Ultravox are a British new wave rock band. They were one of the primary exponents of the British electronic pop music movement of the early eighties. They were particularly associated with the new romantic and new wave movements.
In 1979, John Foxx was Ultravox’s frontman; he left the band to embark on a solo career. Following Foxx’s departure, Midge Ure took over as lead singer, guitarist and frontman, and he helped to steer the band to commercial success. They were very successful with the video shot for the single Vienna (1980). It brought them fame and fortune all over the world and more hit singles followed after this release.
Especially in their home country, Ultravox entered the charts on a regular base with songs as Vienna, The Voice, Dancing With Tears In My Eyes and Reap The Wild Wind. Their music had some influences from progressive rock related bands as Roxy Music and Kraftwerk. Therefore, the band was loved by many prog heads including myself. Midge Ure left the band in 1987 after establishing a solo career and the group disbanded for a while. A new line-up, led by the sole original band member Billy Currie, was formed in 1992, but without success.
The band’s best known line-up of Midge Ure (lead vocals, guitar, keyboards), Billy Currie (main keyboards, violin), Chris Cross (drums) and Warren Cann (bass, keyboards, vocals) reformed in 2008 and have toured since then. How the band looks and sounds nowadays is very well documented on the DVD Return To Eden. First we can watch a hundred minutes of a concert performed at The Roundhouse in London (2008). Right from the start you’ll notice that these musicians can still play like in the old days. Only their appearances differ a lot from the time I remember them. Especially Mr. Ure isn’t recognizable at all. You see a bald man who still moves the same way and vocal wise there’s not much difference either. Sure, he has to exert himself to catch the high notes in Vienna, but it still sounds very acceptable. Also during the performances of the other well-known hits Midge Ure does a pretty good job. You can hardly hear that they didn’t play songs as Lament, Visions In Blue and Passing Strangers for a very long time. The music sounds rather well accompanied by sober, but effective stage lights. A good example is the track Your Name on which the ‘electronic wall’ moves along with the music very effectively. The ‘digital rain’ on Vienna is almost breathtaking. The band members haven’t forgotten to communicate with the audience. It’s nice to see how people participate during The Hymn. The audience still knows how to sing along with this fine tune. After this piece the band return for two final encores. Sleepwalk and The Voice still sound very well on a live stage and prove that Ultravox are very professional musicians. Most of them are multi-instrumentalists which is proved by the percussion solo on The Voice. Like most DVD-releases nowadays, the concert is recorded in 5.1 surround and DTS. This is certainly needed for a band that released albums on which synthesizers dominate the music.
I think the extra feature on this DVD Building Eden: The Reformation Documentary is even more interesting than the concert. We get a forty-minute long inside view of the history of the band and how they got together again after 23 years. Midge Ure seemed to be very nervous to meet his old friends. Warren Cann specially came over from the USA for this reunion and he had some problems to get used to his new electronic drum kit. The footage of the rehearsals also shows that some musicians were not used to work with modern computers and synthesizers. The short clips taken from some gigs are also nice to watch and so is the chatting with friends who came all the way from Japan and America to see their heroes perform in the UK.
This release is a fine document for the Ultravox-fans, who can watch their heroes back in action after a long period of absence. However, I’m convinced that many of our readers will enjoy it as well. It certainly is a nice trip down memory lane. The soundtrack of this DVD was also released on a double-CD and a package of the DVD/2CD is available as well.
*** Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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