As 9pm, my time, rolled around, I was glad that I had turned the computer on when I did as I had to install some new flash update or something. After I did that, I was able to sit back and wait for my friend as strange Duran interviews played on the screen. These interviews were not typical ones as they answered questions that aren’t usually asked. For example, each band member was asked what moment in their lives they would like to go back to in order to experience it again. Simon said something about the night they wrote their first song together (Sound of Thunder). Roger discussed how he wanted to experience the first time he heard Planet Earth on the radio. John’s comments were about the first time the band landed in the States. I can’t remember what Nick said because it was strange! (Anyone remember???) These interviews increased my excitement, especially since I thought they all looked so fabulous!
Once the show started, my friend, Deb, and I were both a little shocked by what we were seeing on the screen. We kept switching cameras in order to find the camera that would show the clearest coverage of the band. (I should note that there were 3 camera choices. One was the Lynch version. Another was a fishbowl camera of the crowd and the third was a fun cam, which also seemed to be mostly crowd.) After switching a number of times, we ultimately landed back on the Lynch camera. Then, we had to sit back and wait to get used to the visuals. To be fair, I don’t think I really understood how the visuals were going to work. I assumed that we would be able to see the band clearly and in color. I thought there might be interesting backgrounds, which is a common experience at Duran shows. I also thought there might be some flashes of different images but this was almost like there were layers of screens, figuratively. The first screen showed the band. Then, the second, turned the color image to black and white. The last layer had some other images or images on top. In some ways, it reminded me of the screens the band used during Dirty Great Monster for their Red Carpet Massacre Broadway run in 2007 where there were layers of screens lowered in front of the band in order to superimpose color patterns and to hide the band some. I thought that was absolutely wonderful so I had hopes that I would think the same thing here.
I didn’t. While I did get used to the visuals and seeing little of the band and what I did was in black and white, it still didn’t feel right to me. Yes, it was cool. Yes, many of the images were well thought and fabulous, but it wasn’t what I expect from a Duran show. The Broadway thing worked for me because it was fitting for the song AND because it was only for one song. In general, when I am at or watching a Duran show, I want to see them perform. I want to see the interactions between the band members. I want the little looks from Nick and John in the silent way they seem to assess the show. I missed any of the musical battles with John and Dom. A show doesn’t feel like a show unless I can see Simon’s silly dance moves. Yes, when I’m at a show, I like the backgrounds they have, but only when they enhance their performance. If they were to overpower their performance, then they no longer serve their purpose, in my opinion. At some point I realized that I was no longer watching a Duran show but something different. I began to think of it more as an opportunity to listen to a show live while watching what could have been videos. Then, I was able to relax more and take in both the music and the visuals.
From my perspective, musically, they were on! I believe this to be true because I felt like singing along and I had a bit of the post show “high” that I normally do after a good show. (For the record here, like Rhonda, I have and will criticize the band if they do not perform well.) The setlist was pretty solid with only a few exceptions. I was not wild about the part of the set that went from Hungry to Safe to Leave a Light On to Ordinary World. I can also openly admit that I’m sick of HLTW and OW and I wasn’t really looking forward to Safe. Despite this part of the set, I was impressed that they played a number of new tracks and felt that the end was awesome, except for Come Undone (another song I’m sick of). Speaking of impressed, there were a number of songs where I felt that they really hit a home run. The first song that really got me excited was Friends of Mine. I have only seen that song performed once and would love, love, love that one to be a given on this tour. I feel the same about Careless Memories. As far as the new songs go, I was completely impressed with Leave a Light On. It isn’t my favorite on the album but it sounded beautiful. I loved hearing Leopard. I’m not sure that I would say that Leopard was solid, though. It seemed to me that it took a little while for Simon to be comfortable with it, which I hope gets better because it is my favorite part of the song. I felt the same about Blame the Machines. He just didn’t seem sure of himself. I also think that Anna struggled with the new material. I wasn’t sure what to make of the spoken word part of BTM or the female part of Safe. That said, I hope to hear all of these new tracks in person myself. It will be interesting to see which tracks they continue to play live and which ones they don’t. They could always bring out other news ones, too, like Before the Rain and Too Bad You’re So Beautiful (hint, hint!).
Some of the new songs also suffered from the worst of the visuals, in my opinion. Leopard started out with this cool, dark fog moving across Simon and Kelis’s faces. That made sense to me and could have even begun to enhance the music. Then, out of nowhere, there were these heads. They appeared to be Mayan like heads that moved up and down. Huh? I don’t understand and they definitely distracted me (and made me laugh!). Of course, the Mayan like heads weren’t the only weird images. Can someone please explain the Barbies with red thongs and eight balls on their breasts that had Ds instead of number 8 on them? What about the hot dogs and mice during Come Undone? Those images did nothing but make me laugh and they complete took my focus away from the music, which is exactly what they should not have done, in my opinion. Other images just seemed obvious and silly like the Earth during Planet Earth or the sun during Sunrise. Now, I did think that some of the images were cool. I liked seeing the close ups of both the bass and guitar in the beginning of Being Followed. It reminded of the song, Careless Memories, during the 1984 concert production As the Lights Go Down. (Maybe I was expecting something more like that??) Some other pieces made me think. I didn’t understand the use of the fork, for example, during Friends of Mine, but I appreciate that it made me think.
Perhaps, I was supposed to be thinking throughout the show and was just trying to enjoy it. Maybe that is what I was doing wrong. Nonetheless, I was still disappointed by not being able to really see the band. I could have been okay with the visuals if they enhanced the mood of the song but too many of them seemed random and silly. I’m sure that there are many fans out there that absolutely loved what they saw. I get that. I think that for me, when it comes to Duran, I want more pure music out of their live performances. Thus, my expectations were for something completely different than what I got. Now, that I know this, maybe I could watch it again and see it in a totally different light…