Tag Archives: Last Night in the City

All You Need is Then: DD in Las Vegas

Just a reminder that we graciously accept reviews from DD shows, as well as blogs on any topic that has to do with Duran Duran. Today Jason Lent shares a different perspective on the recent Las Vegas show. If you’re interested in submitting a blog, please check out our “Guest Blog” page for information. 

For the next two weeks I will be on vacation with family (I’m doing nearly the polar opposite of “touring” by going camping with family in Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons), so I have a few guest blogs to take my place. Enjoy!!  -R

By Jason Lent

My nostalgia drenched July wrapped up with Duran Duran at the Mandalay Events Center in Las Vegas. Seven nights earlier, I stood in a parking lot downtown while Howard Jones and OMD performed on what felt like the surface of the sun. After Duran Duran, Howard Jones and Thompson Twins were pivotal touchstones in my formative years of music while OMD were always on the edges of my life soundtrack. All three provided different reminders of why I love the synth pop sounds of the 1980s.  I still find myself expecting more from Duran Duran overall because they were “my” band as an impressionable 11-year-old. As I walked to my car that night in a mad dash to escape a parking garage built by Satan himself, I realized that no matter what the band does now, all I ever needed from them was already given to me back then.

Touring in support of Paper Gods, I went into last night’s show having already seen the earliest incarnation of this tour in 2015 at the Hollywood Bowl and the Life Is Beautiful Festival in Las Vegas. Selfishly hoping for some radical updates to the set list (this was, after all, the second Vegas show in under a year), I knew that such dreams were foolish. At this point, the band has firmly entrenched itself into the legacy circuit where delivering the most appeal to the largest amount of people is job number one. With that as the goal, this current tour might be as effective as any they’ve undertaken in the last twenty years.  That night in Las Vegas, the cheers of the arena were literally deafening and I awoke the following morning with a ringing in my ears that I’d have expected if I stood in front of the PA at a Five Finger Death Punch concert (on a side note, very cool that Chris Kael from Death Punch was at the Duran show last night!).

From the viewpoint of a casual fan, there is no denying the overall power of the current show. After the artsy run through of the new album’s title track, the hits come fast and furious. Wild Boys, Hungry Like The Wolf, and A View To A Kill lifted the crowd to their feet and had them screaming along. The band appeared to be thrilled by the reception and Simon LeBon stepped into the role of the saucy frontman, a role he was born to play. Come Undone, the finest single of their second career peak, sounded and looked brilliant, providing one of the many highlights.

For the more ardent Duranie, the disappointment with the current show resides in the lack of hope that each show provides. Maybe this always existed with Duran Duran but age and technology now infringe on the innocent hope we carried to shows as teenagers. There is no mystery to which songs might be played and the stage banter feels a little too comfortable as a result. The show is the show and the band delivers it night after night at a very high level. However, most of us know exactly when LeBon is about to ask the audience if anybody is hungry. This lack of spontaneity and a refusal to push themselves outside their comfort zone takes a little sparkle off the modern Duran Duran.

For those of us who lived and died with each album (and Liberty sometimes felt like it wanted to kill me), the current tour does offer a few moments of ecstasy such as a killer performance of I Don’t Want Your Love from Big Thing and a reworked take on Girls On Film that feels funky and fresh. Both of these choices do nothing to hamper the casual fan’s appreciation of the show while giving us more fanatical sorts the hope for more twists and turns in the future. The clock is forever ticking when a band sticks around for over three decades but Duran Duran has some gas left in the tank and the next tour could be truly special if they are willing to take a few more chances.

First and foremost in my mind would be to bring 25-30 songs on the tour and arrange each set list slightly differently from town to town. In doing so, the band would have to stay on their toes musically from night-to-night. Why does that matter? It brings out the best in musicians. What if Notorious and Pressure Off weren’t always side by side for example. The songs are too similar sitting next to each other. If Notorious dropped down into the encore, it’s not like Nile Rodgers isn’t going to come back on stage. From what I’ve seen, he’ll take any chance to get in front of the audience especially if he gets to remind us of all the #1 hits he worked on. God bless the man, but we know you’re a legend. Stop telling us each night.

If the band brought 30 songs on the road, those extra tracks could open up a whole new world to long time fans. It starts with the new material. Last Night In the City should be dropped. It’s a boring EDM track that feels like the band trying to appeal to the very people who aren’t buying concert tickets regardless. Sunset Garage, a far better track, with a video montage of the band over the years could be a show highlight. The fatal flaw with Paper Gods was the decision to put the most Duran sounding songs into the “bonus tracks” of different versions of the release. Ask a hundred Duran fans and we would choose Planet Roaring over Danceophobia almost 100% of the time.

