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Midge Ure of Ultravox, Visage and Live Aid bringing old and new to Petaluma show

Who: Midge Ure band with Luvplanet

When: 8:30 p.m., Tuesday, Jan. 10

Where: Mystic Theatre, 21 Petaluma Blvd. North, Petaluma Tickets: $25

More information: 707-765-2121, mystictheatre.com


Even if the name Midge Ure doesn’t ring a bell, you’ve probably heard at least one of his songs. In 1984, Ure (with Bob Geldof) wrote “Do They Know It’s Christmas” to raise funds for famine relief in Ethiopia.

The song, which included vocals from U2’s Bono, became the top-selling single in U.K. history.

Ure (pronounced “yer”) also was instrumental in creating the Live Aid concert with Geldof in 1985 and used his success as the frontman of the new wave British bands Ultravox and Visage as a platform for his altruism.

The Scottish musician will play the Mystic Theatre on Jan. 10, performing Ultravox and Visage classics as well as material from his 2014 album, “Fragile.” The first track on the album, “I Survived,” is a heartrending song about Ure’s unending battle with alcoholism, which he has acknowledged for many years.

In a phone interview last month, Ure addressed topics ranging from Ultravox’s groundbreaking 1981 video for the song “Vienna” to documenting his 2015 solo tour.

Q. Why did you make the documentary “Fragile Troubadour” of your 2015 tour?

A. I don’t normally jump on a plane with a guitar in my hands, no crew and no manager, no adult really, and set about touring North America for six weeks.

It came about because I was (teaching) a master class at the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts, and (students) were asking about multi-album deals and global touring.

The majority of people in that room would never ever see a multi-album deal because of how much the music industry has changed.

I thought that nothing I’m saying to them is relevant.

So I set about doing this tour completely unaided, completely alone, driving 300 miles between cities, setting up the equipment, doing the show myself, taking it down at the end of the night, taking money at the end of the show and documenting the entire thing because I wanted to show these aspiring musicians just how hard the reality of the future they’ve chosen is.

I don’t think people will stop wanting to perform music; I just think they might have to subsidize it themselves by doing something else.

People aren’t buying songs. They aren’t paying for something that costs less than a cup of coffee but that could maybe change your life. A piece of music is an incredibly powerful thing at times.

Q. What do you have planned for the upcoming tour?

A. This time around I’m touring with a couple of U.S.-based musicians, (former Right the Stars drummer BC Taylor and keyboard player Tony Solis), and between us we make quite a bit of noise.

So it’s guitar, bass and drums and a couple of synthesizers thrown in as well.

We mix the instrumentation between us, which gives us the facility to cover a huge amount of material from early Ultravox to a little bit of Visage to some of the latest solo stuff.

Q. Is the song “I Survived” autobiographical? You’ve had problems with alcohol.

A. Absolutely, yeah, I still do. I don’t drink — once you’re involved in that stuff it’s like a little demon on your shoulder just waiting to pounce. I just think that you write about your life and if you write honestly someone somewhere will connect to that piece of music.

Who: Midge Ure band with Luvplanet

When: 8:30 p.m., Tuesday, Jan. 10

Where: Mystic Theatre, 21 Petaluma Blvd. North, Petaluma Tickets: $25

More information: 707-765-2121, mystictheatre.com

Q. Your 1981 video for “Vienna” was groundbreaking.

A. We wanted to shoot on 16-millimeter film and crop the screen top and bottom to make it look like Cinemascope and have this grainy, atmospheric, film noir (look) with long shadows on cobblestones and smoky, almost Spielberg-ish lighting.

I remember the record label wouldn’t give us the money to make the video because they said the song was already number two on the U.K. charts. So we borrowed the money to make the video and then presented it to the record label, which eventually paid us back.

The director (Russell Mulcahy) was the guy everybody used afterwards — Spandau (Ballet), Duran (Duran), Elton John, Paul McCartney — because of the quality of the visuals.

Q. How do you keep the classics fresh?

A. I think it’s down to how you perform. Everything gets old. There’s nothing you can do about it. But when you perform the songs, you are performing them all at one moment in time.

So you can play something from 35 years ago right next to something from the (2014) “Fragile” album, and they won’t sound too far removed.

I’m fairly lucky that I’ve got a very distinctive voice and a very distinctive structure, the way I put melodies and things together. I can’t get away from it.

So when you play old and new songs side-by-side on stage, there’s a kind of coherence. I’m the glue that holds it together, I suppose, because I’m the element that created it all. I don’t have to worry too much about my disco phase or my house music phase because I didn’t do those.

Q. What led you to be so altruistic?

A. Up until Band Aid (the 1984 group that recorded “Do They Know It’s Christmas”) I did what everyone does: You put your money in a box and donate something when you feel guilty enough.

It wasn’t really on my radar until I got the phone call from Bob Geldof saying he wanted to do something and would I help. Once you’re involved and you see the difference you can make, there’s no going back.

Q. You did well on the show “Master Chef.” Why do you enjoy cooking?

A. It’s the one thing I do that’s got nothing to do with music. I love it, the idea of creating something that you can get instant gratification from, unlike a piece of music where you spend forever making it and then you spend forever again until someone hears it.

With food, you spend hours making it and then you can eat it, which is wonderful. It’s purely a hobby. I did it initially because I thought it would impress females. They might think I was very sweet because I could knock up a spaghetti Bolognese or something. For a long time it worked.

Q. How old are you?

A. I’m 63. 2016 has claimed a lot of brilliant musicians, so if I make it through for the next couple of weeks, I’m doing well.

(Michael Shapiro is author of “A Sense of Place: Great Travel Writers Talk About Their Craft, Lives, and Inspiration.” He writes about travel and entertainment for national magazines and The Press Democrat.)