Midge Ure @ Apres Bar, Birmingham, 31 May 2014

Saturday night at the Apres Bar in Birmingham, and it's a special one. The bar downstairs is full, with more than a little excitement about the Carl Froch/George Groves Super-Middleweight Championship. Upstairs in the Club Room, we’ve gone back to the 1980s with a full house of “Darklings” (the collective noun for club members) who are excited about the appearance of a Musical Heavyweight for the Only After Dark (OAD) 5th Birthday Celebrations, some of whom have come from overseas to be here.

OAD is the monthly club night based on the Bowie nights and the Rum Runner/Blitz Club nights of the late '70s/early ‘80s. The club’s playlist covers a wide range of electronica/glam/new wave/punk/new romantic/alternative with quite a bit of Bowie in there too. Organiser David Wright, (Switch Radio DJ) has run OAD events over the last five years in various venues in and around Birmingham and has played host to a number of guest DJ’s and intimate shows from artists of the period including Rusty Egan (Visage) Heaven 17, Martin Degville (Sigue Sigue Sputnik) and recently, Blancmange.

Tonight’s special Birthday guest is Midge Ure, who found fame in the 1970s with Slik, The Rich Kids, and in the 1980s and beyond with Ultravox, Visage, an instigator of Band Aid and the Live Aid events alongside Bob Geldof and a successful solo career to boot. With the reformed Ultravox currently on a hiatus following a recent tour with Simple Minds at the end of 2013, Ure is out on the road with tour dates across America, Europe and South Africa and new solo album “Fragile” due for release on 7th July in the UK.

The set tonight is an acoustic one, so its just Midge and his guitar, not a keyboard or macbook in sight. Taking to the stage in black shirt and jeans, whilst the colourful crowd clap and cheer, he picks up his guitar and opens up with “Dear God” and “Breathe”; two of his earlier solo songs. Visage’s “Fade to Grey” comes next; one of his acoustic regulars. If you don't know, Ure is one of the founder members of this electronic supergroup (alongside Steve Strange on vocals, Dave Formula of Magazine, John McGeoch of Siouxsie and the Banshees, Rusty Egan, Billy Currie of Ultravox and Chris Payne of Tubeway Army) and also the songwriter.

Between songs Ure is chatty and recounts the tale of David Bowie’s visit to the Blitz Club back in the day, where the Blitz kids found themselves to be not quite so cool as their “Hero”. This is the same visit, where Steve Strange was chosen by Bowie for the “Ashes To Ashes” video. In tribute to Bowie and to the OAD crowd, Ure covers a Bowie track. Not an obvious one, but his version of “Lady Stardust” was performed well and loved by the crowd. “D’you reckon Bowie would be singing 'If I Was’ in a club somewhere?… I doubt it”.

Time for some audience participation.. “If you know it, give it some stick” as 1981’s “The Voice” is played with gusto, and the audience sing along. His 1982 cover of The Walker Brothers “No Regrets” is a treat to listen to and often a regular feature of his acoustic sets.
“Vienna” is next and referred to as “..a bit better than Forever and Ever” the No.1 Slik song from 1976. Ure gets a gentle reminder of these days during the set as one of the Darklings (Porl The Count) gets on stage with an issue of “Look-in” magazine (who remembers that??) dated 10th April 1976, featuring Slik on the cover and in a double page poster in the centre. Now that is a blast from the past! and Ure takes it all in good spirit.

Ure hits the big notes well as the crowd join in with the song. “One Small day” and “Hymn” and then the set closer, “This is supposed to be my last song”, “Dancing With Tears In My Eyes”. The stage is small and the venue is hot and cramped, so Ure cannot get away for a breather before an encore, and as he has often joked about before in some of the smaller venues, he’ll stand in the corner and come back out again. For the encore, Ure finishes on a high with “Loves Great Adventure” and his solo hit “If I Was”.

Tonight, Ure was on form with his vocals and performance, and his good humoured banter engaged the crowd as he drew on an extensive back catalogue of songs from over the last thirty-odd years. The set was a short one, so the crowd could get on with their dancing until the wee small hours, but they clearly had a good time. The question is now what will OAD do for the next Birthday? You can catch up with Midge Ure at one of his many appearances over the summer and look out for his new album when it hits the shops, previews of which are available to view on his website.

Review and Photos: Ken Harrison


Dear God
Fade To Grey
Lady Stardust
The Voice
No Regrets
One Small Day
Dancing With Tears In My Eyes


Loves Great Adventure
If I Was



Midge Ure
Twitter: @midgeure1

Only After Dark