Ultravox, Return to Eden 2, Manchester Apollo. 8th April, 2010

8th April 2010, the Apollo Theatre, Manchester. The 1930’s Art Deco former cinema and variety hall, now live venue just outside Manchester city centre plays host to Ultravox for the Manchester leg of the “Return to Eden 2” tour. This band is one that I never believed would play a single note again, let alone reform to play two tours in as many years.

Showtime. The lights go down and the band talked their places for the show. The Apollo is full and buzzing…you can taste the excitement. Lights up and the intro to New Europeans kicks in…The stage is more stripped back than the previous tour, gone is the LED screen, replaced by a curtain and projector. Midge is in a suit and roll neck shirt and is sporting what must be by now his trademark silver glasses. The setlist has been changed slightly for this tour, “Your Name” has been removed and replaced by “White China” and the order rearranged.

The guitar intro to New Europeans opens the show. The audience remain seated for but not for long. As soon as Passing Strangers begins, the crowd is on their feet, and stay there. Midges’ voice is strong tonight, the strongest I’ve ever heard it as his voice soars through We Stand Alone. The music is equally powerful. The audience cheers as Billy Currie steps forward with the violin for his Mr. X solo whilst Warren’s deep tones provide the narrative and drumbeat and 3 sets of synthesisers provide the music.

“Visions in Blue” slows the pace down further and then “The Thin Wall” kicks the pace back up with grinding guitars, synths and rolling drumbeats. “Astradyne”, the opening track for the previous tour has been moved back further into the set, the familiar “tink, tink” opening receives a cheer as the instrumental track powers through the venue, Billy Currie gets another spot at the front of the stage for his solo.

“Rage in Eden” slows things down followed by “Lament” and then the almost ambient, cathedral like intro into “Hymn” which builds into a sonic feast and steps up the pace once again as we lead into “One Small Day” followed by “All Stood Still” and then “White China” (a new addition to the set this time out). Vienna receives rapturous applause as the stark drum beats through the classic track, followed by “Reap the Wild Wind”.

All through the set, smiles and big grins abound, the band members are enjoying themselves and they cannot hide it, long gone are the serious faces of their younger days. For now the acrimony of the last 20 years has dissolved, replaced by the joy of playing together the songs that made them great.

“Dancing with Tears in my Eyes” closes the main set to screams and cheers and the crowd shouting for more. The customary stomping, clapping, whistling and shouting starts while we wait for the encore, we know it’s coming, as they’ve not yet played the set closer. The intensity increases, but not for long as the band quickly returns to the stage for the encore with “Loves’ Great Adventure” and raises the roof; the crowd are bouncing in the aisles.

The band launches into “Sleepwalk” my own personal favourite with its driving beats and rhythms taking us through to “The Voice” which heralds the end of the show. One by one the instruments are left playing on preset and Midge, Chris and Billy take their places at the front of the stage for the final crescendo of drums and then it’s over. The band takes their bows, handing out their drumsticks to the frantic crowd. As they exit stage left, Chris puts his arm over Midge’s shoulder in a gesture reminiscent of two brothers. The crowd is left wanting more….much more. The show is over, the band is gone all too quickly and the lights come up in the theatre, it’s time to go.

Despite the gap of some 20 odd years following their untimely split here is a band at the peak of their power. The crowds, the fans and me want more, much more.

Set List

01 New Europeans 02 Passing Strangers
03 We Stand Alone
04 Mr. X
05 Visions in Blue 06 The Thin Wall 07 I Remember (Death in the Afternoon)
08 Astradyne 09 Rage In Eden
10 Lament 11 Hymn 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 18 Love’s Great Adventure
19 Sleepwalk 20 The Voice