Based on our observations and experiences, this tour was truly affected by the following elements: venues, the crowd, elements within the show itself, and the setlist(s). The venues, in general, were and are a big deal about how the show or tour is going to go. I’m sure the band has their favorite venues for whatever reasons and the fans also have their favorite venues for probably different reasons. While on the surface, the venues appeared to be a variety of styles (small theaters, outdoor amphitheaters, casinos, etc.), there was a common theme. Each venue that we went to and many others we know of on their tour, have seats/tickets reserved. These seats might be comp tickets for high rollers at a casino or subscribers/donors at an outdoor amphitheater or small theater. Thus, a certain percentage of those shows is not made up of hardcore fans or fans, at all. People then are deciding to go to a show because they got these tickets as part of a package or because the tickets were free as opposed to the fans who are just dying to see them live. This is a serious problem. While the seats might be filled, the crowd might or might not be be willing to get into the music. This frustrates the hardcore fans there and makes the band would harder. I can’t imagine what it must feel like for the band to look out into the audience and see 10% or 30% of the crowd sitting down. I know how it feels for us. On one hand, there is an immediate concern that the show will not be as good and there is frustration that non-fans often have better seats than the fans. That’s not okay. Now, I’m sure that some people could say that Duran should be able to get those non-fans involved. Frankly, they often do. They did in Durham but why should they have to work THAT hard, especially since they have been on the road forever. Why add that challenge? Plus, it affects the experience of the rest of us. Beyond this issue with the crowd, another challenge many of these venues provided was the heat. Why play outdoor venues in places like Georgia in August? Is someone trying to make the band suffer? I know that I was horribly hot at those shows and it must have been worse for the band. During the Portsmouth show, for example, Simon was just dripping with sweat. Why not make it more comfortable for the band? I don’t get it.
Beyond the crowd and outdoor/indoor element, some venues have other factors to deal with, which can affect the experience. For example, the stage in Portsmouth is so high above the crowd/ground. I’m sure that people further in the back liked that but those of us in the front (typically the hardcore fans) had no interaction with the band. They didn’t look down at all of us and I can’t blame them. How annoying! Other venues required that the band play shorter sets for whatever reason. What fan wants a shorter set? Then, venue organization makes a difference. Are they selling seats all the way on the right or the left? Are the sections so big that people get shoved in to such a degree that people can’t move, forget about dancing. Are the seats obstructed in some way? It wouldn’t be surprising that our favorite show this tour didn’t have any of those negative factors. Right??
Once the show starts, still other factors come into the picture. This leg has started with a 10-12 minute short film. The film is very obviously artistic in nature and features classical music. We are all for art. In fact, we go out of our way to go to art museums whenever we are in a new town. That said, the addition of this film is a bad one. First, it is too dang long. WAY too long. Most American crowds could handle two or three minutes. The band is asking for them to tolerate 10-12 minutes. Second, I’m willing to bet that most people out there don’t get it. They are there to see Duran, not some art piece. Typically, what happens is that the lights go down and the crowd stands in anticipation. People start clapping and screaming. By the end of the first song in the film, people are sitting back down. By the start of the third song, they are openly annoyed. We have heard, more than once, things like, “I didn’t pay to see this.” Why get the crowd excited to see the band only to not appear? Yes, I’m sure that they might be thinking that anticipation might be a good thing and it is within reason. Besides, this ends up feeling more like the band trying to give culture to the crowd. It is like they want those of us who eat cheeseburgers to appreciate broccoli. That isn’t going to happen by forcing the broccoli on people. Then, the first song doesn’t help improve the mood. Don’t get us wrong…we LOVE Before the Rain and feel like it is a fabulous opener. Yet, it doesn’t provide the energy that is needed to combat the frustration over the film. This again makes the band’s job much harder. Why do that? We don’t get it.
