22 March 2012

Stay with the music, let it play...

Duran Duran - All You Need is Now
Anyone who knows me well is fully aware that music is an integral part of my life. Okay, so I never quite got that band I envisioned back in high school up off the ground. I do, however, have a book full of poetry and song lyrics and I am known to spontaneously burst into song quite frequently. I also have a rather impressive musical library and have attended far too many concerts to list here. Not to mention, I worked in two different record stores during the late 80s and early 90s, both of which went bankrupt long ago, but I loved those jobs. My point is, without music, my life would be empty.

That being said, despite my diverse musical tastes, nothing, and I mean nothing, compares to a Duran Duran concert. Why? Because, for me, they started it all. They were the first band that I ever loved, that I could truly call my own. This was not my older siblings' music. This was my music. They opened a portal to a world where riveting melodies collided with surrealist lyrics; a world of boundless joy that soothed my teenage soul. They came into my life when I needed them most; during those tumultuous early teenage years. They taught me that it was okay to be different. I honestly believe that I would not be the person I am today if it weren't for Duran Duran. This is why, when it comes to Duran Duran, it's not just about the music. Only a true Duranie can understand: a Duran Duran concert is much, much more than a concert. It's an intensely emotional experience, to say the least. Strangely enough, I have only had the pleasure of seeing them live four times and the first two shows I saw were over 20 years apart. This was not a choice, but rather, a matter of not being in the right place at the right time, but I digress. In any case, All You Need is NOW!

Simon at Le National, Montreal, April 2011
As I mentioned in my last post, I hadn't seen Duran live since April 2011, at their unforgettable show at Le National in Montreal. Shortly after that whirlwind tour, Simon Le Bon lost the top of his vocal range, for reasons that will forever remain a mystery. It was a devastating blow that came at the worst possible time, as they were still on such a high from the North American promotional mini-tour of their brilliant album, All You Need is Now (2010) produced by the uber-talented Mark RonsonFurthermore, they were getting set to begin an impressive European summer tour which was scheduled to start in July and run through mid-September and included dates across the UK and continental Europe, all of which were postponed, due to Simon's vocal problems. Devoted fans (including myself) across the world sent an outpouring of support to our beloved frontman and waited, with bated breath, for news of his recovery, as he spent several weeks consulting with numerous doctors as well as a vocal therapist. 

When the band announced another North American tour scheduled to begin at the end of September and run through the end of October, we all rejoiced, regardless of whether we were able to attend or not. It wasn't easy, knowing that they were headed back to my hometown of Montreal while I was so far away, but I was thrilled that Simon was ready to hit the stage once again. The band also played a series of special rehearsal shows in the UK in September before embarking on the North American tour. I can't begin to describe how relieved and ecstatic I was to hear, from friends who were lucky enough to attend the rehearsal shows, that Simon was back in top form. 

Waiting for my favourite band on Planet Earth
Of course, all of this happened after I had already begun a very restrictive one-year contract in Seoul, South Korea. Over the next few months, thanks to social networking, I lived vicariously through my friends who attended shows in North America in September and October, then later in the UK for the re-scheduled shows throughout the month of December. Duran Duran also re-scheduled some of the European dates and I followed my friends' experiences at shows in Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Belgium and Slovakia in January. When the band announced plans for an Australian tour, I started to get really excited, as it's closer to Asia and in the past, they've always announced Asian tour dates around the same time as Australian tour dates. When they announced tour dates in Singapore and Hong Kong, I immediately started looking into flights. I soon figured out that neither my pocketbook nor my restrictive work schedule would allow me to attend those shows. I was gutted. I kept my fingers crossed. Then, the first week of January, they announced that they would be playing Seoul on 12th March! I was over the moon! I walked around in a dream-state for the next two months... 

Members of Duran Duran Korea Fan Club
Duran Duran have only played Seoul three times in their entire 30+ year career. They came here for the first time in 1989 on The Electric Theatre Tour, promoting their Big Thing (1988) album. It took almost 20 years for them to come back to the Land of the Morning Calm. I was lucky enough to be living here at the time and I attended the electrifying show at Seoul Olympic Gym in April 2008 as part of The Red Carpet Massacre Tour, celebrating their 2007 album of the same name. At the show, and on local television, they promised that they wouldn't wait as long to come back here again and, to my delight, as well as to the delight of all the dedicated Korean fans, they kept their promise...