In addition to a better mix of the new tracks, the band’s depth gets grossly overlooked in the current tour which can be fixed fairly easily. All You Need Is Now from 2010 was one of their best studio albums since Rio and not a single song makes the current tour. This is more ludicrous than the decision to cover Public Enemy’s 911 Is A Joke. The album that brought them back into arenas gets no attention while the band continues to play Reach Up For the Sunrise, a modest hit but hardly essential listening. To make matters worse, the band taunts us with a chorus from New Moon On Monday in the middle of Sunrise. Here’s an idea, just play Monday, one of the beloved singles from the band’s biggest period.

As a kid, collecting Duran Duran 12” records felt like my life mission. On the flip side of the Careless Memories 12” was a track called Fame. At that age, I didn’t know who David Bowie was and this was my first time hearing an artist whose career and life would greatly influence everything I love in music. If the band had added Fame to the set list for this tour, not only would it have paid tribute to our collective hero, it would have taken us all back to the early stages of fandom when we were full of hope and wonder. I chalk up the medley of Planet Earth and Space Oddity as a near miss but still a lot of fun last night.

So where do we go from here? Next year is the 35th anniversary of Rio and the trend of bands revisiting complete works shows no signs of dissipating. Rather than head back into the studio, I hope Duran Duran embraces their legacy fully and undertakes a summer tour to celebrate a landmark album in all our lives. Open each night with a handful of other hits, take an intermission with a short film of the band in the studio and on video sets over the years, play Rio in its entirety and finish the night with an encore of even more hits. The ticket sales would be monumental and those of us who stayed with them all along would be rewarded with rarely heard songs like Hold Back the Rain.

I look forward to new albums and new tours while continuing to want more of the past each show. Last night was an amazing experience and despite my many words above, I left with a huge smile on my face. The music critic in me will always explore every corner of my Duran Duran fandom but my passion never diminishes. The recent resurgence in interest for their work vindicates many of us who grew up being teased for loving five good-looking lads from England. Take away their youthful smiles, the expensive videos, and all the radio hits and you still have truly gifted musicians with a natural-born entertainer on the mic. Duran Duran forever.

Jason Lent discovered Duran Duran on MTV in 1983 and a lifelong musical love affair was born. In 2010, he left a job in Hawaii to tour with Cowboy Junkies as a music writer and his work has appeared in various online music outlets. He currently resides in Las Vegas managing a music venue while trying to learn John Taylor’s bass line from Rio.

Touring is not a sprint, it is a marathon!

So here it is, our final video blog of the 2016 Paper Gods tour.  If we had to sum up the tour in a single sentence (or title), we’d say that touring is not a sprint, it is a marathon!  We tried to cover and condense all of our thoughts into a single video. At just over a half-hour, we’re recommending food and beverage before viewing. You’re welcome.

We have so many feelings and thoughts about this tour, it was hard to know where to begin.  As the exhaustion becomes readily apparent, the emotion also flows easily through our words. We love this band, and to quote Lori Majewski – we love them so much it hurts.

While neither of us are emotionally ready for this to end, we know that it must. So, I will drive Amanda to the airport today, and then spend a couple of weeks camping with my family (I have a few guest blogs to share with you in my absence). I hope that those of you who still have shows left will thoroughly enjoy them. I know that I did.

Life is so weird. I really believed that this trip would be my last for Duran Duran. I also think that’s where I went wrong in my thinking. After all, the trips aren’t just about the band. They’re about seeing many of you along the way. I spent a lot of time on this tour laughing, talking and just being thankful that my life crossed paths with so many of you in the process. For me, touring is my happy place. It is not only my escape, but it is my bliss, and I don’t know why I would want to ever stop doing that unless I had no other choice.

So, I’m off to drop Amanda at the airport and resume regular life. I’m amazed at just how quickly things pile up around here when I’m not around to do chores, so I’ll be doing much of that along with packing up so that we can get out of here early Saturday morning. I’ll be taking a lot of you along with me though, in my memories of what has got to be the best July I’ve ever experienced. Love to you all.

-R

 

Version 11: The Belasco Theater Los Angeles!

