So there I was, let out for the first time with one of my mates that had already left school sporting my brand new burgundy Bowies. ‘Rage in Eden’ had not long hit the shops and New Romantics were picking up speed. He had a bright orange Bond Bug at the time in which you could drive around with the top off. He had this box linked up to the stereo that emitted stupidly daft noises at ear-splitting volume when you pulled up to a zebra crossing. He had police sirens, loud farty noises and big explosions to boot. It was wicked. Anyway, we parked up in the Lace Market side of town and made our way to a new club that had just opened. 'The Final Solution', as I remember it was called, had just a small greeting area and bar upstairs. The main deal, however, was the downstairs. As you descended the stairs, you were escorted down by this enormous sweeping banister in the guise of an incredible golden serpent…

What is it with the resurrection of all the old 80's bands at the moment? Don't get me wrong. I'm not complaining. It gives me the chance to go and see the bands I followed so avidly as a kid, but couldn't afford to go and see back then. We were labelled as New Romantics/Futuristic back then. This was when most of the mods in our school had hung up their fish tails, and donned a pair of Bowies and a badly fitted Box jacket.

The latest band to regroup and to go on an extensive tour is Ultravox. As we made our way through to main hall in the Nottingham Royal Concert Hall, there was a note on the door - '8 p.m. start. No support', which I deciphered as meaning that there was a short interval between sets.

This was billed as the 'Brilliant' tour, after the four piece’s brand new album, but like the many other old bands I've been lucky enough to catch I didn't know what to expect. In front of me as I checked out the best spots was a surprisingly simple stage. Was I expecting something bigger, louder, brighter, more technological, more futuristic, more 80s? I reminded myself that Ultravox’s heyday was over 30 years ago. Jeepers! The kind usher that escorted me informed me that only just over a thousand tickets had been sold after I remarked on it being a bit sparse and that the upper tier was closed.

Bang on 8 p.m. the hall went dark, and the four piece drifted on to the stage. Despite his lack of hair, it was easy to recognise the lead singer Midge Ure also and Chris Cross, Warren Cann and Billy Currie, who were all managing to sport quite good length haircuts considering the years that have gone by.

They started the set with the title track to the new album 'Brilliant', which then subdued into one of the earlier Ure-era tracks 'New Europeans'. Unfortunately for me this all seemed a little static. It came across as all very English, and it felt as if we should have brought a flask of tea, a couple of cream xheese sandwiches and a fairy cake.

None of the four musicians passed a glance at each other, and it really did feel like it was serious business. Not a word was said to us all through the first set. The sound quality wasn't that good either, and it all sounded too quiet and lacked punch.

I felt as if I was at the local match, and wondering as the whistle was about to blow for half time if it was going to get any better. Although they did become more animated towards the end of the first set, I was still left disappointed. There was a distinct lack of flair and cohesion, and the crowd weren't on their feet properly until they broke into a rendition of another early track 'Sleepwalk' and then signed off with a better sounding 'The Voice'.

Now, they must have done it on purpose to lead us all into a false sense of security because, to coin a phrase, this was like a game of two halves.
After the short interval the second half crashed in with a seriously good version of 'Live'. Crikey! As if reading my mind, the giant awoke! The sound just got louder and edgier, and the stage became brighter and more illuminated. This is what I was expecting! The four musicians were smiling and laughing with each other between songs. The crowd were in the mood now too. A wickedly good 'Thin Wall' had them up and dancing, and, as we got into the slower 'Lament', they all moved in a unison which strangely reminded me of something vaguely familiar from my youth.

All four musicians on stage were now looking younger by the minute, and it was clear by the time we got to another great performance with the instrumental cult sound of 'Astradyne' that they were having as much fun as the audience. We were then treated to a barrage of old favourites such as 'Vienna’, ‘One Small Day’, ‘Strangers’, ‘Great Adventure’, ‘All Stood Still’, and a back of the neck moment when the whole audience let rip into chorus after chorus of 'Hymn'. After the slow fluttering of snow early on, they had gathered pace snowballing into a huge thumping, pounding, avalanche by the end of the main set.

They went off and came back on with a great encore with a rendition of 'Dancing', again with a strong performance from us, and then a sublime end with 'Contact', the ender on the new album. There was now no doubt about it. I realised why they've named the new album as they have. If a little giddy, almost nervous at the start, this was 'Brilliant'.

...And the further you got down the serpent stars the weirder it got. You couldn’t see the dance floor. There wasn't one. As i found the bottom step through the cotton wool cloud that encased them all from the shoulders down, I could just make out the great gaping snake’s mouth with two realistic looking fangs hanging down and a fork tongue ready to take your head off. My mate was in fits as it really did scare the crap out of me. It was then that I noticed something strange. 'Rage in Eden' had been picked too bits and dissected by DJ's, radio and the masses and out of it came the cult club sound of 'Stranger Within' to which the clubbers were moving zombie- like in unison to. The whole room was shuffling in time covered in dry ice smoke and getting totally lost in the unmistakable sound of Ultravox.

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Commenting On: Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham, 25/9/2012 - Ultravox

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