Rio, the DD Tribute Band – gig at Sainte Rocke 7/12/13 – Review

Tribute bands have never been my thing, to be honest. I’ve typically found them to be a bit more on the side of cheesy than I like at times, utterly cringeworthy at others. The tribute band has a difficult decision to make: do they choose to recreate the past and risk alienating the diehard fans? Should they recreate the music, using the bands original framework as merely a guide (and once again alienate diehard fans who know every single note?), or do they go over-the-top with bravado, knowing that they won’t be taken at all seriously, intending for the act to be seen as more of a joke than anything else (and again, risking the scorn and alienation of diehard fans)? The slope seems to be a rather slippery one at best, and I’m curious what drives a musician to go the route of tribute band member.

As a fan, let’s face it – I want the real thing. Who doesn’t? In my head I’m thinking that whatever tribute band I see is a distant, yet semi-effective (at least in some cases) “second” of whatever band we’re talking about. What I’m about to say will sound like the words of a desperate addict, but it’s true: sometimes, you just need a fix!!

Rio, the Duran Duran Tribute Band, has had a few shows this past year or so, and invariably, I haven’t been able to attend. So when I saw that a show for this past Friday was announced at a club in Hermosa Beach California called Sainte Rocke (Very cool club – if you live here and can make your way over there for a show, you absolutely should!), I jumped at the opportunity. Was the jump due to lack of show desperation? Curiosity? YES. My plan was simple: go to the show, sit near the back or at the bar, and watch the scene unfold. I had no intentions of getting near the front or dancing like a Duranie with her head cut off, I just wanted to give the band a fair listen and really see how they were in person.

The first part of my plan went just fine. My husband and I got to the club early and found a great spot at near the back that was at the bar (my favorite place to be, don’t you know?) – we were at the very corner, and it gave me a great vantage point to watch the crowd and get the greatest effect from the band. Funny, I can’t remember the last time I willingly sat in the back to listen to Duran songs… The band came on precisely at 10pm (already they were impressing me), making their way to the stage as the background song of Tiger Tiger played.  That song is like the Pavlov bell of Duranies. We come when called, and this night was no exception. The front of the room near the stage was already filled, and I found myself wondering: were they Duranies or fans of Rio? “Simon” (Jake Jacobs) made his way to the stage, announced – in full character – that we’d be taking a trip back in time to 1985, and it quickly became clear that this was no ordinary tribute band as they began their opening song, Planet Earth.

I’m really not one to gush…much…but I was shocked at how good they were. This is a band who has taken their time and watched Duran’s performances over the years. It is obvious that Jake in particular has studied LeBon’s movements because every hand gesture, hip sway and yes…dance move…has been replicated. I found myself giggling in delight and my eyes floating from band member to band member to see if all play their part. “John” (Gil Barron) has the brooding shyness and bleached bangs of a young JT, “Andy”(Chadwick Steinmetz) plays his guitar with all of the towering overconfidence of Andy Taylor (minus the cigarette, because let’s face it – this really is 2013), “Nick” (Curt Clendenin) takes photos during the show and STILL doesn’t sweat much, and “Roger” (Danny Alfaro) very much reminds me of a young Roger Taylor back on his set – although he seems to be a bit more comfortable with the crowd.

Almost have to take a second glance…this is pure JT! 

As the band began Hungry Like the Wolf (oh yes…even that one) and “Simon” asked if anyone was hungry and I groaned in response, I really paid attention to the music. Let’s face it – fans are tough. We know every single note, and I don’t think I’m the only fan out there to say that if a band is going to play Duran Duran – especially as a tribute, they’d better do an outstanding job. While there may have been differences in some of the arrangements (they definitely do not have the same set up as our Nick for synths and I’m sure that has to make a difference somewhere) – the differences are not glaring, and in some cases, I think they’re even better than what the band plays. I had to wonder if there was a backing track somewhere to make up the back end that they might be missing – it was truly that close to the original. This continued throughout their set, which included songs such as Friends of Mine, Save a Prayer, Careless Memories and even The Chauffeur (“Andy” did a fantastic solo on this one). I meant to watch the end of Notorious very carefully to see if “Simon” could replicate the cool karate moves of our fearless leader – but somehow I got distracted and forgot to look, which only means I’ll need to see them again at some point to watch.

The audience did not disappoint either – although I will admit there wasn’t quite as much exuberance with clapping or hands in the air as there is when Simon and John are in command. However, the crowd was good and very welcoming. I did make my way down to the front for a couple of songs thanks to a few friends, and the effect was no less powerful in front than in the back. At one point “Simon” sang to a girl in the audience, literally grabbing her hand and singing to her – and I honestly thought oxygen might be needed. Yes, even this “Simon” has an effect on women. Clearly the rock star training works, and let’s face it – Jake Jacobs has all of the good looks necessary to pull it off. If Simon looked like Jake, I might have just been a Simon-girl after all.

Well, probably not…Roger always did have my heart back then…but you get my point.

At the end of their 50 minute set, they played the classic Girls on Film, where they had women from the audience get up on stage (a very tiny stage at that) with them and dance. I did not partake…choosing instead to sit at the bar and continue to nurse my vodka tonic and watch. I suppose there are some benefits to a tribute band, one of which being that the band isn’t afraid to have fans on the stage with them, and they do seem to have their fans! The best moments of the show were yet to come as they played Rio. Out of their entire set that night, it was this song that had me doing a double take at several points. “Simon” remained in full-command of his audience and the stage, and if I would have shut my eyes, I would have believed it really was Duran Duran playing. Yes, they really are that good, and I hope to be a more frequent visitor to 1985 from here on out, and I would encourage fellow fans to make a point to catch them at a future show.

Here’s a small taste for the curious and doubters alike out there…it’s Girls on Film from a previous show at the Waterfront Center (I especially love the passing of the shot in this one, but that’s just me.) It’s very easy to see this is a party – and all are welcome!

Yes, my evening at Sainte Rocke didn’t disappoint, and more importantly I found a new band to follow during my Duran downtime. I look forward to seeing great things in years to come out of this one, and so should you. Their next scheduled show is October 11th at the Spotlight 29 Casino in Coachella. I hear that this may be a free show, so I think we should make this a Duranie get together. More on that in the coming months before the show!

For more information on Rio, the Duran Duran Tribute Band, check out the following:

Rio on Facebook

Rio Website

Monthly Email Newsletter sign-up

Rio on Twitter

Rio on YouTube

Rio on Instagram


-R

Pictures courtesy of Rio, the Duran Duran Tribute Band. 

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