Tag Archives: Arena

I Have a Problem with Tribute Bands

On Saturday night, we took a break from the whirlwind of constant activity so that we could spend time seeing a few tribute bands at the Anaheim House of Blues. My sister-in-law invited my husband and I to go see The Cured with them, and while we had no business taking any time away to do much of anything, we said yes anyway.

Rule #1 – buy the concert tickets.  In this case, they were free, so why not, right??

I was thrilled to get away from this house, to be honest. Selling a house is stressful, and we’ve been working on this place for months now. Any deep desire to stay here and not move has long since been squelched. I’m ready to bid farewell to Rancho Santa Margarita and welcome what comes next.

Turns out, not only was The Cured playing, but Planet Earth (which ended up being Arena, because Planet Earth suddenly retired) was also on the bill that night, along with Substance, a New Order tribute. I was in luck!

This show was at the new Anaheim House of Blues. On the inside, the venue is big, clean and beautiful, but I dislike the way you enter. It used to be that if a concert-goer dines at the restaurant, entrance would be granted through the dining hall, and there wouldn’t be a wait at the door. No more. Customers may certainly eat at the HOB, but afterward, you exit the restaurant and still wait in the long line. Not the end of the world, but definitely an inconvenience and a hassle. Fine for tribute band shows, particularly this one since we had free tickets, but for a well-known band? No way. Why would anyone want to eat dinner at the House of Blues, particularly when their once-ample menu has now been paired down to less-than-a single-page of offerings, and then be forced to stand at the end of the very long GA line for a band like Duran Duran, for instance? The wise decision would be to forgo the dinner and just wait in line, or be happy hearing the concert from one of the side bar areas that offer an obstructed view.

The venue itself is big and airy like a warehouse conversion, along with dark and intimate feeling inside the actual concert hall. It is a nice, ample space for GA shows, similar to most other HOB locations I’ve been in. Believe it or not, the space filled very quickly. When the first band took the stage around 8pm, the house was packed.

And what was that first band, you ask?  Arena!

I’ve learned a few things about tribute bands over the years. They tend to use the tribute thing as a bit of a gimmick. Some create as real of an experience as you can get without seeing the actual band live. They strive for authenticity, and that means if you’re playing Simon Le Bon, you’d better BE as close to Simon as possible. There’s no taking “artistic license” with his vocals OR with the lyrics. The costuming has to be accurate. “Simon’s” wig cannot look like it once belonged to Donald Trump, for instance. The music has to sound as close to the band as possible without it being karaoke or merely a lip sync performance. Sure, there might be some smoke and some mirrors, after all, even the real bands use backing tracks and a zillion other effects. However, the goal is for it all to feel genuine. Other bands use the tribute as shtick. It’s comedic, and it’s not really meant to be authentic, although it might still get audiences in the door. That said, there’s good comedy, and there’s really bad comedy, right? The same can be said for tribute bands. Some might be hilariously funny, but the musicianship is top-notch. Others might be funny because they’re trying to hide the fact that they can’t really play. Still others are a blend of all of it.

The whole tribute band scene is rather incestuous, so to speak. While you might see a band like Arena, or even The Cured—later on that same night, you might see people from those same bands performing in other tributes. While I can understand the economic issues in doing so, it all feels a little awkward to someone like me who might be paying attention.  What band are they actually IN, and why is everyone trading members? Those things bug me. Even so, if the guy (or girl) can play it all, so be it.

Lastly, there’s me, obsessed Duran Duran fan. I am probably not the best audience for any DD tribute band, because A. I’m a huge fan. I know every single Duran Duran song down to the tiniest chord and glottal stop. and B. I own a blog.

The reality is, I’m a great audience member for any other tribute band besides Duran Duran. I don’t know anyone’s music the way I do DD’s, and I’m happy just to hear Blue Monday, Love Will Tear Us Apart or even Love Cats. I know the hits pretty well, but not obsessively so, and it’s all great fun. So, when I tell you that I was not entirely taken by Arena, understand that my standards are unapologetically high. They were good, but not great.

