Tuesday, March 27, 2012
As you get older there are some things that just don't seem possible. One of those things for me this week was realizing that the first time I went to a Duran Duran concert was almost exactly THIRTY YEARS AGO!
Music from the 1980s, especially pop music, is often derided and ridiculed as being all style over substance and has been referred to as "the decade that taste forgot". And whilst I do concede that the era was a whirl of MTV videos, massive hair, shoulder pads, three quarter length coats and Hypercolour t-shirts, the eighties produced some of the best pop music and best pop stars ever. After the grim and gritty days of pub rock/punk rock/West Coast in the 1970's the video assisted, impossibly glamorous glory days of the New Romantics were fantastically exciting time to be a pop music fan. The charts were full of amazing peacocks like Boy George, Spandau Ballet, Pseudo Echo, Adam & The Ants, Toyah, Kate Bush, Prince and standing above them all in their tailored Anthony Price suits, was the mighty Duran Duran. They looked great, sounded great, acted like they were Bowie, Roxy Music and Hugh Hefner all rolled into one. In this country especially we took to them with great enthusiasm and they were all over our charts way before much of the rest of the world caught on. The first tours in 1982 and 83 were crazy and it took over 20 years for them to get back but this is their third tour in the last ten years.
The audience is absolutely buzzing before the guys hit the stage. There are reunions and catch ups with old Durannies, friends and fans. I bumping into people I haven't seen for decades and it's great fun. But the support DJ's are drawing to a merciful end and we take our places.
Out of the darkness they appear; Nick Rhodes, John Taylor, Roger Taylor and Simon Le Bon (guitarist Andy Taylor left years ago) and they launch into Before The Rain from their latest album All You Need Is Now. It's a bit of an odd choice because it's a little slow and most people don't know it, but we're getting by on adrenaline. Planet Earth sends the place into near hysteria. Everybody is on their feet, everybody is dancing and everybody is yelling "Ba Ba Ba Baba Ba Ba Ba THIS IS PLANET EARTH". Their Bond theme A View to a Kill starts and everyone around me is smiling their heads off. They do quite a lot of tracks from the most recent album including the title track and there is some awkward robotic dad dancing from Simon during Blame The Machines. Fortunately the new album is pretty damn good, even if many in the audience haven't heard it yet. Simon heads into the pit to find a bloke to help start the next song. He finds 80s Superfan Aaron Carter, a life long Duran fan. He gets to sing the introduction to The Reflex with one of his favourite bands, it was a highlight for everybody.
Next is Come Undone from 1993 is awesome, and one of the song that saw them make a comeback of sorts and win a legion of new fans. Back to the present for Safe (In the Heat of the Moment) before returning to 1983 for Is There Something I Should Know? and the dancing has cranked back up and there's more singing. My favourite of the new songs Girl Panic is actually a terrific pop song and catchy as anything, people are singing along by the first chorus. However The Man Who Stole a Leopard which may have been the one song too many from the new one (six in all). It is always a hard balance when a band has been around this long. They want to play new songs, we all want to hear the old ones. The Man Who Stole a Leopard is based on a true story that they saw on a TV news item, which they incorporate into the songs closing. It's a hit heavy race to the finish line from here on out. Notorious is excellent. I love that they still insist on doing their cover of Grandmaster Melle Mel's White Lines from their much mocked covers album Thank You. Released in 1995 it contained covers of some of their favourite songs and whilst much of it was great it was critically savaged with Q Magazine naming it as the worst album ever. Clearly that isn't true, as that title must go to any (or all) albums by Nickleback. So that Duran still play White Lines, just because they like playing it, is marvellous.
There is a massive treat for older fans when they play the instrumental Tiger Tiger from their Seven & The Ragged Tiger album. They used to use it as their play on music, but this tour is the first time they've played it live. The other hit from 1993 Ordinary World is dedicated to the people of Syria, and one of their greatest songs.
Truth be told Le Bon has seemed a little tired for the first half of the show and it has taken a little while for him to 'vibe up'. But by now he is having a great time, dancing and smiling through every song. Hungry Like The Wolf is as electrifying as it was 30 years ago and the band is sounding great. Apart from the four original members there is some assistance from guitarist Dom Brown, percussionist/keyboard/sax guy Simon Willescroft and additional vocals from Anna Ross. Reach Up For The Sunrise is anthemic and everybody has their hands up in the air. The set closer is The Wild Boys from 1984. It's a huge song made even huger by them mashing it up with Frankie Goes To Hollywood's Relax. It's a perfect match!
They are not done yet of course. They return for an extended 'nite version' of Girls on Film which was mind blowing and they finish up with the equally thrilling Rio.
There was a bunch of hits they didn't do (Careless Memories, My Own Way, Save a Prayer, Union of the Snake, New Moon On Monday) but they more than thrilled everybody with the set list tonight. Duran Duran were and remain a fantastic band.
(review by Ian Bell)
Duran Duran set list
Before The Rain
A View To A Kill
All You Need Is Now
Blame The Machines
Safe (In the Heat of the Moment)
Is There Something I Should Know?
The Man Who Stole a Leopard
White Lines (Don't Do It)
Hungry Like The Wolf
(Reach up for the) Sunrise
The Wild Boys / Relax
Girls on Film
Check out all the photos from the gig: