BY DANIEL GLUSKOTER
Nearly two generations after appearing at Live Aid and becoming one of the largest stars in the MTV galaxy, British new wave pioneer Howard Jones delivered a jubilant performance highlighting his four decade career in music Wednesday night at Bimbo’s 365 Club in San Francisco.
Jones, 67, had ten top 40 hit singles in the UK between 1983 and 1986, with six of those reaching the top ten. His 1984 album Human’s Lib reached number one on the UK Album Chart. He also played Live Aid in London 37 years ago, slotted between sets from Sting with Phil Collins and Bryan Ferry with David Gilmour on guitar. More recently, a younger generation has heard his music in television series ranging from Breaking Bad to Stranger Things 3.
Back on the road, touring in advance of the September release of Dialogue, his 14th studio album, the one-time new wave darling remains instantly recognizable to anyone who followed him during his glory days. Stylishly dressed in a colorful futuristic pleated suit, the personable Jones’ hair might be shorter and less spiky, but he still has the sides of the back of his head shaved mohawk-style and he worked the setting perfectly, shifting between his black electronic Roland keyboard and synthesizer effortlessly when not moving from end to end of the small stage.
Taking the stage with his backing band to open with “Pearl in the Shell” from 1984’s Human’s Lib, Jones stuck to delivering the most recognizable material from his catalog, but still managed to introduce the audience to some of his latest works, playing a pair of of tunes from the upcoming album in addition to a song from 2019’s Transform, which was his first new studio album in nearly a decade.
As to be expected, it was his 80’s classics that elicited the greatest response during the 95 minute set. Jones didn’t remotely disappoint, delivering the ebullient “Like to Get to Know You Well” (“Don’t wanna talk about the weather/Don’t wanna talk about the news/Just wanna get to the real you inside/Like to get to know you well/Like to get to know you well/Like to get to know you well/So we can be one/We can be one together”) early on before an updated version of “Life in One Day” had the crowd joining in to sing along.
An unexpected version of “Too Shy” was a nod to touring bassist Nick Beggs, who joined Jones to reprise his contribution to Kajagoogoo’s 1983 hit, before an eloquent acoustic version of “No One is to Blame” where you could hear a pin drop. “New Song” and a bouncy version of “Everlasting Love” were next, bringing back the nostalgia of both simpler and more innocent times.
Finishing strong, Jones returned to the keyboards for “What Is Love?” before ending the show end on yet another high note thanks to the always uplifting “Things Can Only Get Better.” The band briefly left the stage before Jones returned solo for an encore that saw him perform “Hide and Seek” to close out the 16 song setlist.
The evening was given a significant additional boost by opening act Midge Ure. The Scottish musician best known as the frontman of Ultravox continues to possess an incredible voice that can produce chills. Another veteran of Live Aid, Ure co-wrote and produced the charity single “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” with Bob Geldof to raise money to help with the famine in Ethiopia. The song sold over 12 million copies and reached number one in 14 countries.
Opening with his solo hit “Dear God” from 1988’s Answers to Nothing, Ure stuck with his most recognizable songs, adding a great cover of David Bowie’s “The Man Who Sold the World” to Ultravox cuts ranging from “Reap the Wild Wind” to “Vienna,” “The Voice” and “Dancing With Tears in My Eyes.” Hopefully his next album will result in a much deserved headlining tour of his own.
The Howard Jones / Midge Ure Dialogue tour continues with shows in San Diego Thursday and Los Angeles Friday.