Many people, both inside and outside of the fandom, look to album sales and chart positions to determine how successful a band is. I suppose in this way it is like a business looking at profits or how many of a certain product was sold. It could also be like a teacher analyzing test scores or reading levels. Numbers are an easy way to judge success or are they? It seems to me that numbers can be given without context, which when known can dramatically change their meaning. For example, let’s say a business had profits of one million dollars. To me, that would seem like a lot but what if that business had a profit of ten million a year ago. Then, that number seems to be negative or bad. Likewise, an 8th grade student with a 6th grade reading level sounds problematic until you find out that last year the student was reading at the 3rd grade level. Context is important. That said, according to Billboard.com’s article: Hot Tours, Duran is in the top 10 of hot tours. This article allows us to compare Duran to other artists, which provides some context. Does it give us the complete picture? Absolutely not. We don’t know what the expectations were. How does this compare to the Red Carpet Massacre tour of 2008? Is it enough to cover expenses and the canceled shows of the spring and summer? I don’t have answers to those questions. Of course, it does provide some good publicity and definitely paints this tour as successful, which can’t hurt.
This week was also filled with more “good” touring news. First, the shows have increased to twenty songs and are now a full two hours in length. Second, some of the rescheduled dates for Europe have been announced for January. Clearly, Duran is feeling more and more confident with Simon’s voice and are planning on continuing to tour for at least through January. These could also be signs of success once people know of the context. If people didn’t know that Simon had lost the higher range in his voice in the spring, these pieces of news wouldn’t be a big deal. Who cares if they added a couple of dates in Europe? Isn’t that their job? could be the random thought of the non-Duranie. Likewise, a non-Duranie could think that it is normal for Duran to play for two hours and include 20 songs. For Duranies, we know that this wasn’t a guarantee and wasn’t happening in the beginning of this fall US tour. For Duranies who know the context, these are positive signs and signs of success.
Can success be completely told based on articles, numbers and facts? Are there less tangible, less concrete elements to consider when answering this question? For example, does it matter if the band is happy and enjoying themselves? Does it matter if they are getting along? Does it matter if the fanbase is happy? I think those things DO matter and, perhaps, might matter more than those concrete statistics. Based on what I have heard and seen via youtube and in person, it seems to me that Duran is finally starting to really relax and have fun on stage again. I loved all of the smiles and the laughs that they exhibited on stage when I saw them on Friday. I wasn’t hearing or seeing much of this carefree attitude in the beginning of the tour. Now, I don’t blame them for this. I think it is perfectly natural for them to feel the way they do and did. It must have been a very difficult spring and summer for them and that kind of emotional trauma and worry doesn’t fade in a day or a week or a month. It takes time. It takes time to trust that everything is okay. That said, I’m not sure that they are totally there yet. While the show in Chicago was great, performance wise, I sensed a need on their parts to really get a positive response. Simon often encouraged the audience to cheer more and louder. Then, it seems to me that after almost every show, the guy(s) feel it necessary to comment on how great the audience was. Do they really think that every audience was great? I don’t know but they need us to believe that they do. I suspect that they need this affirmation, emotionally. They need to know that the fans are still here and are still supporting them. Perhaps, this need for positive feedback is keeping them cautious. Maybe they are fearful of trying something different with their live performances (like putting Secret Oktober or some other rare track in their setlists). Maybe they couldn’t handle an apathetic or negative response. I can understand that but I do think they will be better served when they are feeling perfectly normal again. While they might be hoping that fans can help, in reality, only time will heal all wounds, especially emotional ones.
Thus, to answer my own question, I do think that Duran is successful right now to some extent. I do think it is a success that they are back on the road, playing good, long shows. I think it is great that they are having fun on stage and that the tour is making some money and getting good press. Yet, I feel like they aren’t completely healed from everything that happened this year. I am hopeful, though, that their confidence continues to grow and more success will follow!