I promised the name of this review for their show at The Belasco Theater was going to be Version 11.  I don’t know what wise guy numbered the set lists for this tour……

I am thrilled to take a small break from writing to say hi and share a little bit of my experience from Monday, especially while the band is likely 40,000 feet up, headed back home!

To begin with, I don’t mind writing that the pre-sale for this last-minute show was a challenge of epic proportions. However, I could have predicted that as soon as I heard that Ticketmaster was handling the sales. I’m sorry to report that way, but it’s the truth. I heard tales from fans who were even unable to get onto Duran Duran’s website, much less Ticketmaster. I heard the password didn’t work for many, and in my own case – I just kept getting kicked out of the Ticketmaster portion of the sale and had to keep putting the password back in to try for tickets again and again. Speaking of which, there is something VERY wrong when at 10:00 on the dot I am requesting tickets and am already being told there are none. I ended up with one ticket (needed two), and decided to try my luck at on the Live Nation pre-sale, which went far better. Early entry be damned, at least I was going.

Speed ahead less than two weeks to the actual show, which took place on Monday, May 2nd.  Unfortunately, there was no way for Amanda to get out here (we are sinking everything we’ve got into our July shows – the band is going to see us all month-long at various gigs, so they should be prepared and plan their spit-zones accordingly.), and for some strange reason – my husband decided he needed to go with me. We went with a couple of my other Duranie friends (shout outs to Shelly & Katie), and planned to make a day of it, languishing on the beautifully picturesque Los Angeles sidewalks as we wait all day in the lovely GA line.  I had gotten reports that there were people in line as early as 3am for the show, and felt that was definitely over the limit of what I would be willing to do for this band. (Yes actually, I do have some limits!) Turns out that no, actually there was someone in line at midnight for the show. (Oh hell no. I don’t ever need the front that bad!)  So, by the time we arrived at The Belasco at 12:30 – we were pleased to see that the line really wasn’t very long at all.  We set up camp for the day, complete with chairs, blankets, some snacks and beverages.

Here’s the thing about GA lines. They don’t suck unless you’re stuck in the rain or bad weather. Otherwise, there is a lot of socializing that goes on, and just like any other show – I have a great time seeing people I hadn’t seen in months, so my afternoon was spent roaming up and down the line chatting with people, and the time flew by.  Before I knew it they were setting up barricades and we were packing up and getting ready to go in.

Once inside, we settled into some prime viewing spots. I have to say, the audience, at least for me, was well-behaved. No pushing, shoving or trying to get up to the front. It was really nice, and I am happy to say I didn’t even mind it being GA for a change!  Before long, Mr. Hudson came out to do his DJ set.  I’m going to be honest – I had low expectations.  I didn’t know what to expect, but I figured there would be mostly music I didn’t know, and maybe I’d find something I liked. I was wrong. Mr. Hudson knew his audience, and he played a LOT of fantastic music.  He had no trouble looking at the crowd, smiling and seemed to have a great time himself. We danced along and after what felt like a super short set, he was leaving the stage and the roadies came out to set up for the main event.

Rather than retell the entire show, I’m going to focus on a few areas:

Sound/Look/etc

I was near the front, but for me, the sound seemed really muddy at times. I hope it’s not my hearing but you never know!!  I had a hard time even hearing some of Mr. Hudson’s music, and then when the band came out there were certain songs that just didn’t sound clear. I am assuming it was the sound system and acoustics of the venue that sucked. Even at the very end when John spoke into the microphone I only picked up on bits of what he said and I couldn’t hear Nick at all. (if anyone knows what they said could you let me know?)  This was the first time I’d seen the updated visuals and even the risers the band was on – for this show the risers/steps didn’t correspond with the onscreen visuals (they didn’t light up at all), but the visuals were really nice.  The one thing I have to mention is that the band doesn’t move as much as they used to…and by the band I mean John, Dom & Simon.  I couldn’t decide if this was because the stage was small (and it was) or if it was because their current production and choreography has them standing pretty much in their own spots. Since this was the only time I saw them, I couldn’t tell. Maybe the band was just tired. ???

Other than that though, I thought they looked and sounded great. Some said that Simon sounded raspy and I did see him cough but I guess I didn’t pick up on his voice being as raspy as it was in the weeks prior.  I liked how he sat down during What are the Chances, too.

Set List:

This was the only show I saw for this leg of their tour, and honestly – while the set list has a few additions (the short medley including NMOM, the Space Oddity tribute to Bowie and IDWYL), the rest of the set is pretty much the same as I saw in October.

