Ultravox

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.

Ultravox

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.

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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.

Ultravox

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.

Ultravox

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.

Ultravox

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…

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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.

Ultravox

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

Listening:
Vienna [1980]
Rage in Eden [1981]
Quartet [1982]
Lament [1984]
Brilliant [2012]

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Ultravox Gig Review by Zyllah Moranne-Brown
Ultravox Gig Photographs by Ken Harrison

3 Responses to “Ultravox @ The Symphony Hall, Birmingham, UK – 26th September 2012”

  1. Chas Says:

    I was there also and can vouch it was indeed a fantastic gig. I’ve been into the band since 1980 and have to say they never cease to deliver a top quality show, and this latest tour is no exception. As an added bonus they played 27 songs, the most they’ve ever done in one show! They can really show some of the bland modern bands a thing or two about song writing and putting on a great gig.

  2. S,H. Says:

    A superb night that was thoroughly enjoyable. Forget your modern rubbish, this is real music!

    I’m been a fan since the very early 80’s too. Ultravox were my favourite group from an early age and they still are 30+ years later.

    I was in Birmingham to see them in 2010, there the other night and am hoping they’ll come back again. I know I will!

  3. APJ Says:

    As has been said, this was a fantastic gig – 27 songs, over 2.5 hours on stage, excellent sound and a good venue. Superb. The new material integrated well with the old classics, all with that unique Ultravox sound. I enjoyed this gig much more then the Return to Eden tour in 2010 – perhaps the strength of the new material giving us even more Brilliant Ultravox.

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