Tag Archive: Ultravox

Simple Minds + Ultravox @ NIA Birmingham, 29 November 2013

Tonight is an opportunity to put on those rose tinted glasses and remember those ‘fab’ good 80s old days with much nostalgia. A time when ‘mobile’ phones were strange red (rather smelly) kiosks on street corners. ‘Social media’ entailed a pen, paper, a stamp, a postman and a few days to get a response.  Steve Jobs was busy launching the Apple Mac computer, way, way, way before he dreamt of iPods and iTunes, the nearest thing to copying a song was on a C90 cassette tape, CDs were yet to make their mark and digital downloads? They were a pipe dream….

Ultravox disappeared from view returning in 2009/10 with their ‘classic line-up’ featuring Warren Cann, Chris Cross, Billie Currie with frontman Midge Ure. They did two cracking and hugely successful ‘Return to Eden’ tours followed up by their first album in 28 years (with this line-up) in the critically acclaimed ‘Brilliant.’ And toured with it. Meanwhile headliners Simple Minds flatly refuse to give up and go away. Na no. The hits may no longer be there, but they’ve continued to play live and surprisingly, given they’ve played both the Academy and Wolves Civic over the past 12 months, they‘ve now opted for big arenas, part of a four-date UK tour with Ultravox. An arena was always a question mark – would both bands together fill it?  Answer in Brum is no. The arena is cut to less than half it’s full capacity, the stage radically moved forward. You’re probably looking between 5-6,000 people standing on the floor and cascading high in the tiered seats into the rafters.

However, to get this middle aged audience (sorry – we all feel young) in the mood, over the speakers we have Numan and his friends electric, a smattering of Bunnymen and Adam rapping his ants. With the addition of Bowie in ‘Fame’ mode and then sound cranked up – ‘Life on Mars.’

First up, a truly early 7.30pm, onto a blackened set, the band in black be Ultravox. All noticeably older (even young Midge has just turned 60) but still hugely slick and professional, Ure greets us with “How you going?” First up ‘New Europeans’ – they take a little time to warm up and for the technicians to balance the sound. With mono-lighting and moody atmosphere, like a black and white movie, ‘Sleepwalk’ goes down well. ‘Reap the Wild Wind’ gets hands in the air, next up ‘The Thin Wall’ is extended in an electronic mix jamming sesh. Middle of their set – and as the haunting double drum echoes through the venue – the crowd recognise ‘Vienna’ and big cheers go round the arena. Ure can just about still manage the high vocals; fair play the crowd cheer. Currie once again on his electronic violin. Then ‘One Small Day’ followed by ‘Hymn.’ The crowd sing along… “Give us…this day…all that you showed me….” ‘Dancing with Tears in My Eyes’ their song about the last few minutes before nuclear obliteration, and a commercial success in the day, leads Ure into band introductions, before the final song of the night ‘The Voice’ completed with band members at the front of the stage in their classic drumming line-up moment.

This wasn’t one of Ultravox’s better sets – sadly dumbed down to support slot and time limitation but by the audience response, I think they surprised a few who hadn’t seen them before or since their ‘comeback’. You enjoyed this snippet, go and see them when they are out headlining their own tour. Ultravox are more than well worth it.

To a potted bit of Simple Minds history – formed way back in ’78, they took an eclectic journey up to ‘82, from the dance classic cult  ‘I Travel’ right through the big sound of the ‘New Gold Dream (81-82-83-84)’ album, with splashing of arena-filling 80’s hits. Success became stratospheric – by the mid/late eighties Simple Minds were huge, playing not just arenas, but stadia, comparable to U2 in success. According to their Twitter profile: “Simple Minds are Scotland’s most successful rock group to date. Having topped America’s Billboard chart, the Glasgow band have achieved six UK No.1 albums.” Simple Minds were indeed mega-huge, but unlike U2 who conquered the world and then some, it didn’t quite play out in the same way for Simple Minds, as they slipped from the stratosphere taking their loyal fans with them.

The Simple Minds of today are made up of original members Jim Kerr (vocals) and Charlie Burchill (guitar/keyboards), Mel Gaynor (drummer – who’s been in the line up pretty much since ’82), Andy Gillespie (keyboards – ditto since 2002) and Ged Grimes (bass – newbie and formerly a founding member of Danny Wilson).

And so – around ten to nine, the lights go down, and a rambling electronic rhythm fills the auditorium, big cheers as the band appear, as we’re into the dede-dede-dede-dede bass beat that is ‘Waterfront’ – in front of me a bloke stands and starts dancing like a madman as the band go into the track.

Kerr, in black suit and silver scarf, is in his element. “How are you?” he asks the crowd to a big cheer, as we get ‘Broken Glass Park’ followed by that dance classic ‘I Travel’. It rolls on and on.  “Shall we do ‘Once Upon A time’?” Kerr is down on his knees, posing in front of the audience, then rolling round the stage and sitting and singing at the front of the stage. He’s charismatic and still pretty energetic. The stage is continually drenched with dry ice from the back and front of the set – it’s beginning to get quite overwhelming and somewhat foggy in this reduced size NIA.