To the band: I heard what you said in your Sirius XM town hall, that you’re aware the diehards want B-sides but that it’s not feasible because no one else knows those songs, and it would also mean relearning how to play them.  I guess from our point of view as fans, there comes a point when it makes zero sense to keep going to see the same basic show over and over again, and that is really what it’s become as of late to many people.  I can’t say I’m in that group yet because I’ve got tickets to 8 shows in July.  (I deserve every last one of them and it’s the way A & I are going to celebrate finishing our manuscript), but I see their point as well as I see that of the band. I walked up and down the GA line on Monday – I wish I would have taken video (and in July I will), because nearly everyone I spoke with are doing less shows this summer as a direct result of the set list not changing enough.  So I guess it comes down to whether or not the die hards really make enough of a difference in ticket sales (which I doubt, but I don’t know), and whether it’s worth the time to remember how to play Careless Memories or Friends of Mine or Late Bar, Secret Oktober, New Religion (which we’ve surveyed as being the #1 most requested  song die hards want to hear)…etc.  I don’t know.  I don’t think anyone expects an entirely new set list, but I think being brave enough to switch out a few would freshen the show as much for us as it would the band.

New Moon on Monday

All of that said, in my opinion, I have to be honest – I stood in awe several times during the show on Monday. When Simon sang New Moon on Monday – even though it was only 25 seconds – my heart swelled.  I haven’t heard that song live in many years (I can’t remember when it was played last). I adored every second of it and honestly just stopped and stood there, trying to soak it all in.  I had goosebumps and thoroughly enjoyed every single second.

I Don’t Want Your Love

Another great moment for me was during IDWYL. Again, it’s been a while since it was played – and when it stopped showing up on the set list I was happy to see it get a rest, but now that it’s back in the set it feels rejuvenated. The band seems happy playing it, and the fans really seemed to get into it too.

Tributes

The Space Oddity tribute was really, really cool – thank goodness the band has a guitar player (Dom Brown) that can handle it. I’d hate to have to see poor Nick have to sample all of that, otherwise. 😉  I even got teary eyed. It was a beautiful moment that I’m glad I was able to see.  While I still think SAP does not belong in the encore, I loved the tribute to Prince with the lovely things Simon said about him. For me, I’m still rocked to the core that he’s gone, and it’s nice to know the band cared enough to say something.

Overall

In a perfect world, the band would change-up their set even a little before July.  I know I’m a big (and loud) proponent of some of the obscurities – but even if the band didn’t incorporate B-sides,  there are other ways. They could shelve three songs that are tired, break down the set and they don’t give the impact the band needs, and add in three others that haven’t been played in years but are still known to many like New Religion, All You Need is Now, and maybe Serious…but those are just three off the top of my head from a catalog of thousands and at this point – I don’t really care what they put in the set as long as it’s new.  The few I’d remove might be: AVTAK, Come Undone and Ordinary World (with What are the Chances you don’t need both – and WATC is the one you need to be selling right now anyway). Granted, for every song I mentioned there are going to people screaming, “NOOOOO not that one.”  No kidding. We all have favorites, and yeah I’ve seen the outcry for The Reflex. Too damn bad. That’s the way it works folks, and I didn’t even bother to mention Rio, HLTW or GOF because those are stalwarts in every way for this band. Yeah, I’m tired of HLTW but it is the song everybody on the planet knows. I get it.  I see it when they play, and to be fair, I still dance and sing along, so what can I say?? I’m just gonna roll my eyes every time and Nick can smirk in my direction. No one will die if they miss AVTAK, but I think some might without Rio and HLTW. That said – if the band ever plays a fan show with B-sides (dreams are free) I had better not hear anything about anyone being hungry.

….you know, another way for them to handle this is to play a longer set like some of their contemporaries already do. Just saying. Ok, ok…moving on…

Still hate the spit zone (White Lines), but the good news is that I ducked.  Unfortunately, I failed to warn my husband. Oops.  He especially enjoyed the grin on Nick’s face as Simon spewed over the top of us. (ha ha ha)

The confetti canon is a great moment. I love it and I hope they don’t get rid of it. Still think Pressure Off is a fantastic song, I just wish we had radio stations with platforms to support it. (don’t we all?)

