Duran Duran in Birmingham.
Three years ago today, I stood in a concert arena, anxiously awaiting the moment a lifelong dream – a dream so big I really didn’t even dare dream – would come true. Duran Duran would walk on the stage and play a gig in Birmingham. Their hometown. Mecca for all Duranies. In some not-quite-defined but strange, bizarre way, Birmingham is now as much a part of my history as theirs.
I remember that night seeing Duran Duran in Birmingham at the LG Arena easily. At the time I can remember telling myself not to blink because I might miss something, and I wanted to be certain that I would remember every single second of the show, as well as later that night as I wandered around Birmingham…in search of…well, I’m not really sure, but I think I may have found it, although I’m not exactly sure how to describe what “it” really IS. No, not the band…although at the time I’m pretty sure I was naively hoping to stumble across their path. The memories from that night come to mind so simply, easily, and yet I can tell you that getting there was no easy feat. Talk about roadblocks! Everything from Amanda’s job to my family, December weather possibilities, and even a public workers strike seemed to be thrown in the way as possible detours, but somehow – we got to see Duran Duran in Birmingham. Amanda and I had taken a train to get from Bournemouth to Birmingham, and we soaked up as much of the English countryside as possible along the way. When we arrived in Birmingham, both of us were practically beaming. We still had a show to get to that night, but we’d made it to their town.
What Duranie, especially those of us who aren’t graced with the good fortune of having grown up in the UK, doesn’t dream of going to see where the band started? Seeing Duran Duran in Birmingham? The idea always felt so completely foreign…not of this world. Well, not of my world anyway. I spent a remarkable amount of time as a teenager tucked away in my bedroom wondering what it was like in Birmingham. Was it really all that different from my life in Covina, California? Probably. I mean, these were rock stars. They were British. I was a clarinet player in my junior high band. I said things with that annoying American/Southern California accent. I said “like” and “awesome” a lot. (I never said “tubular, man”….even I had my limits.) I was convinced that they had to have come from a much more exciting life, and that I would never, ever get to Birmingham to see it for myself. Flash ahead about 28 years, and there I was, having a conference call with friends to plan the trip!
I’d heard many things about Birmingham by the time All You Need is Now came out. I won’t lie, not many of the things I heard were at all kind. As far as I could tell, the only reason to ever go there was to see the band’s history, and perhaps to see Duran Duran in Birmingham. In fact, when I came through customs on the way into the UK for our first trip in 2011, the officer who looked at my passport and talked to me about why I’d traveled to London strongly recommended that I avoid the city, saying that it was (and I really am quoting here) “the armpit of England and the UK.” Well then. I definitely needed to see the city at that point then! I was really expecting the worst of the worst – take Compton or Inglewood and give it a British accent. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
One thing I learned about my British friends – and perhaps anyone from the UK, including the band, was that you’re incredibly hard on yourselves. Birmingham is not even remotely close to an armpit. In fact, it is pretty. I liked the canals. Granted, that canal water is deathly black…and I sure as hell wouldn’t want to fall in there…but they’re unique. My city barely has water, much less canals. I liked the architecture. The red brick. The way that I didn’t dare step off a sidewalk because I was never sure which way the traffic was coming (an American issue for those of us who might be directionally challenged.), and of course – Duran Duran. Memories of that band are everywhere throughout that city. From reading street signs that have been mentioned to searching for the exact spot where the Rum Runner once stood – if you’re a fan you can’t walk around that city without feeling the energy, the excitement that surges through you when you know the band must be nearby. I love history, anyone who knows me realizes that – music history in particular is a passion, and Birmingham is chalk full of that. It is beautiful, and now I dare to wish that I can go back again.
What did I really find that night, aside from seeing Duran Duran in Birmingham on that LG Arena stage in front of me? I’m not sure I’m ever going to be able to pinpoint what I gained. A sense of perspective, perhaps? Maybe a realization that yes, sometimes dreams really do come true, even if they take thirty years longer than you’d ever thought? Maybe what I really found was a part of myself. Answered questions…closure? A circle made complete? Maybe all of that, and then again, maybe none of it.
What I do know, without a doubt, is that as I sit here typing this, watching the rain (!?!) come down in Southern California, that my life was made just a little more complete on that fateful evening in 2011…and I do openly hope and wish that I have the chance to return.