Concert Review: Montreal Bell Center 4/11

We are overjoyed to have another review to share with you – this time coming from Canada!!  Send your own reviews to our gmail, and we’ll be happy to publish them! – A & R


I was just off the heels of my great California adventure when Duran Duran announced their 2016 North American tour. My credit card had barely recovered and with Christmas quickly approaching, I sat back in utter dismay as the fan community plotted and planned which shows they would attend. Presale day came and went and I felt neither the thrill nor frustration of purchasing my tickets. I’d later learn, that the predominant feeling was frustration, as the Ticketmaster presale didn’t ensure priority for Fan Club members. I could at least sit back and think, “I would have gotten crappy seats, anyway.” Sour grapes. Sad fan indeed.

But, as many of you are well aware, there is a certain magic that threads some of us Duranies together. I got a twitter DM from Janice (she wrote the blog for the Niagara shows), whom I had met briefly in Palm Springs, wondering if I wanted to buy a pair of tickets off her. And even better, she didn’t need the money right away. And as if the Paper Gods had not already smiled in my favor, I would later find a ticket for the Toronto show under my Christmas tree a few days later. From disappointment to fangirl excitement in a matter of weeks!

Before I get into the actual review, there is something else that you need to know about me. I’m a small town girl with a big city attitude. Yeah, I have the attitude, but none of the actual experience to go along with it. My husband currently lives out of province for work, so travelling to this show, meant travelling alone. Also worth mentioning, is that my husband is a native of Montreal. We’ve been there many times over the years, and of course, he drives, knowing the city like the back of his hand. I am always the passenger who watches the scenery pass by. (He’s “The Chauffeur”, perhaps?) So this truly would be an adventure. A Duranie with a terrible sense of direction, driving in downtown Montreal—alone. Amanda once told me, “you do what must be done”, when it comes to all things Duran. This was clearly one of those occasions.

In the weeks leading up to the show, I booked my hotel, chatted with other fans in anticipation, and trained myself how to follow a GPS while driving. (Honestly, I had no idea what 800 m really meant, until a few weeks ago.) I connected with a twitter friend who tipped me off about another show the night before the big event. So, I purchased tickets to see the Dandy Warhols, marvelling at how easy and stress-free that ticket-buying experience was.

Days turned into weeks, weeks into months and finally, it was time. A week before the show, my 18-year-old son and I drove to a truck-stop not far from our home. Imagine it, in film-noir black and white: It’s just past midnight, in the pouring rain, and an 18-wheeler pulls off the highway. Janice’s husband, who had been travelling most of the night, hopped out of his rig to hand deliver me my tickets. I couldn’t imagine a better scenario in which to begin this adventure!

The night before my trip, I tossed and turned in what was a mixed bag of excitement to see the band again and utter terror of having to negotiate a labyrinthine set of directions to get to my downtown destination. In the dark of the early morning, I began the long, eight-hour drive. But with every pit stop, there was a flurry of twitter chatter as other fans sent me their well-wishes and shared in my excitement. By the time I arrived in Montreal, I was just too tired to even care about being nervous. The Paper Gods smiled upon me again. I arrived at my boutique hotel without incident. I had just enough time to fit in a disco nap and I was off to the first of my shows.

It never ceases to amaze me how well you can get to know someone on twitter. No sooner had I stepped inside the venue for the Dandy Warhol’s, did I hear someone excitedly call out my name. This was my first time meeting Tammy, who also travelled all the way from Newfoundland, yet, it was like we’d known each other for years. Still excited to see Duran Duran, I took in the show, quickly losing myself in the crowd and in the post-punk psychedelic music. I might add a quick mention of the Seratones, the opening act, who completely blew me away. This band should go places!

The next day, of course, was show day! It couldn’t have been a crappier morning—a fresh layer of snow had fallen overnight which by daybreak had turned into freezing drizzle. However, nothing could dampen my spirits. I found my way to a Quebec-style breakfast café and fuelled up for what would become an adrenaline (and alcohol-soaked) day. Even though I was alone, my virtual friends were a constant source of entertainment. By the time my husband arrived in the city, it was time to get my show on the road!

This was my first time at the Bell Centre, home of the Montreal Canadiens. My husband had attended many shows at the old forum, and was curious about the venue as well. Friends who had seen shows there before, mentioned the great acoustics. We arrived on scene and entered La Cage aux Sports, the adjacent sports bar. We ordered drinks and then entered the venue from there. I have to say, that I was quite surprised how organized everything was when we finally passed through security. This is no longer the Sing Blue Silver days!

How many of us have “dragged” our spouses to shows? This was the first time for mine, and judging by the texts he had been sending me in the days leading up to the show, I could tell he was excited as well. As a child of the late 70s and early 80s, I knew he would also be in for a pleasant surprise with Chic. As we made our way into the heart of the venue and to our seats, my husband looked around and remarked how at the old forum there would be a thick haze of smoke hovering just over our heads. Some things do change. I stood in front of my 12th row centre seat and immediately started sending messages on twitter with earnest. One of my high school girlfriends, one of my original Duranies, was at the venue. It’s amazing how easy social media can make finding someone in a packed stadium. Within seconds, we were waving to one another, and arranged a quick meeting. Because of this, I missed out on the opening act, Shamir. In retrospect, his act seemed rather short, and that is all I can say about that.