Danceophobia has really lost it’s luster for me. I picture it as a sort of rusted, slightly dented mirror ball now. It’s as used as Lohan herself (too much??), and it’s time to put it away.  Not even John’s dancing can save it, and now that Jessie Wagner is no longer touring with the band, why even bother – not even Lindsey knows the words anyway.

Best moment of the show for me? New Moon on Monday.

Worst? When they left the stage and the house lights went up.  🙂

Biggest surprise? It’s a tie: Kiesza coming out to sing Last Night in the City, which was VERY fun and a real treat – she is darling and is an amazing singer, and I Don’t Want Your Love  – I thought I’d still be bored with it, and wasn’t.

I can’t wait until July 8th. Chicago.  By then, I’ll be done writing and ready for a month-long party.

I hope the band will be ready.  For now, back to the salt-mines with me!

-R

Feel It in the Air: Duran Duran – Mohegan Sun

On Thursday April 7, I attended my 16th Duran Duran show. Although I’m a lifelong American fan dating back to Rio, I had never seen the band until 1997. In fact, nearly all of my Duran concerts occurred between the Medazzaland and Red Carpet Massacre tours (14 shows between 1997-2008, evenly split between the 90’s era and reunited lineups). As I sat with my wife and one of my sisters the other night, waiting for the show to start and chatting with other Duranies, these thoughts ran through my mind.  How was it that I was only seeing my 2nd show in the last 8 years? Of course, starting a family, buying a house, and job demands all get in the way, as does “Durantime” and the band’s lack of touring. Regardless, I made up my mind to go into the show completely open. I was going to enjoy it, even if they played “Hungry Like the Wolf” for two hours straight! (Well, maybe that would be a bit much…but you get my point.)

A little over 24 hours later, as I write this, I am still processing what was an amazing live performance of songs old and new.  Rather than go song by song, here are some general observations:

We’ve come too far to give up who we are. 

Chic’s set was awesome. Nile and the gang played all of their hits—“Le Freak,” “I Want Your Love,” and “Good Times”—in addition to a medley of other songs that he’d written for other artists. The highlight was a cover of David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance.” I won’t lie, I have always loved disco (before Duran Duran, my favorite artists included Andy Gibb and the Bee Gees…I was born in the early 70’s and that’s what I grew up with!) and seeing Nile perform these songs live was a dream come true. He has an energy and enthusiasm for life that comes through in his music. Nile introduced “Get Lucky,” a song he wrote with Daft Punk and Pharrell Williams several years ago, as the response to his cancer diagnosis (and he is now cancer free!). I had never heard “Get Lucky” but it resonated with me—musically and lyrically—as Nile, Duran, and all of us fans have truly “come too far to give up who we are.” Nile Rodgers and Chic perfectly set the stage for Duran with their funky, high energy performance.

Is it out of choice that you’re here next to me, or just the aftermath of moments as they pass?

 That line—from “What are the Chances”—is one of my favorites in the entirety of the Duran catalogue. As with any lyric, its interpretation depends on the listener. Last night, I wondered if it might refer to the relationship between Dom Brown and the band. Dom has been a loyal part of the Duran family for over a decade now, not just as a “touring” guitarist but co-writer on the last two (amazing) albums. Much has been made in the Duran fandom of his status (or lack thereof) as an “official” member of the band. All I know is what I saw and heard last night: an amazing show, with great chemistry, much of it involving Dom. Gone is the tension that marked the later Warren years and the initial reunion involving Andy (where something about the “Fab 5” just felt off). Now, they seem as relaxed and sure of themselves as they were in the early 80’s, and surely Dom deserves some measure of credit for that. “What are the Chances” was amazing, emotional, and a standout from last night’s show. I have been on the fence on the track for months now, but last night put me over the edge. Dom was also great on “I Don’t Want Your Love.” While I’ve seen different lineups perform that song, the Mohegan Sun show marked two firsts: The first time I’ve ever heard Dom play it, and the first time I’ve ever heard the guitar solo played properly, like Chester Kamen played it on Big Thing. Even the dreaded “Hungry Like the Wolf” sounded livelier and refreshed (my wife noticed that as well and she is no Duranie!). “Ordinary World,” another song I know some feel should be dropped (more on that in a moment) also sounded great, thanks to Dom’s faithful rendition. While I don’t fully understand the relationship between Dom and the band, and the fact that he seems to be kept at arm’s length at times, I only know what I saw last night. I hope to continue to see him playing with Duran for years to come.

We’re all busy being human; we remember.  