Me and my sign outside Seoul Olympic Hall
On 12th March 2012, the energy and anticipation in Seoul Olympic Hall, as I waited, along with thousands of adoring Korean fans, was palpable. There I stood, second row centre, still in my dream-state, swaying to the sounds of the enchanting instrumental Return to Now. When the band took the stage, the crowd went wild! The haunting, opening notes of the atmospheric Before The Rain, off their magnificent, latest album All You Need is Now, sent shivers down my spine. Then, when Simon started to sing, I lost myself completely in his extraordinary, pitch-perfect voice, not to mention, his mesmerizing ocean-blue eyes. At that moment, I told myself, there is no place on earth I'd rather be.

Next, they launched into the New Romantic anthem that put them on the charts back in 1981, their first single, Planet Earth, featuring what is perhaps Duran Duran's sexiest bassline ever by Bass God John Taylor. This song always gets the whole audience dancing and despite the packed crowd, I joined in on the boisterous revelry, of course. Their next song was the phenomenal Bond theme song, A View to A Kill and yes, we danced "into the fire" and got all revved up for the amazing title track off All You Need is Now, which holds a special place in my heart, as the message of this song resonates deeply with me for a multitude of reasons.

Play the f**king bass, John 
When Simon came down into the crowd, searching for, "A man who can sing," I knew exactly what the band had in store for us. He chose a male fan to sing the intro to The Reflex, as the supremely talented Nick Rhodes played the familiar keyboard tune from one of my favourite singles ever. I reckon I was singing, "Ta na na na," much louder than the lucky man who got to share the microphone with Simon... something I can only dream of doing someday. Sigh. Nonetheless, it was an extraordinary moment and once again, I danced and sang my little heart out!

Simon Le Bon & John Taylor
I should mention that while I was queued-up, in the garage of the venue, I had noticed two girls handing out bright pink sheets of paper with the Duran Duran logo printed on them. Everyone was making paper airplanes, so I asked them why. One of the girls told me that the plan was to launch the airplanes onto the stage during the song Come Undone, which I found rather odd, so I asked her why. She said, "I just really love that song." Fair enough. I can't begin to describe the perplexed looks on the band members' (especially Simon's) faces when that happened. As much as I enjoy the song, I also found myself having a personal, internal giggle, as I tend to walk around Seoul in a perpetual state of confusion myself, so it was particularly funny (to me) to see the looks of "What? Why?" on their faces. Naturally, when Simon licked his fingers after the line, "Or the magic I'm feeding off your fingers..." I totally came undone! And yes, I do know that Simon wrote the song for his stunning wife Yasmin, but hey, a girl can dream... 

The Controller - Nick Rhodes
Their next song was the disco-flavoured, Larry Levan inspired, Chic influenced tune Safe (In the Heat of the Moment) off the brilliant All You Need is Now. The album track features a rap by Ana Matronic of Scissor Sisters. In the live show, the lovely  Anna Ross amazed us with her rapping skills. It's an energetic and playful song that I dare you not to dance to! Honestly, I can't get enough of the new album and I kind of wish they had played as many tracks off it as they did at the Montreal show at Le National, but believe me, I'm not complaining, because their next song was Is There Something I Should Know, which I hadn't heard live since 1987. What a thrill it was hearing it live again after all these years!

Next, they played another track off the new album; Girl Panic! an enthralling song that is infused with their classic, 80s New Wave sound, yet (like the entire album) feels entirely fresh and relevant. The lyrics were written by keyboardist Nick Rhodes and it's one of my favourite tracks on the album. The stunning video, directed by Jonas Åkerlund, featuring supermodels Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, Eva Herzigova, Helena Christensen and Yasmin Le Bon was banned by MTV (as if they even play videos anymore) and has become an Internet sensation with over 5 million views on YouTube.  The live performance was accompanied by a montage of clips from the superbly stylish video, but I must admit that I was too distracted by Simon's exuberant dance moves to really notice. Needless to say, I was thrown into a Girl Panic!