The beginning of the show was different for the first couple of legs as they showed video of people’s tweets using the #Duranlive hashtag. That has now been removed. Why? This kind of activity increased anticipation and focused people’s attention to Duran. It also allowed fans around the world to be able to participate. Why wouldn’t they want to bring fans together like that? One answer could be that the venues aren’t capable to doing that. Again, we would then advocate different venues that can accommodate this type of interaction. Beyond the use of twitter, the heads above the stage are now gone. We didn’t miss those as we didn’t like them to begin with. The videos are basically the same but flowers that light up as background are included. That’s fine but the flowers do nothing. They don’t hold anyone’s interest and doubt they actually make the lighting better. In fact, the lights were blinding, especially in front. That’s not cool either. Then, there is the costuming or clothes. Usually, Duran goes out of their way to have a coherence to their outfits. This time, there are some elements that seem to sort of go together…but overall the feeling isn’t there. Nick looks great, as usual. Roger and Dom are also dressed well. Simon clearly tries to do something with his clothes and then there is John. Oh, Mr. Taylor, what is with those pants? They might be comfortable but they are faded and not very flattering. Ugh.
Speaking of ugh, people always want to complain about the setlists. While we were pleased that they had a number of tracks from All You Need is Now, the rest of the setlist needs an overhaul. It isn’t even so much that they play the same songs every night but the fact that we know what ORDER they will be played. Here’s our simple solution: Let’s say that they are going to play 20 songs. Have 10 hits, have 5 songs off latest album and 5 obscure songs per show but have double that number prepared. The band would then be ready to play any of 20 hits, any 10 new album tracks and 10 obscure songs. Then, each night, the hits, album tracks and obscure songs vary and their location in the setlists change as well. When they don’t change things up, it bothers those of us who do travel. The band should make sure that this group of fans remain wanting to tour. Of course, we want them to consider where in the setlist some songs go. For example, in Portsmouth, Save a Prayer was played during the encore. That is a wrong move. The end should be upbeat and energizing. The end of that show was affected and they should want people to want more when they leave the stage for the night. We do give props to their playing of Leopard in Portsmouth and skipping Come Undone in Atlanta!!!
Of course, while there are lots of elements to the show or tour that we question, at best, or criticize, at worst, there are others that we cheer and applaud. First, we still LOVE Before the Rain as an opener. We like that it starts slowly and builds to an all-encompassing sound that sends chills down our spines. We love it, especially with following up with Planet Earth. It works well to get the audience into it. Of course, the crowd gets into the show the more the band moves around, the more they interact with the crowd by asking them to clap, sing, or reach up, and the more the band explains the significance of various songs. Now, we don’t necessarily want Simon to intro every track but a few during each night works well. For example, after an intro of Ordinary World and how it really saved the band, we have new appreciation for it. Another huge part of the show that everyone we know loves and works to get the crowd into it is the intros of the band. Now, these intros can’t be this is Anna, Simon, Dom, Roger, Nick, John and Simon–just the names. They have to be the ones within the middle of a song and has to allow each person to showcase himself/herself. After all, Duran is about the blending. The intros allow the audience to see what each person really brings to the table. Probably the only interaction that doesn’t work is the cell phone use in the beginning of Save a Prayer. While people love that song, they aren’t into holding up their phones. The merchandise was also an improvement. The styles were cooler as there was a band t-shirt in either gray or red/white/blue of the Union Jack and there were t-shirts of each band member (Simon, John, Nick and Roger). On top of having good styles, the material was a higher quality than we have seen in years. We also LOVED that the tour dates were listed on the back of the band t-shirts.
While this leg might have been different from the previous ones, it still showcased the greatness that is AYNIN. This leg, in fact, marks the end of this era. The band should still be VERY proud about the album and what they accomplished since it was released. There are many songs that should be included in their basic catalog forever. For example, while Ordinary World meant a lot to the band, that’s how many of us feel about the song, All You Need is Now. It remains a very meaningful song to the fans and always will. It really was a message from them to us. We did sway in the moon like we did when we were younger and plan on doing that for as long as we can.
-A and R