Last night I spent just under two hours in near hysteria. I came out of the show at the Fox Theater in Pomona dripping with sweat and completely exhausted, not at all unlike how I felt when I emerged from the Voodoo festival in New Orleans the year that Duran Duran headlined. The difference being that last night I was sweaty from dancing, not sweaty from the heat of the day and someones armpit being smooshed against my face. (ah, the joys of festival attendance)
I don’t think I’ve been at a show quite like the one last night, and at this point I think it’s fair to say I’ve been to more than a few shows. It was amazing and bizarre all at the same time. I don’t know if it was because the audience was every bit as into the show as I was, or if it was because the band seemed genuinely happy, if not thrilled, to be there….or if it was due to the Grey Goose I’d been enjoying, but I still say it was a show unlike no other. There have been times when I’ve gone to a show and felt like the band just phoned it in. There have been times when I’ve gone to a show and felt like *I* had just phoned it in as an audience member. Last night was something special because the band was giving it, and we were accepting it and giving it right back, like some sort of huge orgy of music, dancing, sweat, adoration, love and lust.
The band did several things that surprised me, one of which being that they played in Pomona….but the Fox Theater is a beautiful venue. I hear it’s not well run in that if you were able to get upstairs to the Skyloft bar that you were allowed early entry to the show – so if you were one of the diehards in line at 7am, that didn’t guarantee you anything but an entire day wasted by sitting outside of a venue in Pomona, CA. To be fair to the venue though, it was clearly stated on their website that if you went to one of the venue bars for dinner or drinks you were granted early access. Anyone could have gone, and it wasn’t as though it was a tidbit buried on the website – I found that information out pretty easily, and no – I did not take advantage of the early access. I had my own scheduling issues, so once we were able to get to the venue I stood in the line that wrapped completely around the building one and a quarter times by the time it was just after 8 and the doors opened. The precious VIP section was not cordoned off either, so folks who paid for VIP found themselves standing right next to, and fighting for space with folks who paid for regular GA admission. In my opinion, it’s the same GA issues, different venue. This isn’t going to change and it will always be an issue for GA shows. The band and their management can only be responsible for their portion – they have zero control over the venue policies, and that’s something to consider, regardless of whether you’re an avid VIP’er or not. Once inside though, the theater was beautiful with an art deco theme, and it’s one of the few buildings in Pomona that has both stood the test of time and hasn’t fallen into disrepair during the city’s difficult history.
It wasn’t long after we were in the venue and settled that the show began. (yes, I really cut it close this time…) Luckily we’d gotten in just in time and were still able to get wristbands that allowed us floor access. We found a great spot about 3/4 of the way back on Dom’s side of the stage, which is where I typically choose to stand (although not always so far back) for a GA show. I was actually pleased that I wasn’t quite so close this time because it afforded me the opportunity to see the show from a different angle, and I could really get a better idea of how the audience responded. When I’m up front, I’m typically among fans that I recognize, and you know everyone up front is going to go wild for certain things. It’s easy to assume that EVERYONE in the audience is that way, when that isn’t the case at all. Nick Rhodes came out first and began playing some chords – I found it odd that he came out alone, but then suddenly you could hear drums, and Roger was visible behind his kit. Then of course John, Dom and Simon appeared, and began playing the familiar sounds of Planet Earth. Wait, what?? That’s right – they opened with Planet Earth. I don’t pay close attention to set lists, but l’d assumed they’d open with AYNIN – which they saved for later in the show. At first, everyone around me immediately pulled out their cameras and their cell phones and started filming the show. It was ridiculous. I couldn’t even see the stage because everyone had their arms and their camera in the air. No one was singing, no one was dancing – and I was pissed. We’re at a show to see the damn show, not film the whole thing! So, I started yelling at people. “YOU KNOW THE FUCKING WORDS, SO START SINGING! PUT YOUR DAMN CAMERAS AWAY AND ENJOY THE SHOW!” Yes, I really did. My husband was probably hoping the floor would swallow him whole, and elbowed me more than once…but I didn’t care. I was on a mission. The funny thing is, first it was the guy next to me who gave me a guilty grin, put his phone down and started bobbing around, then the girls in front of me turned around to look at me, put their phones down and started dancing. Before the end of the song, the section of people around me were clapping and singing “Bop ba-bop, ba-bop bop ba-bop!” Damn right!! Film during HLTW if you wanna – but this is Planet Earth, people!!!
Using Planet Earth to open was a really smart tactical choice, because ultimately I believe they decided to play what people knew, build momentum and then throw in a new song or two. I have to say, this worked well. Extremely well. The crowd was already with the band, so they didn’t have to work so hard to sell the new material. AYNIN went over huge with the audience, and I would guess that it’s going to become one of the band’s anthems in the long run, much in the same way of Rio, GOF, Wild Boys and Sunrise.
There were many high points during the show – Friends of Mine was done brilliantly, even without Andy Taylor on guitar. I couldn’t get over how well the audience responded to this song – it’s not really a “hit” of theirs, but it’s a song that all Duranies know and love, and apparently a lot of general fans do as well. The entire theater was jumping during this song, and there was no way that the band could have not noticed the thunder of enthusiasm coming right at them. The Chauffeur was a big surprise (in fact, when it started I thought for sure they were doing Leopard until Simon came towards the front of the stage in his infamous chauffeur hat!), and of course Rio and Wild Boys were played as though the songs were just as fresh as AYNIN. I don’t think a fan really recognizes just how timeless those songs really are until you go to a show where they play 5 songs off of their new album and yet you simultaneously feel as though the show was all of their greatest hits because they all really do seem like hits, yet – they all feel brand new because the bands enthusiasm just doesn’t wane, regardless of whether they’re playing Safe or The Chauffeur.