Having Chic on tour with Duran Duran is such a treat. I boogied to Le Freak, long before I was even aware of Duran Duran. And music-wise, this is about the only thing that my husband and I have in common. (Let’s just say he sported a mullet and head banged to Iron Maiden in the 80s.) Chic’s show never disappoints. From Nile Rodger’s touching speech about his cancer diagnosis to his high-octane medley featuring the artists he’s produced, you can’t not dance! Luckily, some of the girls beside us opted to miss the act (fools!) so we had plenty of room to boogie. I had the pleasure of seeing this show in California, and what differed, was of course, Bowie. Instead of being woven into the medley, Bowie’s Let’s Dance was presented in a place of honour, and Nile’s introduction was as gracious as only he can be.

I admit that I snuck out during the last song to purchase more alcohol. I was more than ready for Duran Duran!

After more excited tweets to other fans, I downed my drink just in time for the house lights to dim. This was it. I have to say, that the song Paper Gods, now sits in the top three of my all-time favorite Duran Duran songs. It’s the perfect opener, the slow, almost dirge-like quality that eventually crescendos into a crashing dance-track. I’ll always be happy to be greeted by the band through the dry-ice mist with this song. One thing I noticed, was that there were some definite improvements to the light show and to the staging. Now the tiers are all synchronized with the light show, which reflects the animations projected on the backdrop. The entire set started like a racing train, building energy and steam with each song, until they slowed things down with Come Undone. (Yes, I see that look, Amanda!)

I was glad for the change in tempo, as I was totally rocking the 12th row. I had a pretty decent view of Simon, Nick, Dom and Roger, though I could catch occasional glimpses of John if I craned my neck just so. However, the frenetic momentum quickly recovered with Last Night in the City. Anna Ross’s vocals are incredible and it never feels that the song is missing Kiesza’s touch. The one interesting thing I did notice, was John playing the synth bass on this song. I don’t think this happened in California? Is this new? (Yes, he played it during Danceophobia, but this one?) No matter, it afforded me an even better view of the bass-god, though I wasn’t about to slow down and admire the scenery (tempting as it was.) It’s always a treat to see What are the Chances—Dom’s playing is positively sublime. Pressure Off, I think marks the top of the roller coaster, and my secret worries were put to rest when my husband and I found ourselves in the middle of a pink and white blizzard. The piles of confetti that blanketed the floors and seats provided me with unending amusement as I grabbed it by the fistful and continued to toss it in the air throughout the rest of the show. Yes, I was that annoying fan.

And then the part of the show that I was really looking forward to—the Planet Earth/Space Oddity medley. (Incidentally, the “switch it off!” part could have been stronger on the audience’s part). You could hear it in Simon’s vocals—it was pure heart and soul, honouring both the song and the artist. Space Oddity, also draws attention to Dom’s powerful guitar licks. It was completely unexpected, but boy did he own parts of that song.

If there was an equivalent to a saggy diaper within the set, I’d have to say that it was I Don’t Want Your Love. Maybe it was a combination of it being one of the lesser known songs, and not a particular favorite of mine, but it seemed to suck the energy right out of the room. No matter, and moving right along, it’s back to the fan favorite White Lines, and my husband doing the jazz-hands along with the rest of the audience. If I Don’t Want Your Love was my least favorite, then, I can balance that out with the Sunrise/New Moon medley. What a treat to see New Moon on Monday live!

Shall we discuss Danceophobia, the song that threatens to divide an entire fan community? While it’s not in my top five, it’s certainly not among my most loathed. (In case you are curious, All She Wants Is, might find itself on that list, not that I have to worry about it suddenly appearing on the set list anytime soon.) It’s the complete antithesis to Simon’s more cryptic and obtuse lyrics and I am okay with that. There is nothing wrong with being shallow and superficial every once in a while. In fact, I always get a bit of a chuckle when I hear Lindsay Lohan as the voice of reason during the song. Regardless of Lohan’s merits, it’s such a treat to see live, as I completely adore Jessie Wagner and how she has completely made this performance her own. So, let’s just say, I looked around and forgot the crowd.

My evening was quickly coming to a grinding halt. When introducing Save a Prayer, Simon said some lovely things about music being a force for good, in his story about the Eagles of Death Metal at the Bataclan during that horrible day in Paris last fall. We all lit our cell phones and swayed in a crashing wave of feels. I knew Rio would probably be the last of the set. And even thought I love the visuals from the album projected two stories high, it’s a bittersweet moment. It’s almost over. Nevertheless, I do love how the show ends on such an upbeat and positive note. BUT! Montreal shall never be outdone by Toronto. This is a Canadian fact. No sooner had the band completed their final bows, did the crowd begin to chant in earnest: Reflex! Reflex! Reflex! Now I know there is some debate whether this song should remain in circulation, but hell, if it means one more song out of the band, I’m going to scream it from the top of my lungs. (I’d even scream for an acoustic version of Shotgun, for that matter!) And there is nothing quite like the reverberation of 20,000 chanting people. I hope at the very least, that the band appreciated this little bit of magic from us. I certainly did.

Nick did his very best sound-effects and the show, all too soon, came to an end.

It was over and I was sad. Did I have a good time? No. Not really. I had the best time.

After the magic, comes the driving. Eight more hours of it. There’s not much more to say about that. Except this…

See you in Toronto!

 

Heather Todd Duran starHeather Todd is a Duranie from  New Brunswick, Canada. She saw
her first Duran Duran show (with none other than Amanda and Rhonda) in October 2015.  A self-described weirdo, Heather is a writer, video game enthusiast and beta reader (and wields a mighty red pen!!) for Amanda and Rhonda’s manuscript!!

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