This was followed by what is probably my favourite track off All You Need is Now, the breathtaking The Man Who Stole a Leopard. This song simply transports me and if I were to try and describe it, I'd say it's a cross between The Chauffeur, David Bowie's The Man Who Sold The World and William Blake's poem The Tyger, but that's just me. Apparently, the song was inspired by The Collector, a disturbing 1965 film starring Terence Stamp, that I have always loved. In a November 2010 interview, Nick Rhodes compared it  to The Velvet Underground's The GiftOn the album, the song features string arrangements by Canadian composer, violinist, keyboardist and vocalist Owen Pallett as well as vocals by alternative R&B singer-songwriter Kelis, which were performed beautifully by Anna Ross live. Furthermore, performed live, the song requires some audience participation, in the form of a series of hand claps, while drummer Roger Taylor sneaks out from behind his drum kit to clap along with us. The song concludes with a fabricated news story written by Nick Rhodes and spoken by British journalist Nina Hossain (who also lends her voice to the wonderful album track Blame the Machines) and in the live show, she appears on the big screen situated behind the band, superimposed before the image of a magnificent leopard. I had never had the pleasure of hearing it live, so I was absolutely delighted! 

John Taylor & Simon Le Bon
Things really got funky with the title track off Notorious (1986), the first album released by Duran Duran as a trio, after the departure of Roger Taylor and Andy Taylor. This ground-breaking album was produced by the brilliant Nile Rodgers. There was a time when this song, the first single off the album, was somewhat bittersweet for me. In retrospect, I realise how silly that sounds, especially since there is no mistaking the simple fact that this song, as well as the entire album, is pure genius. I recently came across this little bit of history (from my hometown of Montreal) on Wikipedia: 
When the track made its debut on Montreal radio station CHOM during the October 20, 1986 edition of the nightly radio show Rock And Roll News, DJ Randy Renaud declared that by the next night, the song Amanda by Boston (which had been holding on to the number one spot on CHOM's charts for several weeks) could "kiss the number one spot goodbye." Sure enough, by the next night, CHOM had received enough requests for the song that it supplanted Amanda from the #1 spot on the stations nightly countdown show, The Top Six At Six.
As if things were not already sufficiently heated-up, the band then exploded into their energetic cover of Grandmaster Melle Mel's White Lines. It may not be my first choice off 1995's covers album, Thank You, but it certainly is a treat to experience live, infused with unabashed energy and bringing the crowd to a whole new level of frenzy. They actually played this song at their last show in Seoul and I personally enjoyed it this time even more than the last time.

Gave me goose bumps when he sang Ordinary World
I think it was around this time that Simon started speaking in what I can only describe as a cartoon character (or perhaps even Muppet-like) voice. I normally hang on his every word, but I can honestly say that I have no idea what he said, as the giddy crowd was roaring with laughter. He then returned to his normal speaking voice, which took on a much more serious tone, as he reminded us how fortunate we all are to live "good lives" while others on our planet are suffering. The crowd remained respectfully silent as he dedicated the exquisitely melancholic Ordinary World to the people of Syria. This was a show highlight for me because, when Simon hit those supernaturally high notes at the end of the song, it was made abundantly clear that his incredible voice is stronger than ever. Any fan who has not had the pleasure of seeing them live since the recovery of his voice, please believe me when I say: you can stop worrying. He's back and he's better than ever.

My favourite photo of the night
Next, the band exploded into the iconic Hungry Like the Wolf, and the crowd went mental! It's always exciting to hear this song live, not only because, as an adolescent in Canada, it was one of the first Duran Duran songs I ever heard, but because it truly showcases what talented musicians they truly are. Now would be a good time to say that while I do, of course, miss original guitarist Andy Taylor, this Duran Duran, consisting of four of the founding members: keyboardist extraordinaire Nick Rhodes, eternally funky bass player John Taylor, supremely gifted drummer Roger Taylor and phenomenally charismatic lead vocalist Simon Le Bon also features the excellent Dom Brown on lead guitar, the exquisite Anna Ross on backing vocals and the wonderful Simon Willescroft on saxophone and let me say that this tight group of musicians are, in a word... sublime. Not only do they sound fantastic, but there is an unmistakable sense of camaraderie and joy on that stage that shines through for every single member of the audience and I have no words to describe just how amazing that feels and how much it means to me to be a part of it, however small.

Wild Boys never lose it!
If any song could embody that feeling of jubilation, it's got to be Reach Up (For the Sunrise), the first single off 2004's Astronaut, as well as the first single to feature all five of the original band members since 1985's A View to a Kill. I absolutely love hearing this song live! It's simply exhilarating to sing along with the entire audience, as we triumphantly thrust our hands into the air along with our beloved frontman.