All of that aside, the band was fun. I definitely spent time bobbing my head and instinctively doing all the same things I might do at a Duran show—except for maybe screaming at the guitar player and rolling my eyes when they played HLTW—I’ve got to save something for the real deal, you know. I can’t review Arena the way I initially thought I might, because it would be unfair. I did have fun that night, and maybe that’s the takeaway for me – I can’t and shouldn’t intensively review a DD-tribute band.

I’ve come to the realization that I am the nightmare audience member for a DD tribute band, outside of maybe any actual, real, band member. I’m the person you can and should call in for a quality control assessment, because I’m brutally honest. However, no one needs me in their audience, particularly if I’m writing a review.

On the other hand, I loved Substance – the New Order tribute, because I’m a casual fan of New Order. I have their albums, I know their songs, but I don’t know them in the same way. The vocals weren’t exactly the right tone, but the music was good, and I heard songs I hadn’t heard in years. The same holds true for The Cured. The vocals were fairly close, and musically the band was fabulous. They have a professional quality about them that I very much admire, and I’d go see them again.

The escape, even for just a few hours, was a welcome respite.

-R

Arena Anniversary and Live Albums

On this date in 1984, Duran Duran’s live album, Arena, was released.        This, of course, makes me think of my connection to the album and the other live albums of theirs.  I also give my little fantasy for live albums in the future.

Arena

This album was the first live album for Duran.  It captured the Sing Blue Silver Tour of 1984 and included the sentence, “recorded live around the world” on the sleeve.  This is unlike most live albums, which are recorded at one specific show.  Of course, we also know that the album featured one new track, Wild Boys.  Around the same time, Arena, An Absurd Notion, DVD was released along with Into the Arena board game.  Indeed, fans had a lot of material to watch, listen, and buy in late 1984!

I remember receiving this album for Christmas in 1984.  That year also marked the first walkman for me.  From what I recall, all of the kids in my family got walkmans that year.  For me, this meant that I could use the headphones while I listened to my brand new copy of Arena.  The family’s record player was located in the dining room portion of our living room/dining room combo.  I have distinct memories of sitting on a dining room chair, listening and pouring over the lyrics.  While I knew all of the songs (except for Wild Boys), I was fascinated by what changes took place, lyrically, from the original recording to these live versions.  Even as a kid, I analyzed everything Duran!

Looking back on Arena, I can now acknowledge both the positive and negative aspects of the live album.  It obviously featured a lot of the band’s hits, including Is There Something I Should Know, Planet Earth, Hungry like the Wolf, and Save a Prayer.  Yet, it wasn’t until the reissue of 2004 that Girls on Film and Rio were included.  It also included some fan favorites that weren’t hits, but were well loved like New Religion and Careless Memories.  Still, many other songs seemed to be missing.  I recall being surprised that the Reflex was left off since it was such a huge hit in 1984.  It is a rather short album in comparison to the 90 minute sets that they commonly then.  The main criticism about the album, though, is that it was simply too polished.  It lacked the feel of a live album.  I cannot disagree, which is, perhaps, why I don’t tend to play this one much.  I have heard far better bootlegs of that tour, which seem to capture the feeling of that era more.

Live from London and A Diamond in the Mind

Since Arena was released, fans have enjoyed two other live albums, Live from London and A Diamond in the Mind.  Live from London focused on the reunion of the Fab Five and came out 20 years after Arena.  During that time, I loved to listen to this one as it had all the great hits and really made me feel as if I was there at the concert.  Of course, it didn’t hurt that it also came with a tremendous live show DVD and a lengthy documentary about the band’s history and the reunion.  What more could a fan want?!  It didn’t hurt that I also got to see the concert in a movie theater with lots of other Duranies.  While it wasn’t a live show, it wasn’t the next best thing!

