Life makes me laugh sometimes. Yesterday I had commented that this tour had given me very little to write about.
Today is a new day! This morning I had Mike Bell’s review from the Calgary Herald waiting in my inbox. Without noticing the byline, I assumed it would be another glowing, beautiful review of a well-staged production. I clicked on the link, preparing to scan the article and move on.
“Someone recently asked about the enduring appeal of Duran Duran, why they still mattered or if they, in fact, actually still did.
Musically, that’s an easy question to answer: No. No they don’t.”
One line—the one above, mind you—and I realized I would need to read far more carefully. After reading the entire article, I had to go back and re-read, hoping to wade through the insults to find the meat of the review.
Here’s a particularly good zinger:
“Duran Duran opened the show with the flaccid title track from the new album, taking the stage to those trappings of earlier days, when it seemed cool to have thunder, fog machines and images of trees and birds, for some reason, displayed behind them.
It wasn’t cool. It was sad. Laughable. Almost perfect parody in an arena that they no longer belong in.”
Ouch. So he didn’t much care for “Paper Gods” as the opener then. OK. I think that song is a particularly tough sell for people who haven’t followed the band over the years, and in my opinion, I do find it a bit weak as an opener compared to “Before The Rain” (but there were plenty who hated that one too). But then, I follow the band. Guilty as charged.
I did chuckle openly over his comments about “Hungry Like the Wolf.” Simon is no closer to Will Ferrell than I am to say, Kiesza or anyone who has ever shared the stage with Duran Duran…but that whole “Is anybody hungry?” thing has got to go. I think though, even Simon knows it’s corny, and plays it up for all it’s worth. So good on him.
He goes on to compare their “Space Oddity” to a turd (his words, not mine), calls the set “muddled karaoke”, and characterizes the work from the latest album as “landlocked, cruise-ship fodder.”
Then there’s the lights and visuals (oh no, not even the production team was spared…my thoughts and prayers to all of you who might be reading….and yes, that’s sarcasm you’re reading.)
“a crappy light and video display, barren stage, almost inanimate band members, but, confetti! — was mom and dad jeans come to life.”
I can handle most anything, but leave my jeans out of this, Mr. Bell.
And then he does the unthinkable and dares to use the name Spandau Ballet, in the same review as Duran Duran. (cue dramatic music)
“It was like that Spandau Ballet episode of Modern Family, where everyone wanted so desperately for a dude playing music from the past in their living room to be something special, something to remember, something that would be a new event, but it wasn’t.”
I don’t even remember that episode of Modern Family, by the way. Now I’m gonna have to search it out. Thanks.
He goes on from there, calling the show desperate and hollow. Oh, and a sham.
He also reviews Chic, which from what I’m grasping—he seemed to like, and felt that the audience didn’t deserve them. Perhaps that’s possible. But let’s just get back to Duran Duran, shall we?
Here’s the thing: it isn’t always the best plan to review shows that you have already decided in advance that you’re going to hate. I’ve never quite understood that methodology, and while sure—sometimes you get assigned things as a writer that you don’t want to cover. I get it. But do yourself and your career a favor and do them well. Mr. Bell can’t honestly tell me that he prepared to go in and write an unbiased review that night any more than I can sit here and say that I’m not a Duranie.
I suppose there are different ways to get traffic on a website. One way is to write a glowing review of a show. That band might then tweet it to their followers and they click on the link to read. Another is to write what I would consider to be one of the most scathing, brutal, and unrelenting reviews I’ve read about the band’s live show since perhaps the reunion tour. (Even then reviewers found SOMETHING to like about the show. Conversely, Mr. Bell here seems to only enjoyed the moments when the band was NOT onstage, but I digress.) People like me will read those reviews with great interest, and then discuss them on their blog.
After reading, I immediately posted the review on our Facebook page and encouraged fans to read and discuss. One of the comments (and there were many) was that this seems to be an ongoing issue with male critics. The commenter went on to guess that maybe Mike had lost his first girlfriend to the band and harbors continued ill will. It is a comment I’ve seen whenever a man has given a poor review to the band, actually.
I thought about the reviews I’d read from female writers lately. There too lies a theme. The review is often from the point of view that the writer loved the band back in the 80s, complete with posters on their wall, a John Taylor haircut, bleached bangs, pleas for marriage…etc etc. I welcome a positive reviews, but I often wonder why it is necessary for so many female writers to admit their bias as the framework for their article. Why not go to the show and review it purely on its merit? Why make it about nostalgia and having that moment they dreamt of as teens? Not every female reviewer does this, but enough do that I take notice in the same way I see that plenty of male critics seem to have anger issues with the band simply because girls liked them in the 80s.
As someone who has run into the sexism that goes along with being a female fan of any band, much less Duran Duran (and for crying out loud stop comparing them to New Kids on the Block and Backstreet Boys!)- particularly when it has come to the writing Amanda and I have done—I can see we still live in a time where assumptions and stereotypes still rule, across the board. I can’t possibly like the band without the crux of it being about wanting to get backstage with them, and men don’t like the band because of jealousy.
I can’t very well say what Mr. Bell’s truth might be, but I can say that overall—it is far easier to accept the stereotypes (and we all do: male and female alike) than acknowledge the truth.