up by new track “Live” – and more classics – “We Stand Alone”, “The Thin Wall”, the ghostly and eerie “Lament”, the rambling electro musical interlude that is “Astradyne” complete with chiming bells, double hand clap, and to more cheers from the crowd, once again Currie is playing his electric violin. And then to that song, famously kept off the Number One spot by some bloke singing a joke one hit wonder. “Vienna” sends the hackles up on the back of your neck – remember the video, the mood, the empty streets, it’s here tonight on stage. Ure’s vocals have warmed up nicely. Another new song “Flow”, and Ure: “We’re standing still…” and we’re into the classic “All Stood Still.” The close of this set “Hymn” – we all sing along…

The set includes the more commercial hits – personally I always liked the dark moody side of Ultravox – but needless to say “Love’s Great Adventure” and the apocalyptic, ‘what would you do if you had three minutes warning?’, nuclear war themed “Dancing With Tears in My Eyes” get the crowd buzzing and dancing. Tonight’s finale is completed by new track “Contact”- Ultravox continuing to play with their experimental side to this day.

So – two hours and 40(ish) minutes of class. Ultravox are far more than just another retro act out on a cash-in. When they re-appeared there was no fanfare, they just did. And the fans flocked. And if you want to see past and present classics, from the world of electronica – Ultravox remain one of THE bands to see. And if you were an Ultravox fan, back in the day where were you tonight? ‘Cos you are serious missed out. ‘Brilliant”? Ultravox, in their own, unique, indisputable way, are.

***********

Setlist:

1. Brilliant

2. New Europeans

3. Mr X

4. Reap the Wild Wind

5. Visions in Blue

6. The Change

7. White China

8. Rage in Eden

9. Rise

10. Sleepwalk

11. The Voice

[Break]

12. Live

13. We Stand Alone

14. The Thin wall

15. Lament

16. I Remember (Death in the Afternoon)

17. Lie

18. Astradyne

19. Vienna

20. Flow

21. One Small day

22. Passing Strangers

23. Love’s Great Adventure

24. All Stood Still

25. Hymn

 

26. Dancing with Tears in my Eyes

27. Contact

 

***********

Listening:

Vienna [1980]

Rage in Eden [1981]

Quartet [1982]

Lament [1984]

Brilliant [2012]

 

 

The Cult and The Mission, 02 Academy Birmingham, 15th September 2012

Fire, Rain and Sanctuary. Sacrilege and Deliverance. And a little bit of Wasteland. We get all that plus lots more as The Cult and The Mission roll into town.

When this tour was announced it was announced as a UK Arena Tour. Three classic indie, alternative, rock, goth bands. The Cult, The Mission and Killing Joke. All on one bill. Wow. At The LG Arena – huh? Slightly confused by this – whilst The Cult and The Mission in their hey-day did indeed fill the NEC as it was known then, could they really fill it now? Well the answer became clear – the tour was downgraded to the more intimate 02 Academies across the country. These they did indeed, unsurprisingly, sell out. Then there was the further adventures of Killing Joke. Lead singer Jaz Coleman suddenly mysteriously disappeared to the concerns of the band and then equally suddenly re-appeared in Africa. A web post appeared, allegedly from Coleman, berating The Cult and not wanting to be part of this tour. Apparently a fake post – whatever the story – sadly Killing Joke are no a part of this and as we enter the main Academy room we are greeted with a little sign stating no Killing Joke and that The Mission and The Cult will be playing extended sets.

The stage is darkened, spotlights on the band and dry ice everywhere, The Mish, Hussey still in black, now grey-haired but still wearing those shades: “Cheers, thank you very much… I’ve been told to keep it short between songs – someone reckoned I talk to much…” He announces a new song ‘Falling’ to which the crowd cheekily boo. With this being a ‘double headliner’ gig you get two batches of fans, those for each band. Some talk while the Mish are on, clearly waiting for The Cult – bless, the goths have grown up – parents with kids, the odd punk, the odd goth in hat and black shades.

