“Give us this day, all that you showed me/the power and the glory, ‘til my kingdom come!”
He belted out his lyrics a Capella before thundering into the guitar riff that serves as the backbone to “Hymn,” one of the best songs from his sadly absent band Ultravox. The high-minded content of Ure’s pop songs are a bit unusual these days, but his songs fit right in on a concert tour lineup that included a hearty group of romantic optimists—among them Howard Jones and Tom Bailey (formerly of the Thompson Twins).
The mini-festival winding its way across the United States at the moment is called the Retro Futura tour, and unfortunately it did not stop in DC on its way across the country. The closest it got was a suburb of Philadelphia on Friday, Aug. 22. In previous years, the tour had stopped here under its former name, the Regeneration Tour.
Then, it was anchored occasionally by headliners The Human League, and this time around that job fell into the capable hands of Tom Bailey. While Bailey alone is not exactly a household name, his voice is well-known to radio listeners everywhere as the force behind the songs of the Thompson Twins—“Doctor,” “Lies,” “Lay Your Hands On Me” and “Hold Me Now” among them. Bailey’s elegant voice and dapper appearance have aged very well, and he was very down to earth, modest and appreciative as a performer.
The Thompson Twins performed their last concert in Austin, Texas, 27 years ago. In that time, Bailey is the only member to remain a musician, recording experimental Indian music and the like, thus setting him up to return as a solo act at the invitation of his friend Howard Jones. Jones himself has been enjoying something of a revival as he has returned to his synthpop roots in the past five years, bringing a welcome sound to songs that remain as positive and uplifting as ever, including “Everlasting Love,” “Things Can Only Get Better” and “New Song.”
Jones and Bailey served as the last half of the Retro Futura Tour lineup. Ure, a personal favorite, was limited to five songs before an intermission! Preceding him were other U.K. acts Katrina Leskanich (formerly of Katrina and the Waves) and China Crisis. Katrina recorded a new album just for the occasion, but she also sang “Coming Down to Liverpool” (a cover by the Bangles led to a record contract for Katrina) and “Walking on Sunshine.” China Crisis hit four songs from their excellent third album, Flaunt the Imperfection, including “Black Man Ray” and “King in a Catholic Style.” Singer Gary Daly perhaps hammed up a bit too much in a dress, making a tongue in cheek apology for the absence of Boy George.
Ure closed the first half with songs that included “Hymn” and “Dancing with Tears in My Eyes” as well as solo staples “If I Was” and “Dear God.” While Ure’s performance was a highlight of the show, it also brings up my only real complaint. Katrina, China Crisis and Ure were reduced to shuffling onto and off stage in front of a house band in a manner that made their performances a little less satisfying. The “house band” concept wasn’t a bad one, particularly when you consider the costs of flying in musicians from the United Kingdom, but Ure was backed the last time I saw him by the much superior Los Angeles-based band Right the Stars, who mysteriously dropped out of supporting this same tour at the last minute. Too bad!
Still, you cannot go wrong with this much talent on one bill, and the Retro Futura tour still has many dates left across the country, starting in Chicago on Aug. 27 and then onto California and back to Texas and Florida, among other places. It’s well worth catching. The positive word of mouth seems only to be snowballing as the tour goes on, suggesting that we may see it return next year, perhaps with a DC date again as well.