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Never mind past glories – it's the little things that rock Midge's boat

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: May 10, 2013

Above, Midge Ure as he is today and, left in the 1980s as frontman of Ultravox

Above, Midge Ure as he is today and, left in the 1980s as frontman of Ultravox

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When you have achieved such lofty ambitions as Midge Ure in his four decades as a professional music maker, it's the little triumphs that now tend to bring the greatest pleasure.

Take for example his forthcoming solo show at The Minack, the granite-hewn outdoor theatre built into the cliffside at Porthcurno in deepest West Cornwall.

Never mind co-masterminding Live Aid, his catalogue of massive stadium shows across the globe, his OBE and the huge hit records of his past – this unique venue is one that Midge, now 59, has been longing to play for many years.

"I've wanted to do The Minack for ages, but this is the first time I have been asked," he says. "I've never even been there, so it will be an ambition fulfilled.

"I have been very fortunate that I have managed to do all the big stuff; I've worked with all the people I have ever wanted to; I have played the biggest concerts and the smallest. And now something like this really puts a smile on my face.

"I just hope the weather is kind. I presume most people who have been there before will be prepared for a bit of drizzle and will bring something to sit on, some sandwiches and wear a couple of jumpers," laughs Glasgow-born Midge.

"I saw The Minack on a TV documentary about a journalist taking on different challenges. One of them was acting in a Shakespearean role and they filmed it at The Minack. They got battered with rain, but it just looked amazing.

Midge and his family, who live in Bath, are frequent visitors to Cornwall, and he has played at venues like the Acorn, Penzance and Carnglaze Caverns near Liskeard in the past.

"I love Cornwall; it's the nearest thing I have to a favourite place that's not north of the border. It actually reminds me of the north west of Scotland, rugged and beautiful; we all love spending time there," adds Midge, who has just returned from a tour of Australia with his own backing band – his first trip there for a quarter of a century.

"I must have upset them back then because they didn't invite me until now," he laughs. "It was just lovely to do it."

Another recent first for Midge has been the experience of being recognised for his speaking rather than singing voice.

"I was in the queue at the supermarket the other day and a woman asked 'Are you Midge Ure? When I said yes, she said she thought it was me because she'd heard me on the radio," adds Midge, who is currently updating his autobiography If I Was to be reissued as an e-book, complete with video and audio links.

He is delighted that the BBC and Radio 4 in particular, have decided they like his presenting style.

"That's pretty grown up stuff," he muses. "I'm not sure what my schoolteachers back in Glasgow would have made of my oh-so refined Scottish accent!"

His successful reunion with Ultravox over the last couple of years has been a huge unexpected pleasure for Midge who originally found stardom as frontman and guitarist with this much-loved electronic pop band from the late 1970s to the mid-80s.

The Ultravox back catalogue has always remained dear to Midge and he has always performed solo versions of his favourite songs when he's toured in his own name.

"Five years ago, if someone had asked me if we would get back together I would have said absolutely no chance," admits Midge. "Then it was 40 years since we released Vienna and it was suggested we did a tour. Not only did that go brilliantly, but we made a new album together and we were taken aback that we still had this creativity and people genuinely liked what we were doing."

The next Ultravox outing will be as special guests on some arena dates, including the London The O2, with Simple Minds in the autumn.

"I bumped into Jim Kerr in Bath one day and we were saying how great it would be to do something together – two bands from the same era; and lo and behold it's happening."

Touring with the band is a very different kettle of fish these days.

"We're supporting, so we can be back in the hotel by 10pm. When we were young the first thing we said when we came off stage was 'Right, where are we going now?'," says Midge "We were like bloodhounds – young, free and single. But now if we don't drink, don't take drugs or womanise, what are we doing it for? Well, it's all about the music."

He's happy that there's an entire new generation of music lovers coming to Ultravox concerts. But don't get Midge started on the state of the mainstream music industry and how hard it is for burgeoning creative musicians to make a decent living.

"The talent is still out there, but its only outlet seems to be a TV show on Saturday night... that's not where you're going to find the next Led Zeppelin or Kate Bush, but unfortunately that's what the industry is dictating," he grumbles. "They find anyone with a voice and a look and get in the best writers and producers, and they won't release anything unless it's a guaranteed hit.

"I meet so many people who say they 'used to play'. If you want to play, just go and do it in a pub for nothing if it scratches that itch."

Midge Ure plays at the Minack Porthcurno on Thursday, May 16, the Exeter Phoenix on Wednesday, May 15, and a hometown gig at Bath Komedia on Friday, May 17.

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