So when it comes down to it, there isn’t much I would change in last night’s set. “Last Night in the City” was far better live than I ever would have imagined, with Anna Ross doing a great job. As noted above, so too was “What are the Chances.” “Paper Gods” was the perfect opener. Complimented by the visuals of the band (minus Nick, unless I missed him) singing the Mr. Hudson backing vocal on the big screen, the band took the stage. Roger’s percussion and Nick’s synth line followed Simon’s vocal, and then the crowd went nuts as John’s bass kicked in. Putting “Wild Boys” earlier in the set (rather than toward the end, where it usually is if they play it) was a great decision. It got the crowd rocking early and followed the momentum of their entrance and “Paper Gods.” Perhaps the highlight of the night were two of the tracks that Nile Rodgers cowrote—“Notorious” and “Pressure Off”—played with the hit maker himself, who returned to the stage. His chemistry with John, Dom and Simon reinforced the fact that Duran truly is like a second band for him. Even “Hungry Like the Wolf” and “Ordinary World”—two hits that seem far overplayed and I could do without—sounded great last night and I would not have removed them.

That being said, I would make a few changes.   While it seemed well received, I would have eliminated “Come Undone.” I understand the band’s attachment to their few 90’s hits. However, we’re nearly a quarter century removed from The Wedding Album. If an 80’s hit like “Union of the Snake” or “The Reflex” can be omitted from the set, surely “Come Undone” can as well. Why not replace that spot in the set with something from the first three albums? “Last Chance on the Stairway” could easily function as an early mid-tempo number that would give the guys a breather while offering the fans (even the casual ones) a song they likely know.

Likewise, “Danceophobia” is a misstep that need not be repeated live. I understand from reading interviews how much the band worked on the track, and of course there is the celebrity connection with Lindsay Lohan performing on the studio version. If the goal is to get the casual Duranies to buy Paper Gods, why not replace “Danceophobia” with “Face for Today” or “Butterfly Girl”?

Finally, the band should either play the guitar-driven, 1993 version of “Too Much Information,” or go all-in and swap it out with “Drowning Man” and strip the guitar from that track (if they are so bent on playing something more from The Wedding Album). The sped-up, electro “Too Much Information” completely ruins one of their best songs.

Those quibbles aside, it was a great show for both long time Duranies and casual fans. The past may very well be “another country” but last night, for a few hours, Duran Duran, Nile Rodgers, and Chic successfully blended past and present songs for an amazing show.

HIGHLIGHTS: I Don’t Want Your Love, Paper Gods, Notorious, Pressure Off, What are the Chances, Planet Earth/Space Oddity, Save a Prayer, Sunrise/New Moon on Monday medley.

LEAST FAVORITE: Danceophobia, Too Much Information, Come Undone

MOST SURPRISING: White Lines continues to be a song that people go nuts for, even though most Duranies would probably like to see it replaced in the set. Yes, Rhonda, he still spit the water, although we were a section too far back to feel it.

BIGGEST OMISSION:  I understand the need to promote Paper Gods, but would it have killed the band to include something from All You Need Is Now?  All they need do is look at how Sunrise has become such a huge fan favorite, even with casual fans.  The same could be true of the song All You Need is Now if given the chance.  It has the same anthemic quality.

BY THE NUMBERS: Paper Gods (5), Rio (3), The Wedding Album (3), Duran Duran (2), SATR (1), Arena (1), Notorious (1), Big Thing (1), Thank You (1), Astronaut (1), & AVTAK.

-C.K

I Am a Signal Somewhere in Your Bliss

I have a confession to make. It’s likely to get me into trouble in some circles (when am I not in trouble with someone out there??), but I’m going to share anyway.

I haven’t listened to Paper Gods since the beginning of November.

In my defense, I have a seven-year old. I know that doesn’t sound like much of an opening line – but wait!  When the album first came out, I listened to it day and night. Any time I was in the car it would be on, and when I was at home and could put in ear buds without fearing that the house would go up in smoke without my noticing, I’d be listening. I wrote blog after blog about the album. I wrote, changed my mind, and wrote again. And then my youngest started listening. She plays Minecraft in her spare time, and when she’s playing she listens to music. Admittedly I didn’t know this for a while (which is another blog for another day), but she found the album on YouTube and started playing it while she’d “craft”.  You can’t obviously see my dining room table right now, but I’m on one side of it and she sits at the very end of it, close enough so that I’m able to see what’s going on should I feel the need to intervene, or just remind her that “real life” is still going on around her. One day I was writing or working on something and all of a sudden I recognize that she’s humming and partially singing…and it is a song I know.  I stop and listen – she’s singing Last Night in the City (as apparently one does while they’re playing Minecraft).  My eyes got wider and wider as I listened. Not only does she know the words, she knows Kiesza’s part and isn’t afraid to belt it.

