LIVE REVIEW: Midge Ure, The Sage, Gateshead, Tuesday 22 October 2019

Midge Ure at The Sage Gateshead on his Vienna and Visage tour. Pic: Mick Burgess.

If ever there was a song to epitomise the ‘80s, it has to be Vienna. From its melodramatic mini-rock opera panache to the ornate cinematic video, it had the lot, and the fact that such a classic was kept off the top spot by Joe Dolce just adds to its allure.

Almost 40 years on, Midge Ure has returned to the album of the same name to present it, in its full glory. That’s not all though, as Ure was also a member of Visage, he’s headed out on the road with a Vienna and Visage tour.

Warming up the crowd before the show was Rusty Egan, Ure’s Rich Kids and Visage bandmate, doing a DJ set. It seemed strange at first, but his tales of the old club days and electronic music, told in a charmingly cheeky way, was certainly entertaining, as was his live remixing of an unreleased U2 song. Fascinating stuff.

Rusty Egan at The Sage Gateshead on Midge Ure’s Vienna and Visage tour. Pic: Mick Burgess.

Midge Ure’s talents spread far and wide, from Slick and the punky new wave of the Rich Kids to his better-known Ultravox and Visage work. He also stepped in as a last-minute replacement for Gary Moore in Thin Lizzy for a US tour in 1979, forging a lifelong friendship with Phil Lynott.

It was perhaps fitting that the show opened with Yellow Pearl, the song he co-wrote with Lynott, which was subsequently used for the theme tune to Top Of The Pops in the ‘80s.

For the first part of the show Ure was joined by Egan for a run through some Visage classics including The Dancer, Mind Of A Toy and Blocks On Blocks.

Midge Ure at The Sage Gateshead on his Vienna and Visage tour. Pic: Mick Burgess.

Fade To Grey was magical, its hypnotic beat and layer upon layer of dreamy, synths creating a wonderful ethereal ambience. A true classic amongst classics.

Ure’s cover of Zager and Evans’ In The Year 2525 seemed almost custom-written for him, while Ega’s own Glorious allowed Ure’s voice to soar to the stars.

The highlight of the show, however, was the full rendition of Vienna, from start to finish, kicking off with the synth-powered Astradyne.

Midge Ure and his band at The Sage Gateshead on his Vienna and Visage tour. Pic: Mick Burgess.

Ure strapped on his guitar for New Europeans and Private Lives while the pomp of Sleepwalk sparked the crowd to their feet as Joseph O’ Keefe’s keyboard solo channelled the spirit of Billy Currie’s original into the hall.

Mr X. was pure old-school electronica, with banks of synths and a bubbling back beat providing a truly mesmerising experience.

Of course, Vienna stole the show, and how could it not? With Ure knee deep in dry ice, a single spotlight behind him and surrounded by small flickering candle lights, it was haunting stuff, building up to its dramatic crescendo and Ure nailing the chorus to perfection.

Midge Ure at The Sage Gateshead on his Vienna and Visage tour. Pic: Mick Burgess.

How on earth do you follow a moment like that? Fortunately, All Stood Still ramped up the tempo and even invoked a burst of air guitar from one or two in the crowd.

Vienna B-side Passionate Reply was a welcome and surprise inclusion in the set, but big hitters Dancing With Tears In My Eyes, The Voice and Hymn showed just how many great songs Ure has written beyond the Vienna album.

Mick Burgess