‘Promised You A Miracle’ gets the crowd singing back and they roll through their back catalogue. Kerr takes a break “…for a whiskey…” as we get instrumental ‘Theme From Great Cities’ before retuning to play a song for Nelson Mandela. That’ll be ‘Mandela Day’ the lighting all transferred to South African flag colours. ‘Somewhere Somehow in Summertime’ gets everyone dancing, fans are having a good time (even if on the side stands the security prevents some from dancing on the steep isles. The set rolls on  as they continue with the hits; ‘The American’,  ‘Don’t You (Forget About Me)’ – from film The Breakfast Club and ‘New Gold Dream (81-82-83-84).’

Their encore gives us the big-arena hits ‘Sanctify Yourself’ and ‘Alive and Kicking.’

So – tonight was true 80s retro. With just 50 minutes to show off their 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, tonight was just a snapshot. See them headlining their own tour, doing a full set, as they are a must see.

Clearly Simple Minds truly love arena tours; which maybe in this part of the world, probably beyond them, although the reduced venue size could well be they played locally too much. They did well to keep their fans in tow given tickets are not the cheapest (once again – circa £55). The major hits were certainly mostly during the 80’s and so tonight was a celebration of true nostalgia and most were here to hear tracks from a couple of decades past. And very probably for most here tonight; the older the track, the better. Simple Minds still have a very loyal following – and clearly, the band and fans are very much ‘alive and kicking’ and having one hell of a blast.

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Ultravox Setlist

New Europeans
Sleepwalk
Reap the Wild Wind
The Thin Wall
Vienna
One Small Day
Hymn
Dancing with Years in My Eyes
The Voice

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Simple Minds Setlist

Waterfront
Broken Glass Park
I Travel
Once Upon A Time
All the Things She Said
Hunter and the Hunted
Promised You a Miracle
Glittering Prize
Theme from Great Cities
Mandela Day
Somewhere Somehow in Summertime
This Fear of Gods
The American
Love Song
See the Lights
Don’t You (Forget About Me)
Let It All Come Down
New Gold Dream (81-82-83-84)

Encore:
Sanctify Yourself
Alive and Kicking

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Review for Gig Junkies – pictures: Ken Harrison

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.

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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

 

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Listening:

Vienna [1980]

Rage in Eden [1981]

Quartet [1982]

Lament [1984]

Brilliant [2012]

 

 

Ultravox ‘Return to Eden Part II’ @ Symphony Hall Birmingham, 6th April 2010

Review for Birmingham Live!

Nostalgia for the past is quite common these days – and the market for comeback gigs means many (good and bad) bands are now out on the road. Some come out with fanfares and mass marketing campaigns. And others, like Ultravox, appear quietly on the scene.

Formed in 1974, Ultravox reformed last year to play the “Return of Eden” tour, with the post John Foxx,  “classic line-up” of Midge Ure, Billie Currie, Chris Cross and Warren Cann on drums. It was the first time the band had played live since Live Aid in 1985.  And the band had been clear – this is a nostalgia tour, for the fans – no plan to record new music.

Cleary a success, the show last year at the Symphony Hall sold out – this tour is Part 2, a small European tour starting once again at the Symphony Hall being the first date.  The venue with its amazing acoustics suit Ultravox to the ground.

They don’t look much like a band these days – more like your old chemistry teachers, until that is, they play live. Ultravox were always a tad serious and this tour is no different. The band were tight and Midge’s voice had lost none of its power, able to hit all the notes.

From the new wave, Kraftwerk inspired, earlier songs like “Hymn” and “The Thin Wall” which clearly fall to the dark side of industrial sound, to the more commercial apocalyptic of “Dancing with Tears in My Eyes”, they covered the range of hits from this classic time – playing all the songs the audience expected.

And the majestic “Vienna” (which in 1981 famously failed to get to No. 1) and the haunting “Visions in Blue”, they certainly transport you back in time.

If you expected a time warp, a reminder of the past 80’s classics, where the then new cutting edge technology of the “synth” gave a different if limited sound – you got that. And maybe one or two of the songs hadn’t quite stood the test of time. But you also got a cracking gig, with the audience up on their feet participating and the band receiving a rousing reception.

And for the final song “The Voice”,  the band close to a drumming finale, with Midge, Chris and Billie bashing the hell out of snare drums, at the front in time to Warren, all atmospherically backlit.

If you like Ultravox, or even one or two of their hits, they do not fail to disappoint. They are well worth the ticket price of £32 – for a cracking night out. You will come away smiling.

Enjoyed the gig? Ultravox live at the Roundhouse released 5th April 2010, and according the Midge last night…”Live CD charted today… how cool is that?”

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Setlist:

  1. New Europeans
  2. Passing Strangers
  3. We Stand Alone
  4. Mr. X
  5. Visions in Blue
  6. The Thin Wall
  7. I Remember (Death in the Afternoon)
  8. Astradyne
  9. Rage in Eden
  10. Hymn
  11. Lament
  12. One Small Day
  13. All Stood Still
  14. White China
  15. Vienna
  16. Reap the Wild Wind
  17. Dancing with Tears in My Eyes

Encore

18. Love’s Great Adventure

19. Sleepwalk

20. The Voice

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There is also a facebook campaign, to get “Vienna” to No.1

Vienna No1 campaign – buy until Saturday 10th April 2010!!!!

http://www.ultravox.org.uk/facebook.shtml