By Chyrisse Tabone, Rock At Night Tampa
The Bilheimer Capitol Theatre in Clearwater, Florida was completely sold-out for the Howard Jones and Midge Ure concert last night. Personally, Howard Jones’ music epitomizes the ‘80s with its synth-pop flare and lyrical optimism. Dream Into Action was always on “auto-reverse” in my Fiat Spyder’s Blaupunkt cassette player as I obnoxiously had the top down for all to savor. Between his spiky hair and an array of hits such as “Things Can Only Get Better” and “Like to Get to Know you Well”, Jones had us dancing our hearts out at the clubs and dominated MTV.
Ure has a rich history of involvement with not only music but altruism. He was a member of New Wave synth bands Ultravox and Rich Kids, classic rock band Thin Lizzy, New Romantic band Visage, and co-founder (with Bob Geldoff) of the 1985 concert initiative Live Aid.
As Rock At Night arrived to the venue, Gen X’ers and even Baby Boomers were clamoring to grab a drink and secure a seat. Concert goers sporting spiky mohawks and ‘80s mini-skirts crowded the venue—albeit, a bit more gray, a wee plumper, and follicle-challenged than their hey day.
Backed by synth and computer-generated backing tracks, stalwart Midge Ure and Dan Burton began with “Dear God”, which was recorded post-Ultravox. Pausing after the song, Ure chatted with the audience, often cheeky in his delivery, and oozed with charisma. Referring to the evening’s wet tropical sprinkles, he noted, “I believe it rains here sometimes. Possibly, it rains here more than Scotland!”
With his Scottish brogue, Ure remarked, “Tonight we have half a band rather than not do it at all. Howard’s bus isn’t big enough for all of us. So tonight, we have Dan doing all the tricky parts.”
The show continued with ‘80s synth dance hits, including “I Remember (Death in the Afternoon)” and MTV popular song “Reap Wild Wind”. Pausing temporarily due to technical difficulties with Burton’s laptop, Ure remarked, “This is where half a band falls to the ground. Otherwise it’s me and the guitar.”
“This is Dan’s first tour of America—possibly his last. Just cruel.”
Actually the “half band” sounded great—as did Ure’s voice which sounded strong, full, and nuanced. Like another favorite voice, Paul Rodgers, the recordings do not do justice to live voice.
Between songs, the audience cheered and whistled after songs like “Fade to Grey” and David Bowie’s “The Man Who Fell to Earth”, which paid homage to “The Master”. Ure quipped, “You know Spotify? That thing that doesn’t pay artists. Well, this song has millions of streams—but not mine.”
Known for its uber cool cinematic video, the song “Vienna” earned a standing ovation. Ure performed on the piano and guitar for songs like “The Voice” (“I’m only doing this to show you it’s not all on the computer”), “The Hymn”, and “All Stood Still”, which featured some hefty guitar solo work.
Throughout the set, the audience stayed put in their comfortable theatre seats. Ure beckoned the audience to “stand up and wiggle” for the next song which was Ultravox’s big hit “Dancing With Tears in My Eyes”. Whether self-conscious or not wanting to block the people’s view, half the crowd stood up to sing and dance.
After a 30-minute intermission, Howard Jones emerged on stage wearing a jacket with bright blocks of color, singing, dancing and playing the keytar as smoke spewed and colored lasers darted. Nick Beggs performed nimbly on the Chapman Stick all evening, Robbie Bronniman manned the synths, Burton held down the rhythm with synths and a drum pad, and composer/musician Robin Boult, performed acoustic and electric guitars at stage left.
By the time Jones’ concert began the audience woke up and time-traveled back to frat parties. It was an all and out dance party (albeit confined to the space between seats). A few ventured in the aisle as songs like “Pearl In the Shell”, “Hunt the Self”, and Like to Get to Know You Well”, and “Equality” played.
A special moment was when Jones introduced Beggs as a former member of Kajagoogoo, which dominated the air waves in the ‘80s. After a bit of cajoling, they band performed “Too Shy” to the delight of the audience, which sang along and chair danced.
After performing the moving “No One Is to Blame” Jones noted, “I was getting a real tingle in the room. I was feeling it.”
He mused further saying, “We’re still here. What’s more important is—you’re still here.”
Jones responded to Ure’s earlier comment about the band size saying, “I’ll get a bigger bus next time. I promise.” Touting Ure as a “legendary man” with a huge body of work, he said, “He’s such a humble man. You don’t find that in this business.” He praised Ure’s work with Geldoff in Band Aid and Live Aid. At that moment, he walked out on stage as the audience roared with cheers and applause. What may have been the highlight of the evening, both performed “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” as the audience sang along. It is hard to believe that Live Aid was 37 years ago.
More bright spots in the evening were hearing Jones’ more recently composed songs. Techno-tinged “The Human Touch” fits well in a rave club today. Inspired during COVID lockdown, Jones’ falsetto vocals and upbeat lyrics kept the crowd dancing to “Celebrate Together”. I plan to seek out some of his never music for sure!
Most were standing loose and freely moving to “Everlasting Love”, “Who You Really Want to Be”, and “What Is Love?”. The band thanked the crowd for a lovely evening, left the stage, but after a roar of clapping hands, returned to perform a new dance-mix version of “Things Can Only Get Better”.
It is not very often the Gen X’ers and Boomers stand up and dance at the Capitol Theatre. After all, those seats are pretty cozy. However, last night, they were reliving those high school and college days from the ‘80s, when everything was colorful and bright—and mullets ruled.
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