“You've got quite a character coming up next,” teases bluesy guitarist Steve Rodgers. Minutes later, the support act shuffled off, the lights dimmed to darkness and into the spotlight slipped a bald man dressed in a black shirt and jeans.
Without flourish, he picked up his acoustic guitar and, alone on the stage, stepped up to the microphone.
And then it was clear what Rodgers had been talking about.
With a cry of “Dear God, is there somebody out there?” Midge Ure launched into an eclectic set of 20 songs drawn from across his rich musical career.
He chose a mix of new and old songs from his band Ultravox, solo pieces, and even a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s Man Of The World.
The Scot, who organised Band Aid, Live Aid and Live 8 with Bob Geldof, shyly introduced each song before pouring all his energy into every note and word.
So much so that, by the time he closed with his 1985 number one, If I was, his voice was starting to strain. The Sage’s acoustics, coupled with plenty of echo on the microphone, allowed the vowels to hang in the air, letting us chew over his emotionally charged lyrics a while longer.
Delivered in lounge-like proximity, haunting lines like “the thoughts we used to share, I now keep alone” seemed to reflect my own loves and fears.
The performance was punctuated with injections of the singer’s self-deprecating, dry wit.
Before attempting the high notes of Breathe early in the set, the 60-year-old joked: “Because I’ve got old I’m going to do it now before my voice b*ggars up.”
After a middle section of gentle love songs, the audience was soon cheering with the energetic Dancing With Tears In My Eyes and Love’s Great Adventure.
And then, midway through his applause, he departed the stage without fuss.
But, as I exited into a brisk Tyneside evening, the emotional lyrics conjured by this curious character remained echoing in my ears.