This wouldn’t be a fair or balanced review (who am I kidding – I am completely biased!) if I didn’t mention that there seemed to be some sound issues last night. I don’t honestly know what happened, but during the Chauffeur I first started noticing something that sounded as though another song was also being played by mistake, but then it went away. Then in Blame the Machines – well, that song was truly a train wreck from start to finish. Don’t get me wrong, the band seemed to play it well enough, I think – but I could hear something going on in the background that definitely was NOT part of the song. At first I thought Dom was playing the wrong notes (sorry Dom), and then I thought Nick had taken complete leave of his senses…and then Anna’s mike started doing a very odd echo, and Simon’s mike was too quiet. It was bizarre, but it definitely didn’t sound right. I turned around to look at the sound guys, and they all looked pretty nervous and were fiddling with knobs and things – and then I looked at Nick, who seemed to be looking right at them. I can only imagine what Nick was thinking, but I would imagine it had something to do with cutting off certain parts of their bodies and collectively hanging them from the back of the bus as ornaments. 😉 After that song, it was clear that the band also knew something was awry because John kind of laughed, Roger looked up from his drum kit, shrugged and smiled, and then I saw Simon and John trading a laugh. Oh, and Nick had someone out taking a look at his setup.
Sure hope those sound guys still have all of their um, bodies intact this morning. 🙂
That brings me to Ordinary World, which normally I wouldn’t mention because it’s a standby that I feel has reached it’s time for retirement (before you cry for my beheading – Save A Prayer is currently being “rested”. If that can happen, anything is possible!!), but I have to mention that towards the end of the song, there was something that looked like a stick being thrown onstage. AT Simon. He actually had to duck to avoid being smacked in the head with it. First of all, I applaud his reflexes. I have a feeling that had it been me, I’d have met the stick with my face, and chances are, I’d have been visiting an urgent care for stitches after the show. Secondly, What the hell?!? Listen, I can and do laugh at LeBon like anyone else. His dance moves really are something akin to seizures at times, and if he ever comes on stage wearing the glasses and pimp hat that he wore during Skin Trade during the shows in 2009 in OC and Las Vegas again, I will probably have to be carried out of the venue in a strait jacket for going hysterical – but throwing things at him, especially something that looked like it could hurt him, isn’t cool. Simon didn’t do anything to react other than duck, and went on as though nothing happened at all – I was impressed.
By the time the band got to Rio and then Wild Boys, I was exhausted and dripping with sweat. I can’t imagine how they must have felt, but clearly I need to build up stamina. They went off stage for the encore, and the house was vibrating with excitement. People started stomping their feet (and I gleefully joined in!) just as they came back out onstage. Simon came right to the front of the stage, motioned for the cheering to continue (which it continued to raise in decibels), and stood there soaking it in. You could see the complete pleasure on his face, and I don’t think I’ve ever really seen him quite so happy. Even John and Nick looked up from their respective places with looks of pride and accomplishment. I actually stood there wondering what was possibly left to be played other than GOF. Of course, I’d forgotten about the AVTAK medley (That Fatal Kiss) – and it was fantastic. Not quite as impressive as at the Mayan when they had the string section, but Simon sang beautifully. Then they played GOF, and did something a little different from the normal intros in the middle. We did a little sing-a-long with Simon that somehow morphed into Poker Face. Truth be told, I’d seen mentions of this online, but I’d been ignoring it. Well, I lived it last night. It wasn’t good. The one real disappointment in the show was this section, and I think they should ditch it. IMMEDIATELY. I miss chanting “Play the fucking bass, John”, and I’m not at all enamored with the idea of Simon trying to sing Poker Face. It just doesn’t work well to end the show. Hell, even singing a rousing rendition of “We Are Family” would work better than this, especially because at 30 years in – we really ARE family, like it or not! Oh well, can’t fault them for trying something new, so I won’t.
Last night, I was a part of something that I believe to be very rare, and that was the pure and undeniable connection between audience and band. I’ve never seen an audience that was so “with” the band the whole way, meeting them note for note, song for song. If that weren’t enough, I could feel the energy in everyone else around me. I stood there several times just marveling over the sense of community in the room. It wasn’t just as though I stared at the band and felt a connection with those guys on stage – although that was certainly present and something worth noting – it was as though I could feel the energy of the whole experience, and I looked around and knew that everyone who was standing around me was feeling that same energy and having that same experience. It was wild and I don’t think I’ve ever felt that way before. I can see how addicting it can really be. I’ve often had to explain why I continue to go to so many Duran Duran shows, even now that I’m supposedly an old lady at 40. It’s because I’ve never felt the high that I feel after a Duran show for anything else. I continue to go to shows to chase after that high. Well last night, I had another “shot” of that high, and it’s indescribable. I really don’t think I’ll ever be able to stop going to shows at this point, and I really don’t want to.
Birmingham, here I come!! -R