On June 28 two British stars of the 1980s rolled into town to help us forget our troubles for a few hours.
The Red Butte Garden Amphitheatre stage looked a bit unusual, at first. Where was the drum kit? What happened to the usual slew of guitars? In their place were seven synth/keyboard stations and only a few guitars. I half expected a DJ to come on stage. The configuration looked more like a techno dance club. But there we were, sitting outside on the lawn in low back chairs. I wondered if this style of music was too indoorsy for an open-air festival. I was pleasantly surprised!
Midge Ure, best known as the lead vocalist for the British new wave band Ultravox, kicked things off with “Dear God.” A solo keyboardist worked the electronics while Ure jammed on his electric guitar. Ure’s a skilled performer who toured as lead guitarist for Thin Lizzy in the late ’70s.
Ure shared a fun fact with the audience—his most streamed song on Spotify isn’t even one of his own. Then he belted out David Bowie’s “The Man Who Sold the World.” Ure covered the song in the early ’80s and his version is still popular today. In addition to those two songs I already mentioned,“Vienna” and “Dancing with Tears in My Eyes” brought back memories of my misspent youth living in the UK.
Like me, the crowd at the sold-out show was predominantly older and eager to hear music that conjured up memories of yesteryear. I know I was ready to embrace nostalgia and forget about our current tragic state of affairs for a while. Howard Jones delivered. The crowd rose to their feet when he opened with “Pearl in the Shell,” a 1984 chart topper in the UK. Jones offered a nice balance of music from his forty-year career including new offerings from his forthcoming album Dialogue.
Jones peppered his set list with songs from his arsenal of classic hits and kept the crowd on their feet. He belted out a soulful rendition of “No One Is to Blame” and the crowd sang right along with him. “Like to Get to Know You Well” and “What Is Love” prompted the crowd to hold up their illuminated phones in unison reminiscent of Bic lighters back in the day. The night turned into cathartic karaoke therapy as the crowd joined the chorus. The outdoor space felt like an arena, except with much better sight lines and acoustics.
Jones added a fun surprise when he announced that his bass player Nick Beggs had penned the 80’s mega-hit “Too Shy” with the band Kajagoogoo, but due to legal reasons they couldn’t play it. Then Beggs gave Jones permission to cover his song and he launched into the 39 year-old chart topper. Most of the 3,000 attendees knew the catchy chorus word for word.
Midge Ure joined Jones on stage for a nice rendition of “Feed the World/Do They Know it’s Christmas,” a charity song co-written by Ure in 1984 to raise money for famine relief in Ethiopia. It was originally recorded by Band-Aid (a supergroup of predominantly British and Irish musicians). The famine relief effort led to the Live Aid concerts of 1985.
Jones ended the show with “Hide and Seek,” a song he performed at the televised Live Aid concert in London. He pointed out the song’s lyric: “Hope you find it in everything” should read: “Hope: you find it in everything.” That may be a great mantra for the next generation.
- Who: Howard Jones with special guest Midge Ure
- What: 1980s synth-pop
- Where: Red Butte Garden Amphitheater
- When: June 28, 2022