New wave with old friends: The double bill of Howard Jones and former Ultravox man Midge Ure makes sense in the sense that they probably share a lot of fans; After all, they are both British new wave dealers who emerged in the early 80’s and had many hits. Both could claim to have influenced the synthwave sound.
But the similarities pretty much end there, and that’s what makes this night so intriguing. Both aesthetically and sonically, it always felt like Midge Ure came from a darker place than Jones. Apparently the lighting type on the Theater of the Ace Hotel knows it too, as Ure is bathed in cold blue during his set while Jones gets the full color palette.
Ure was awesome in downtown Los Angeles on Friday night. Most of the set came from the Ultravox catalogue, the British new wave band that formed in 1974 and that Ure joined in good time Vienna Album in 1980. Of course we have the title track of this album – one of the great epic songs of the 80’s. We have his cover of Bowie’s The Man Who Sold the World, a rendition of Fade to Gray (the song he co-wrote for another former band, Visage), and he ended with the classic Dancing With Tears in my eyes.”
All of this was a reminder of how many great songs Ure was responsible for – he may not be the first artist Americans think of when they think of 80’s British new wave and synth-pop, but he certainly should be at the top.
Likewise, people often forget how many great songs Howard Jones has in his arsenal. As we’ve already said, he’s a lot brighter and more perky than Ure, leading to his being labeled bitchy and bland by “serious” music critics of the time. Ironically, in the 80s, a strange accusation!
Jones pulls out many tunes from that decade, including the opening “Pearl in the Shell,” a great “New Song,” and of course, “What is Love.” Introducing Thing Can Only Get Better, he references the Supreme Court decision in Roe vs Wade and acclaimedly announces his support for women’s reproductive rights and LGBTQ+ marriage equality.
It’s both weird and great when Ure joins Jones to play Band Aid’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”, the song Ure co-wrote with Bob Geldof. Great because you don’t hear this song live very often. Strange ’cause it’s bloody June.
The fact that former Kajagoogoo bassist Nick Beggs is now in Jones’ band also meant we got a great rendition of that band’s “Too Shy”. When the band exits the stage at the end and Jones reappears alone to play “Hide and Seek” on keyboards, it feels poignant and perfect.
So Ure and Jones – different, but the same. And both absolutely gorgeous in LA