Hussey is clearly enjoying the gig, his voice is well on form – ‘Sacrilege ‘ gets a cheer, ‘Wasteland’ gets the crowds arms waving; someone throwing the traditional paper pieces in the air. No ‘towers’ of people, this is the Academy, health and safety rules, the odd person on a shoulder get a security guard shining a torch on them. So much for the good old days, when the ‘towers’ were layered four ‘storeys’ high with people. ‘Deliverance’ gets everyone singing along, a quick break then to Hussey once again: “ Thank you… we will be back soon… December…. I’ve a meeting Monday morning …. with Carl McCoy.” (So speculation of a double ‘goth’ headliner – The Mish and The Fields of the Nephilim then). Next up their version of Neil Young’s ‘Like a Hurricane’ before another quick break, as Hussey returns to the stage, he ‘nicks’ a hat from the audience, akin with black scarf. He pops it on, before circulating it to another band member. For the finale we get an extended, extended rendition of ‘Tower of Strength’ to which the crowd enthusiastically join in. An enjoyable set, while they may have been away for a while, they certainly haven’t lost it.

So as the audience swaps, The Mish fans vacating the front of the stage to be replaced by Cult ones, the break between bands is supposed to be about 30 minutes. A slow hand clap starts from the fans, and heading towards a 50 minute interval, The Cult appear, introduced by a dancey Native American chant. The enigmatic Astbury’s hair is slicked back, in shades and fur-collared coat, tambourine in hand. Duffy, the underrated class guitarist that he is, strikes the cords and we’re into ‘Lil Devil.’ The crowd cheer as they do all night. After the psychedelic ‘Rain’ from the ‘Love’ album – Astbury says “Good evening (to a place that didn’t sound like Birmingham!)” in his full on American drawl. The set features new tracks from new album – ‘Choice of Weapon’ – Astbury: “This is for the survivors…. We are the come back kids….”, as well as classics from throughout their career. But don’t expect ‘Resurrection Joe’ which gets a swift brush off from Astbury as an audience member requests it.

This is a five date tour – Killing Joke didn’t make it, but have been out and about gigging recently with new material in tow. The Mish, after a hiatus (Hussey declared in 2008 it was the end of the band) have clearly enjoyed this little tour and are putting together new material and sounds like they will be back in Birmingham soon. The Cult have become perennial tourers, appearing on the gigging scene pretty regularly. While their arena days in the UK are behind them – they still put on a class show. Duffy’s guitar riff intro’s on tracks like ‘Lil Devil’ and ‘She Sells Sanctuary’ will send the hackles up on the back of your neck.

This was a nostalgia tour, with a smattering of the new – worth £35? Well tonight’s gig, regardless of the pre-history of venues and line-ups, sold out. All three bands (here tonight or not) loved or hated in equal measure, are well worth seeing in their own headlining right. They’ll be back – take a peek.

*******

The Mission:

  1. Beyond the Pale
  2. Hands Across the Ocean
  3. Naked and Savage
  4. Severina
  5. Butterfly on a Wheel
  6. Falling
  7. Sacrilege
  8. Belief
  9. The Crystal Ocean
  10. Wasteland
  11. Deliverance

Encore:

  1. Like a Hurricane

Encore II:

  1. Tower of Strength

*******

The Cult:

  1. Lil Devil
  2. Rain
  3. Honey from a Knife
  4. Nirvana
  5. Embers
  6. Fire Woman
  7. Horse Nation
  8. Lucifer
  9. The Phoenix
  10. The Wolf
  11. Life is Better than Death
  12. Rise
  13. For the Animals
  14. Spiritwalker
  15. Wild Flower
  16. She Sells Sanctuary

Encore:

  1. Love Removal Machine

*******

Listening:

The Cult:

Dreamtime [1984]

Love [1985]

Choice of Weapon [2012]

The Mission

God’s Own Medicine [1986]

First Chapter [1987]

Children [1988]

Carved in sand [1990]

Killing Joke

Nightime [1985]

MMXII [2012]

*******

Review for Birmingham LIve!