Thursday, January 15, 2015

Midge Ure concert review: San Juan Capistrano, Calif.

On Wednesday night, Midge Ure delivered an enthralling performance at the Coach House in Southern California.

This solo gig marked a rare Orange County appearance for the veteran Scottish rock singer/songwriter, whose influential work dates back to the 1970s (encompassing Visage, Thin Lizzy, Ultravox, Band Aid and more).

The acoustic format packed a mighty punch as the musician provided humorous and thought-provoking anecdotes and received some standing ovations.

Last year, Ure released Fragile, his first all-new studio album in over a dozen years. Created almost entirely alone (except for guest keyboards/programming by Moby on a song), the electronic-based release is an ethereal gem. Ure also took part in the Eighties-leaning Retro Futura summer package tour which hit the Greek Theatre in LA. Yet he only got to play five tunes then. The 20-song
set in San Juan Capistrano proved far more satisfying for longtime fans.

Opening with a fast-paced “Waiting Days” (the first of four tracks off 1991’s Pure), Ure’s robust voice was like a clarion call and remained so throughout the evening. Before doing the tender title track from 1996’s Breathe, Ure said the venue was one of his favorites in Southern California (later, he’d also praise The Greek, saying all the Griffith Park trees make it like “the place where musicians go to die”).

The OC show’s first highlight came via a touching “Dear God,” Ure’s best known solo song in America and a top 5 alternative radio hit in ’89. Talking about extreme violence in the world, he said, “we really need this” sentiment more than ever and proceeded to sing the inspiring lyrics about finding “peace in a restless world.”

A passionate take on David Bowie’s folky “Lady Stardust” (cited as a favorite Bowie track and album) was memorable. The strident version of Ultravox’s “Hymn” easily whipped concertgoers into a frenzy. Despite being stripped of the original’s new wave production flourishes, Ure made it and five other selections from his flagship band equally compelling.

After decrying the state of music today, recalling a Nineties songwriters in the round show at the Coach House and the fall of the Berlin Wall, Ure conjured up a 1930s German cabaret vibe for “Tumbling Down.”

For the sprightly “Cold, Cold Heart” (another U.S. alt-rock radio hit), Ure gave it a skiffle feel that fit perfectly and didn’t shy away from doing the dramatic, wailing vocals on Ultravox’s “Lament” and “Vienna.” Following the latter, he joked “it’s all on tape; I have built-in Auto-Tune.”

Ure used a spacey guitar effect and sang with a hushed tone during the title track to Fragile; “Become” was the strongest among the news ones played. A soaring “If I Was” (prefaced by a quick instrumental bit of “Reap the Wild Wind” upon request) and “Dancing with Tears in My Eyes” still sounded marvelous live after all these years.

Finally, the concert was capped off in haunting fashion with “The Voice,” featuring some audience participation.

Midge Ure at the Coach House, San Juan Capistrano, July 14, 2015
Setlist: Waiting Days/Call of the Wild/Breathe/Dear God/Lady Stardust (David Bowie)/Hymn/Tumbling Down/Fade to Grey/Let it Rise/Cold, Cold Heart/Light in Your Eyes/Guns & Arrows/Lament/Vienna/Become/If I Was/Dancing with Tears in My Eyes/Brilliant/Fragile/The Voice

Remaining North American tour dates:

1/16/15 - Tucson, AZ - Hotel Congress
1/17/15 - Atlanta, GA - Eddie's Attic
1/18/15 - Austin, TX - Cactus Café

1/19/15 - Jacksonvile, FL - Jack Rabbits
1/20/15 - St. Petersburg, FL - Local 662

2/19/15 - Halifax, CAN – Carleton
2/20/15 – New Haven, CT – Café 9
2/21/15 - Somerville, MA - Johnny D's
2/23/15 - Lancaster, PA - Tellus 360
2/24/15 - Philadelphia, PA - World Café Live
2/25/15 - Glen Cove, NY - The View Grill
2/26/15 - New York, NY - Iridium
2/27/15 - New York, NY - Iridium
2/28/15 - Sugarloaf, NY - Sugarloaf PAC

3/1/15 - Montreal , CAN - Lasala Rosa
3/3/15 – Ottawa, CAN - Black Sheep Inn
3/4/15 - Toronto, CAN - Phoenix Concert Hall
3/5/15 - Detroit, MI - Magic Bag

3/6/15 – Milwaukee, WI – Shank Hall
3/7/15 - Chicago, IL - Old Town School of Folk Music

3/8/15 – Bethesda, MD – Blues & Jazz

Ure will continue to tour throughout the spring and early summer in the UK and New Zealand. See website below for details.

In related news, Ure is a guest vocalist on the elegant “Taking Back My Time” from Stephen Emmer's chamber pop album International Blue, which came out last September.

Produced and mixed by Tony Visconti (David Bowie, Morrissey), it also features singing by Glenn Gregory (Heaven 17), Liam McKahey (Cousteau) and Neil Crossley (Furlined). All are pictured left.

Amsterdam native Emmer once served as guitarist for post punk group Minny Pops, who were signed to Factory Records and had singles produced by Martin Hannett alongside Joy Division, toured with that band and later New Order in the early 1980s.

Emmer has recorded, written for, and performed with the likes of Lou Reed, Billy McKenzie (The Associates), Mary Griffin (Parliament, Patti Labelle), The Lotus Eaters and The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

In Holland and Benelux, he is currently a top TV and film score producer and has released three albums: Vogue Estate, Recitement and Time to Face the Music.

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