Truly, I didn’t think it could get any better until A Diamond in the Mind came out.  This one, released in 2012, focused on the All You Need Is Now era.  In 2004 and 2005, I couldn’t imagine a better time in Duranland, but by 2011 and 2012, I knew that the AYNIN era made me even happier.  During Astronaut, I went to a bunch of shows and had an amazing time.  Yet, AYNIN came at a time that my fandom needed a shot of energy and pure Duran-ness.  That album and tour gave me more than a shot.  They gave me lots more as Rhonda and I started this blog and began to plan meet-ups.  It also featured a couple of trips to the UK, which will always be special.  Like Live from London, I was also able to see the DVD part in a movie theater with other Duranies as part of Durandemonium, our little Duranie convention in 2013.

Hopes for Future Live Albums/DVDs

Ideally, I would love a live album and DVD for each album cycle.  I know that the show at the Budokan in Japan will air in Japan on December 10th.  Hopefully, maybe, possibly, this will be made available elsewhere after that?!  I, for one, would love it.

Another idea that I would love if the band would consider would be to record all of their live shows.  They could either make them available for purchase or include them in VIP packages.  For me, I would love to have every show I have been to available to listen to after the fact.  They would bring back lots of good memories.

What about the rest of you?  What do you think of the Duran’s live albums?  What would you like them to do in the future?

-A

Back Into the Arena

It isn’t every day that I can sit and listen to an interview on BBC West Midlands featuring my favorite drummer in the entire world, hear Hungry Like the Wolf…and contemplate that on this date thirty-one years ago….Arena was released.

I know Duran Duran says they’re not nostalgic, and that may very well be the case;  but I don’t know how they can help but NOT but look back fondly from time to time.  When DDHQ pulls out the pictures of “Into the Arena” board game on top of it all, I just can’t help but remember 1984. I’d just turned 14, in fact, my mom and dad had put money into the card they gave me for my birthday so that I could go down to Wherehouse Records and get Arena on the day it was released. It was the height of Durandom in America, and I can remember getting so excited over every little mention of Duran Duran, which was often! At the time it seemed like I lived and breathed them.

Oddly, it wasn’t a whole lot different from the present… kind of funny, really. I mean, I take blogging seriously because it’s a responsibility I’ve chosen to take on, but I also am well-aware of how crazy it seems. I’m 45 and yes, I write a blog about being a Duran Duran fan. I’m glad life worked out this way.

On any given day, I make it part of my day to read any articles about the band, watch/listen to interviews, and try to keep up with whatever is going on in the fan community. I glean whatever I can, try to make sense of it, and post away.  In plenty of ways, this blog has allowed me to still BE a fan. I would have never seen that possibility at the age of 14. I just don’t think I had any kind of foresight of what would come next. My goodness, my dreams back then were to open the door and see Roger Taylor waiting to take me away, but not before I became a conductor for the LA Philharmonic. Because you know, those two life aspirations go together perfectly….right???  Yet, if I really think back on what I was like at 14 – I’m not all that much different. I used to journal quite often, particularly when something was bothering me. Some kids had sports, I had writing and music.  I still do.

Back then, I believed the 80s would last forever. It felt like a very long time before I would graduate from high school. I couldn’t imagine music being any different from it was on Seven and the Ragged Tiger, and even after I came out of Wherehouse on that fateful day in 1984, clutching a bag with my cassette tape and vinyl copies of Arena – I had not a single doubt that I would love Duran Duran forever.

Life was so innocent for me in 1984. I didn’t realize that Roger was about to leave the band, or that Andy would follow. I hadn’t even had a boyfriend yet, or had my heart completely broken. I didn’t know that a day would come where I wouldn’t practice my clarinet, or that I’d be a stay-at-home-mom.  I don’t remember worrying about wars, or bombings – although I do remember talking about the possibility of nuclear weapons. I hadn’t ever used a computer, phones still had cords (in fact our phone in the kitchen was still a rotary!), and I didn’t really even know what rap was. Facebook, Twitter and social media weren’t even twinkles in someone’s eye….in fact, I kind of giggle when I think of what Simon, John, Roger, and Nick might have said or done if someone had told them that at some point in the future, they’d actually have the opportunity to trade messages with Duranies. Even better? Dom would have only been twelve years old. Had he even learned to play guitar by then?!?  Who knew what the future would hold….

So there’s some 1984 for ya.  Happy Anniversary Arena!

-R