Talking Mole Sauce, The Sex Pistols and Life on the Road with Midge Ure and Paul Young
“The Soundtrack of Your Life Tour” featuring the megawatt talents of Midge Ure and Paul Young is truly a dream come true for anyone who came of age in the 80’s, and the pairing makes perfect sense in a plethora of ways.
“I’ve known Paul, obviously for a long time,” recalled Ure by phone prior to the start of the tour. “I mean, we did the Band Aid record together. I worked on it and produced it and Paul sang the brilliant opening line for that song so I’ve known Paul on and off for a long time. And I knew that he was on U.S. tour last year on the Retro Futura Tour and I heard that he was doing really well with that. I approached him and I said, “I tour America every 18 months to 2 years. Why don’t we do this together? We team up, we’ll play to larger audiences and we’re very compatible. We’re from the same era and we get on so why don’t we do it” and he loved the idea. It just seemed to make absolute sense on a musical level as well as a financial level. That we’d come in and share the same musicians, we all travel together and it’s kind of a guy’s holiday, really,” he said, laughing. “It’s like that Cliff Richard’s film Summer Holiday, having fun and singing in the back of the car!”
And have fun they certainly are. Ure, the Grammy-winning Scottish guitarist, singer, keyboard player and songwriter has an impressive list of accomplishments including success as a member of Slik, The Rich Kids, Thin Lizzy, Visage, Ultravox and as a solo artist. His awards are plentiful, including recording a number of gold and platinum albums and singles, even co-writing “Do They Know Its Christmas” with Bob Geldof. He and Geldof organized Band Aid, Live Aid and Live 8. Ultimate kudos came in the form of being bestowed the OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire) by the Queen of England, in recognition of his contribution to the arts, work with charitable organizations and public service. Joining forces with Young for this trek across North America in two legs that span the Spring and Summer is purely a stroke of genius. Young, formerly the frontman of Kat Kool & the Kool Cats, Streetband and Q-Tips, has had a stellar solo career with his trademark blue eyed soul. Involved in Live Aid as well as Band Aid, Young has been performing with his band Los Pacaminos since the early 1990s. Both Ure and Young are in their early 60s but nobody would ever guess that based on their high energy performances on stage.
After sound check a few hours before the show on Long Island, Young talked about everything from life on the road to his love of cooking. Young, who is no novice to the kitchen, has appeared on Celebrity Master-Chef and Hell’s Kitchen in the UK, revealing an aptitude and passion for creating in the kithen. He revealed that the last thing he made was, “a mole sauce and I froze containers of it so I would have more when I get home,” noting that it is difficult to find a good Mole sauce in the UK and that he uses a recipe from a cherished cookbook from Santa Fe.
Young is loving every part of being on the road. “I love to fly, drive, hotels” he explained animatedly as he perched in shorts and a t-shirt on a leather chair in the corner of his dressing room, with a his backpack by his feet. Alone time without distractions is a perk of being on the road as well as being able to easily stay in touch with his grown kids makes things easier. This fall, Young will embark on his “35 Years of No Parlez” tour in the UK. “I’ve played about 40 percent of the album on tour but we haven’t played it in its entirety, “ said Young, excited about the current tour as well as the future. His face lit up talking about the creation of the album and feeling like “we were in a playhouse in the studio recording it. You can hear the influence of the Tom Tom Club who I was listening to at the time, on songs like “Iron Out The Rough Spots.”
Ure agrees, saying that the positives and negatives of being on the road are often the same. “The traveling is kind of dull but when you’re traveling away from home…I’m not traveling up and down the M6 here in the UK, that’s pretty dull because I’ve seen that all my life but when you’re traveling across America, it’s a whole different thing. Traveling is the part that normally gets you down because you’re in a bus for 5 or 6 hours a day or whatever it happens to be because you guys have got such a ridiculously big country, “ he says, laughing. “Every city is 5 or 6 hours apart so that’s normally the downside but that’s the upside when you’re touring and you’re somewhere different and you’re enjoying the scenery and it’s exciting. I suppose the downpart would have been back in the day, missing my family but my daughters are all grown up and they’re more adventurous than I am right now! I’m going to be out having an absolute ball on this tour.”
Switching gears with Ure by phone, he laughed when asked how the trajectory of things would have changed for both his career and the success of the Sex Pistols if he had indeed said yes to joining the band when he was asked. “I would think that the Sex Pistols would have failed miserably had I been in the band!” he quipped. “I think Malcolm McLaren was a terribly clever man. When I met him in the streets of Glascow, my hometown, when he stopped me in the street cause of how I looked, when everyone had long hair and spike heeled boots, I had a haircut and street trousers so I think that’s why he stopped me and told me he was putting this collection of musicians together, this band together, and talked to me about this thing he was doing for about a half hour and then asked if I wanted to join and I realized that he hadn’t asked me if I was a musician or not so I didn’t really matter so I just said no, it’s wrong, this isn’t right. So I think it was the right decision for me and it was certainly the right decision for the Pistols because the guys they did pick were brilliant. I mean, it was the best lineup it could possibly get, I mean they were cocky and they were arrogant and Lydon is incredibly funny and vicious with his tongue and Matlock was a great bass player but also a great songwriter so it put together a fantastic union. I couldn’t imagine any other lineup besides Syd taking over from Glen but it was absolutely perfect and I think I would have ruined it!” Ure pauses with a hearty laugh. “ I would have been too musical. I would have brought synthesizers and that would have killed it!”
As the tour rolled into The Paramount in Huntington, New York on a Thursday evening in early June, the eager fans crowded into the general admission area behind the barricades near the stage and the upper level seats filled quickly. After a short and enjoyable set by New York based singer/ songwriter Mark Newman, Ure bound onto the stage, flanked by musicians Tony Solis on bass, Zach Kamins on keyboards and Matt Graff on drums. The excitement was palpable from the audience as the hardcore fans grooved to hits from Ultravox and Visage and his solo career, including “Dear God,” “If I Was,” “Fade to Grey,” “Vienna” and “All Stood Still,” to which nobody could stand still. The band was extremely tight and proved seamless, sounding as flawless as if they were on the original recordings. The camaraderie and showmanship was a pleasure to witness, especially between Ure and Solis, who riffed together so well. One of the most fantastic parts of watching Ure at work is the sheer pleasure and joy on his face on stage. It is infectious and moving. Ure’s passion for giving fans a memorable night as well as for the music itself was evident and on full display, especially during the final song, “Dancing With Tears in My Eyes.”
After a short break, Solis, Kamins and Graff returned to the stage for Young’s set, adding guitarist Jamie Moses to the mix. Moses, also a member of Los Pacaminos, provided backup vocals for Young, as well. A tall figure cut against the bright stage lights, Young jumped right in with “Some People” and the crowd exploded with applause. Swinging the mic stand around and never staying in one place for more than a moment, Young brought out favorites like, “Love of the Common People,” Marvin Gaye’s “Wherever I Lay My Hat,” “Everything Must Change,” “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted,” and “Come Back and Stay.” For an inspired and brilliant encore, Ure came back to the stage and thrilled the crowd with Young on Thin Lizzy’s “The Boys Are Back in Town,” the absolute perfect ending to a brilliant concert.
As fans gathered at the merch stand and waited patiently around the bar area in a line for a few minutes after the house lights came up, they were rewarded by the chance for a photo op with Ure and Young, the opportunity to have something signed or just give the jubilant musicians a hug and a word of thanks for a fantastic evening.
Photo Credit: Christine Connallon