I should probably mention that my little one takes singing lessons, too. She’s in something similar to Glee (Yeah, I do question my own judgment sometimes…) so I get the joy of hearing them sing songs like “What Does the Fox Say” in their “Glee” sort of way each week. Nope, not kidding. (Again, the whole judgment thing…) So, as I take her to and from school twice a week and then when we go to singing, she has taken to requesting music be played as though I’m not only her chauffeur, but also her personal DJ.

So where was I? Oh yes, Paper Gods. It quickly grew from requesting one song to asking for many songs off the album – and not necessarily in the order presented. All day, every day, she would ask for “Last Night in the City” and “Pressure Off” to be played. Sometimes she’d request “What are the Chances”, and other times it would be “You Kill Me with Silence”. She’d groan at “Danceophobia” (Yes! She IS my child), and after about the 1,000,000th time I had to play “Pressure Off” for her, I decided I was finished. I needed a break. I needed to hear other music, for crying out loud – no offense to Duran Duran, but I was sick of it (and it takes a lot of nerve for me to admit that, but really – I needed a change of pace!) So, I told her no. (A collective gasp heard ’round the world falls over the crowd…) There would be no more mom playing DJ in the car. We were going to listen to other things. Period. She protested. I stood firm. She is obviously the better fan (but I have better tickets to the shows, so there!).  Only joking, people…and remember, she’s seven.

This continued for about a month. Until Monday night when she caught me at a low point. It had been a rough weekend, I was tired, and I just wanted to get home. She came bouncing out of Glee class as I dragged my mostly dead body to the car. She jumped in, buckled up (she never does anything quickly so this was unusual), I fell into my seat, threw my bag beside me, buckled the safety belt and started the car, sighing deeply as I considered what I was going to rush home to make for dinner. Just as I’d settled on the fact that I didn’t care, a small, ever-so-kind voice from the back of the car requested “Pressure Off”.

Part of me wanted to resist. But I was too tired. I gave in and put it on. After not hearing it for over a month, I’d forgotten how good it was. I still love the hook to pieces and I have it on good authority from my small passenger that Janelle Monáe is still “awesome”. (We live in California. Deal with it.)

Yesterday morning, we got into the car to head to school. We leave at traffic time, so we can count on the drive taking about an hour.  Gosh I love Southern California. My youngest knows the drive can be long, and quickly suggested every so casually that we listen to Paper Gods the entire way to school. “We can even listen to it YOUR way, Mommy.” (That means I start the CD – yes CD because my car is old and I hate screwing around with my phone and the audio jack and CDs sound better anyway – and we listen from start to finish. No repeats, no skipping around.)  Again, part of me resisted. I wanted to wait until after the first of the year and listen to it alone and see how I felt, but I gave in. (This kid has my number in the worst way. Tune in when she’s hit her teens and we’ll all see how this goes…)

A couple of observations:

  1. My little one has grown up with Duran Duran being constant in her life, even more so than my older two because I didn’t start blogging until just after the youngest was born.  She thinks she knows them even though her MOM doesn’t even know them. This is funny to me.

  2. My girl can sing, and it is nothing for her to hit and hold the high notes that Janelle and Kiesza hit.  Ah…youth.  🙂  She dearly loves Paper Gods though, and I appreciate that. You know that youth market DD was after?  Well…they overshot and got the seven year-old market hooked!  (I am joking. Mostly.)

  3. It had been quite a while since I’d heard the whole album and I was curious about how I’d feel after being away from it. Did I really love Paper Gods in the same way that I love Rio or the first album??  Paper Gods still presents a formidable challenge in that it really forces the listener to fully open up and push old perceptions of Duran Duran aside. It’s not like anything else they’ve done, collectively speaking, yet it’s still them. Does that make it well-loved, or does it make it an album that I will continue to appreciate and grow with over time, but maybe not one that I grab immediately when I think of Duran Duran?

I put the album aside again for a while, figuring that after the holidays, I’m going to sit down and give it a dedicated listen,  hopefully without my little back-up singer so that I can concentrate. (I don’t dare say that to her!) I’m curious to see how I feel about it after more time away, and I’m wondering if others have done similar – either with this album or others.  Chime in if you care to share!

