Monday, September 8, 2014

A Modern Troubadour with a Guitar

8 September 2014

Our Bellingham tradition is to have breakfast at the Bagelry, a breakfast and lunch spot in downtown Bellingham that has been there a good 30 years or more.  Very good bagels.  Excellent bialys, which are my preference.  Plus they trade bagels and coffee for weekly flower arrangements by a local florist - and the owner, Ken, brings in dahlias from his garden.  Just the spot to go, have a great breakfast or lunch or snack, relax with some coffee, and meet up with friends.

So Sunday morning, we get up and make our way down to the Bagelry, and meet up with my brother Ivan, who lives in town.  We chat, eat our eggs and bagels, drink our coffee, chat some more.

I suggest we meet up that evening and do something, maybe dinner.  We're on our last few days in the US before heading back to Japan, so I figured we could do something with Ivan and his lady friend.

Ivan mentions that there's a concert that night in Vancouver, but he was going on a business trip on Monday so was reluctant to go to the concert.  Who? I inquired.  Midge Ure, he responds.  OH!!!!!!!  We have GOT to go - please please please I beg, we've got to go to this concert, let's just drop everything and do this, I'll stay up all night and help you get ready for the trip or whatever.  We can do this!

So we do.  Simple as that.  A few phone calls, book three tickets online, and by 6 PM Ivan, Lisa, and I are headed up to Vancouver for a Midge Ure concert at a little club that turns out to be just a block down the street from the hotel we stayed in last month.

For people who don't know who Midge Ure is, he was the lead singer for Ultravox, and wrote many if not most of their songs - or possibly co-composed the songs.  He also was behind Band Aid, the British music fund-raiser to help homeless and hungry people across the world.  

Midge is a Scottish musician, and looks like a moody and brooding leprechaun.  He's a rather small man, older now and with either a bald or shaved head, which adds to his somber look.  And then he opens his mouth and this marvelous, rich, resonant voice comes out, unexpected in both range and sound.  Absolutely wonderful - at times sounding sad and soulful like an oboe, other times happy and playful like a sax, or rich and full like a cello - his voice has an amazing quality!!!  He truly comes from a troubadour tradition, almost bardic - his songs tell stories of incipient love, a sad and bad breakup, seeking internal peace or finding one's place in the world.  Or railing against injustice and searching for answers to the world's social ills.  

He's also just funny.  With a lilting Scottish accent and a twinkle in his eye, his face lights up with a boyish grin as he teased the audience.  

And somehow, this one man with a guitar, managed to scale down the instrumental four-man version of the songs and perform them alone, just him, with that one guitar.  

Sometimes his voice was so overpowering, so loud, he would turn away from the mic - but he was still loud, rich, full - and I wondered if he could do an entire concert without using the mic at all.  Really, his voice filled the club, or mini theatre, that well.

He also can hold a note long enough to make one wonder if he would ever breathe.  The man could probably swim underwater across an Olympic swimming pool, he has that much lung capacity and control.

All this in a location with, according to my brother the live professional audio guy, a fairly bad sound system. 

It was a wonderful concert, and he sang all my favorites.  (I'm trying to revert to the American spelling, but it's hard.)  I am SO HAPPY we went.  Absolutely wonderful.

You probably could go to youtube and find this concert - a good portion of the audience spent the evening viewing this wonderful performance through their idiot cell phones, recording it for posterity in miniature.  

And links to a few songs, for those of you who've never heard him.  (These are old, but all I could find for a few of my faves, but he also sang some of his more recent pieces as well.)

Enjoy!  And if you see a sign for a Midge Ure performance in your town, GO!!!!!!  

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