By Bryony Evens
Last month there were two live Duranie experiences for sweltering Londoners: Joanne Joanne, the all-female tribute band (strapline: ‘We don’t do Rio’) and Dom Brown’s Blue to Brown set with his dad, Rob, and their band. I went to both, and here’s my review of the gigs, plus a few pictures and videos.
The first gig – Joanne Joanne – was on a Saturday night, so with it being a weekend there was an opportunity for a few Duranie friends to travel to London to see the gig. It was lovely to see Sarah and Eileen, whose husband drove them up from Kent and joined us for the show, and George who lives in London anyway. We all had dinner at my place then headed off to Camden Town for the gig. The first people I bumped into were half the band getting dressed up in their stage gear in the loos (yep, it was a small venue!), so I wished them luck. I’d actually met the singer in the loos at a another gig couple of week’s previously – it must be a thing! There were quite a few people in the audience who I recognised, some from other Duran shows/events, and some from other gigs around London.
They started with most of the band on stage playing the opening of Planet Earth, with one joining in after the other, until ‘Simon’ came onstage to start singing. They’re all great musicians and play very well together. They don’t stand on stage in the same order as the boys, but I wasn’t sure if that’s just because it was a really small stage or because it’s what they prefer. There was an interesting mix of them talking about the songs as though they were the original band in a spoofy sort of way, and chatting about their own arrangements of them, which was fascinating. They don’t play Rio because Duran do, and someone has to play the other songs; however, I noted that they played the album version of My Own Way, rather than the single version which Duran relegated to the ‘must never be played again’ pile many years ago…
I don’t remember the exact setlist or order, but it was amazing to hear some of my absolute favourites live again, including Hold Back the Rain and Last Chance on the Stairway. I think I’ve only ever heard Duran play Last Chance as part of the electro-set on the RCM tour, so that was brilliant! I’m pretty sure this list will be all the songs they played, but if you were there and I’ve forgotten any, or I’ve accidentally added some they didn’t play, please comment below!
Last Chance on the Stairway
Hold Back the Rain
Anyone Out There
Faster Than Light
Late Bar – they’re recording this as their first single
New Religion – this was perhaps the most energetic of the night and was very good indeed. The band said on Facebook afterwards that it’s their favourite to play live.
Friends of Mine
Two videos I filmed so you can see what they’re like live – there are better videos on the band’s Facebook page and on YouTube though if you look for them!
In summary, it was fantastic to hear these beloved songs played in an upbeat and fairly rocky way, in a small venue, with a packed audience of music enthusiasts (except for the big pillock in front of me – ugh!) Sadly they’ve just announced their next gig on 23rd August – when I’ll be at a gig in Glasgow, but if you’re in London and have the chance to go, take it – they’re brilliant!
A very short snippet of Faster than Light
A very short snippet of Last Chance on the Stairway
The second experience was much stranger. The music was very straightforward the but the venue and clientele? Well…
George and I headed to the Voodoo Vault at the Embassy Club in Mayfair. All the tables were out on the street, leaving an empty restaurant inside. At the end of the empty room there was a door, leading into the dark. We followed a twisty-turny staircase down into the basement and as our eyes adjusted to the gloom, we realised Dom was standing at the bar right next to us. He’s quite small close-up, and was welcoming some friends. We beat a hasty retreat and tried to find the ladies – the place was a bit of a rabbit warren but we eventually found them back up the stairs and down into another basement.
On our return to the venue, we queued up at the bar for a looooong time, eavesdropping Dom’s conversation with his friends (not really any way of avoiding it, we weren’t being rude, honest!) and eventually got served, for a vast price and including a service charge, despite having had to wait 5 minutes plus and having no table service! The menus were all photocopied and it looked like the venue had been kitted out really cheaply to look expensive. Some of the decor was pretty cool though, like the mirrored pillars with the strings of lights inside, but these did add to the general disorientation one felt in the room. It was also freezing with air conditioning, when the decor seemed to lend itself to being a hot-as-Hades dive bar…
We took our seats to one side in a sort of booth, so George had her back to the stage. We weren’t sure what to expect but it wasn’t too long before Dom, his dad and the rest of the band took to the stage. From where we were, the drummer was round a corner in an alcove so we couldn’t see him, but there was a bass player and keyboardist backing up Dom on guitar and Rob as singer and bongo player. The musicianship was faultless and Rob is a very entertaining frontman. He had a proper bluesman’s hat, and a stream of amusing patter, dealing with things like the sinking bongos and getting folk to sign up on the mailing list with wit and a gruff sense of humour. His voice is properly gravelly and suited the music perfectly . Sorry Rhonda, I’d never listened to Blue to Brown before going to the gig, so I can’t tell you what they played or if it was anything you particularly wanted to hear. However, great blues played live is the best way to hear it, I reckon! George and I both agreed that there was one track which particularly stood out for us – don’t know which one, I’m afraid, but it might have had a girl’s name in it?
By the time the band went into some cover versions (the Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd), there were a few people dancing, including an older couple who obviously really loved the Stones. Dom’s rendition of Voodoo Chile by Jimi Hendrix was a particular highlight for me. About half way through, some girls came to stand near us and one was doing really weird dancing right in front of the band, hitching up her skirt and not in time with music at all. In fact, the audience was quite a mixture of people who were obviously fans of the band and there for the music, and some who didn’t seem to know quite what was going on. The strange wavy girl was escorted away from the dance floor by friends towards the end of Blue to Brown’s set, though there were plenty of other people up and dancing and obviously having a great time.
I didn’t think I’d be able to face Rhonda if I didn’t take any pictures, so I did my best with my phone camera in the dodgy lighting. Sorry they’re not better!
In short, the music was great, though next time I’d like to be in a proper music venue with a good view of the stage to see what all the musicians were doing. My view of Dom’s guitar was blocked by something between our booth and the stage, which was slightly annoying. However, it was a free gig and the band obviously enjoyed the chance to play up a storm together live. I think I later discovered the reason for the strangeness – I mentioned it on Facebook and a friend told me that the venue is ‘a notorious coke den for the rich’. That would certainly explain it, so next time, I expect Dom to break into White Lines Don’t Do It!