-R

Picking Duran Duran Favorites!

Today’s poll question about people’s favorite song off of Duran Duran’s latest, Paper Gods, is getting quite a lot of attention.  I love how many people have voted and I love when people comment on one form of social networking or another about why their favorite song is their favorite.  It got me thinking.  (Always dangerous, I know!) What makes a favorite song, a favorite?  Then, I started to think about songs that I really bonded with as a kid vs. the songs I bonded with as an adult.  They have definitely changed.  Is it because my criteria for a favorite song has changed?  I think so!

When I was a kid, I remember getting certain songs in my head.  In fact, they were so in my head that I couldn’t get them out and I drove everyone around me crazy with them!  Let me give a couple of examples.  First, I remember having the chorus to Save a Prayer stuck in my head one afternoon when I was hanging out with my best friend, at the time.  It was summer and we were hanging out in my backyard.  I kept singing the chorus out loud over and over again. (Much like what my students do to me now!)  My childhood best friend was also a Duranie so you would think that she would appreciate this.  She did, too…for like the first two and a half hours.  Then, she had enough!  A similar situation happened when the Reflex came out.  Luckily, this time, both of us were completely addicted!  We were so addicted, in fact, that whenever and I mean whenever it was on MTV or the radio we would call each other up!!  We spent a lot of time on the phone in the spring of 1984!  Thus, as a kid, what made a favorite song was that it got stuck in my head!  It had to be catchy!  I didn’t think of the lyrics or dive deep into the instrumentation.  Now, though…

When I think of my favorite songs now, they tend to be ones in which the instrumentation really sticks out!  My favorite is Planet Earth, which has the fabulous call and answer between guitar and keyboard, not to mention that fabulous bass line!  I also love how the lyrics capture this spirit that Duran has with popular culture, science fiction, humanity.  Therefore, the lyrics tend to be super important to me as well now.  I might go so far as to say that, for the last couple of albums, what has really hooked me is the lyrics.  Let me give some examples.  All You Need Is Now, the song, took me a few listens to grasp the instrumentation with that jarring and unusual beginning.  What kept me listening, though, was the lyrics.  “Stay with the music.  Let it play a little longer” is a sentiment that most Duranies have felt or feel even now about the band.  Many of us loved that the song seemed to be about them and US and our history together.  Then, another one of my absolute favorite Duran songs of all time grabbed me, lyrically, from this album, too, which is Before the Rain.  In this case, I loved the feel of the song, musically, but didn’t have a connection to the lyrics until my beloved cat and grandma died ten days apart.  All of a sudden lines like, “On the bomb ticks that is my heartbeat.  In every life flash, in every car crash.  I hear the silence waiting to fall” took on new meaning as I watched two lives come to an end, leaving my broken heart beating and silence.

Lyrics have become so important to me that I do think they played a huge role in me really grasping and embracing Paper Gods.  I had been listening to the album for a week or so and had begun to really enjoy it but I wasn’t hooked yet.  All of a sudden, I was listening to it with earbuds on to really focus on the songs when I noticed the lyrics to Last Night in the City, a song that I had initially dismissed.  Lines like, “Hearts’ spinning all around on me (together).  Now they’re surrounding me.  This is how we get connected.  Running out the shadows into light!”  This is how I feel on tour!  Let me listen again!  More lines that feel like touring like, “I’m not gonna sleep tonight.  Till the morning fills the sky,” and “This is our time!”  Holy crap!  At that very minute, I got a text message from Rhonda who had realized the exact same thing!  For literally the next two hours, Rhonda and I went back through each song, listening to the lyrics, analyzing them, connecting to them.

Fast forward to a Sunday in October as I sat on a plane heading back home from tour and once again, I found myself listening to the album.  I had a piece of paper in front of me that held my flight info.  Throughout my flight, it became more than that.  It became a paper filled with more lyrics, more lines that now held new significance to me.  I still have that paper as it represents an even deeper connection to the album than I had before.  Each time I listen to Duran or really dive into the lyrics, I’m reminded of how SMART the lyrics really are.  They make me think.  They make me feel.  They also often feel like they are directly speaking to and/or about me.  Perhaps, this is why how I choose my favorite Duran songs have shifted.  Lyrics matter a lot more now.

What about the rest of you?  How do you choose your favorites?  Has the process changed?

-A