Next, the band plunged into the raw intensity of The Wild Boys with reckless abandon and, well, so did I. I vividly remember the day the cutting-edge video for their twelfth single, which appeared on 1984's live album Arena, was released. Whenever I hear this song, the memories of being a 15 year-old, gawking at Simon Le Bon strapped to a windmill flood my brain. This was not the first time I'd heard the song live, but it was the first time that I got to hear it combined with a cover of Frankie Goes to Hollywood's Relax and it was bloody brilliant! Yes, I did have that t-shirt when I was 15, and yes, I wish that I still did. The band left the stage after this song, but it wasn't too long before they came back for an encore...

Her name is Rio and she dances on the sand
I always look forward to Simon's band introductions during the delectable Girls On Film, but I also start to feel sad because I know that the party will soon be coming to an end. Nonetheless, I, along with the entire crowd, enjoyed every blissful minute of this forever popular, sexy signature song. I've been promised a professional video of this, along with Rio, filmed by a cameraman friend of one of my new Korean Duranie friends. In the meantime, I have no footage, so for those of you who may be unfamiliar, the phrase "Play the fucking bass, John," is an awful lot of fun to chant and I highly encourage you to try it. Also, you should know that Nick Rhodes is “The future of the human race, man. Comes from outer space, man. Got such a pretty face, man. Can I come over to your place, man?” When Simon jumped down into the crowd and asked if anybody could introduce him, I can assure you that I raised my hand and calmly suggested, "ME!" Then, he said, "In Korean, of course," so I put my hand down and said, "Oh. Not me." In retrospect, I should have said, "Je peux te présenter en français, Simon," because that might have got his attention. Anyway, the first Korean girl he asked just gave him a blank stare. He gave up and walked right in my direction. My heart skipped a beat. He chose the girl standing directly in front of me. On impulse, I decided to put my arm around him. I mean, this man, whom I've adored from afar for nearly 30 years of my life, was standing right there beside me. How could I not? It's okay. He'll choose me next time. Tee-hee.

The last song of this spectacular show was the iconic Rio, featuring the most memorable sax solo of the 80s, performed on stage by the talented Simon Willescroft. It was our last chance of the evening to fully appreciate the magic that is Duran live and I embraced it with every fibre of my being. It's been a week and a half since the show ended and I'm still on cloud nine. The really good news is that I'll be back in North America in the autumn, just in time for the second leg of the North American tour. I'm so pleased that the boys thought of waiting for me. I will try to see as many shows as I possibly can, because honestly, there's no place on earth I'd rather be.


Anne @anneredmond said...

Great post Deena! You have captured the magic that is a Duran Duran concert. I too love that they all really seem to love performing together as much as we love seeing them. Hope it means they'll keep at it for years to come!

Cheriqui said...

DEENA!!! LOVE THIS!!!!! How awesome is this??? Why wouldn't you put your arm around him?! Good girl! I would have too...after I picked myself up off the floor of course! HAHA! So glad that you got to see them! I was ecstatic when they announced Seoul for you. :D

Deena said...

Thank you very much, Anne. I hope so too, believe me!

Kendra! Thank you for the kind words. So happy that you enjoyed this! I got quite emotional writing it. I'm going to write about the airport experience too. It was so surreal.

GeorgieDavis said...

Wonderful review, Deena! I felt like I was back at the Fillmore last April and Vegas last September.

Deena said...

Thank you, J! Your opinion means the world to me. Hope to see them live with you someday... xo

HSeoul said...

Hi Deena! I ran across this post while goolging the Korean Duran Duran fan club. I was also at the 2012 Seoul show, down on the floor probably a bit back from you. It was the best DD show I've been to (though I've only seen them 3 times) and I had an amazing time! I've been so energized about the band ever since!

The reason I've been hunting for the fan club is I'm having trouble finding ADITM in Korea and am looking for friendly faces to help me out. Any ideas?

I'm going to check out some more of your blog now. Cheers!

Deena said...

I'm thrilled to hear that you have been energized by DD. I know that they can feel that energy!

I know a few people who are in the Korean Fan Club. Just add me on FB and maybe I could help you out.

I just got my ADITM DVD a few days ago! I'm not sure where you're from, but if you do find the DVD in Korea, it would probably be the wrong region for you. I would highly recommend ordering it from Amazon.

Hope that was helpful...

HSeoul said...

Oh geez, I just saw your reply. Whoops!

I am from the USA but I have DVDs from all over; regions mean nothing to me! LOL

I'd wanted to buy the Korean version as a way to show that there's a market for DD stuff in Korea. I usually try to buy local instead of importing things. (Kinda silly, yeah.)

I'll look for you on FB and if I wind up finding it in Korea, cool. If not, well, Amazon is good!