Tag Archives: Let’s Dance

March 2017 Katy Kafe with Simon!

I am late. Ridiculously late. Not one, not five…but TEN days late…..for posting the highlights of the most recent Katy Kafe with Simon.

This is the kind of thing that happens when someone is working and misses a tweet or post from Katy, announcing that the most recent Kafe is up and ready for listening. Thanks to Debbie on Twitter!  When it appeared that I was going to ignore the Kafe completely, she sent a note asking about it. I saw the message yesterday while welcoming my students on to campus yesterday, and made a note to figure out what she was talking about!

I think this might have been the first time I truly missed a Kafe completely, and I’m sorry.  But, without further delay – here are my highlights.  You all know the disclaimer I’m about to write, but I will say it anyway:

These are my notes from the Katy Kafe, it is not a full-transcript of what was said. Often, I interject with my own opinion, and therefore, if you really want the full Kafe, you’ll need to purchase a membership to Duranduranmusic.com.  

Simon on Coffee

Over the past couple of years, Simon has talked about coffee quite a bit in the Kafe. He is down to six cups a day (down from 12, which he claims “…is apparently not good for you.” I don’t even know how to respond to that, Simon…except that you never fail to make me laugh. If I drank six cups a day, my heart rate would be about 175 and I’d end up in the hospital. My “ticker” already likes to go faster than normal as it is!)  But now, he drinks Bullet Coffee.

This is not really a “new” thing, because I remember seeing this little concoction mentioned by many of my friends on Facebook two years ago or more.  Alas, we’ll play along… Simon describes that basically, you brew coffee as normal, then put it into a blender (or bullet blender, as the case may be!) along with some coconut oil (he calls it wax, which does nothing to sell me on it, but he’s right – that’s what it looks and feels like) and some butter (not just regular butter, either butter from grass-fed cows, or Irish butter – maybe they don’t call it that in England?? – or as Simon mentions, goat butter). You blend it, and apparently it tastes good, and puts your body into ketosis, or fat-burning mode. Simon says he likes to drink it before he trains.

I’d like to drink it before I go to the doctor for my monthly “how high is your pulse and blood pressure today, Rhonda?” check-ins. Except I would do it just to see the reaction from the nurse and my doctor. Yes, I’m that kind of patient. Moving on…

Simon on the David Bowie Tribute Performance

For those wondering how Simon’s performance of “Let’s Dance” (which was fantastic, BTW) came about, it turns out that Sterling originally contacted Nick to play.  Sterling plays drums in Bowie’s stage band, and the tribute involved other artists coming on stage to perform with the band. Nick mentioned it to Simon, who was interested in singing. The organizers decided to have Simon perform “Let’s Dance”, (not one of Simon’s favorite Bowie songs). This made sense to Simon though, because it was from the same time frame as Duran Duran’s height in popularity (The Reflex), and the song itself suited him very well.

Simon describes the song as not being easy to sing, due to the massive gaps in singing – the timing has to be just right to keep the song flowing. As we all know (and you can see below), he did a great job with it.

 

After the show, the performers went to hotel that I didn’t catch the name of (sorry, I was busy multitasking by making breakfast for my youngest!), and stayed up very, very, late. He follows up by saying that he is “really good at metabolizing booze”.

BEST. QUOTE. EVER.  Oh, Simon. 

Simon on Music (Italy)!

Originally, the offer to do this show came through an Italian promoter who had never worked with Duran Duran. (The funny thing about this little segue was that Simon originally used the term “agent”…and then said, “I’m not really good about business things like this – ‘job titles’ and that sort of thing!” )

Simon rarely does solo performances, preferring to spend his time working on Duran Duran things and “being exclusive”, but this time, he decided to do it.

“Broken Dream” is a song that Simon completely reimagined. He sings it lower than the original, because his natural register is much lower than what he often does in Duran Duran. He had thought about the musical arrangement, wanting to go with a modern-sounding orchestra and organ accompaniment. The finished product, which I linked below, isn’t exactly as he had originally imagined, but after listening to it, Simon felt it really worked.

As a personal note, I thought it was easily one of Simon’s best vocal performances I’ve ever heard. If you haven’t watched it, you should. 

 

Simon said that learning the words was the toughest part, because for him, a great performance means completely relaxing so that he completely opens up vocally.

Katy said that she really loved his performance, proclaiming it better than the original, and commented on his suit (Sir Tom Baker), and his hair.

Simon on the Upcoming Tour Dates

This short tour began with the band wanting to do dates in South America since it had been a long time. However, the band felt they needed to do something different from just showing up and playing “the same thing”.  He made the point that Lalapalooza gives them access to an entirely new audience.  This does make sense, although as a fan I have to wonder why going and playing shows for their South American Duranies doesn’t seem to be enough.  My guess is that in order to justify the trip, business-wise (and I don’t know to whom) – they need to prove they would be gaining audience numbers. I’m not sure, but I do know that South America is thrilled they’re making their way to see them!

Katy pressed Simon on the possibility of upcoming Australian dates, to which Simon said that dates are coming for both there and the Far East, but they are not yet confirmed.  He mentioned Hong Kong, Japan and Singapore before saying he really didn’t know. I guess we’ll all find out soon!

Simon on the band’s big 4-0

The Kafe ended on a positive note, as Katy asked about any plans the band may have for their 40th birthday next year. Simon commented that this, even with the few dates they’ve got coming up, is their bit of time off before beginning to celebrate.  He continued on saying that while he didn’t join the band until the 80s, they’re celebrating the beginnings of John and Nick getting the band together and that it’s bound to be a “busy, fun, year” filled with tours and “lots of stuff”!

(I hope everyone’s bank accounts and credit cards are ready. Mine, however, are not. EEK!)

So sorry it was so late!!

-R

 

Spirit rose a meter and stepped aside: Celebrating David Bowie

Just one year ago today, David Bowie left us.

I’m nearly incredulous that it has already been a year in one moment, and in the next, I’m shocked that it hasn’t been longer…because it certainly feels that way.

I still read and hear pain when the band speaks of their loss in interviews I’ve seen and read. In one sense, I can imagine how they feel. I don’t know what that day will feel like, and I don’t want to know.  Nearly all of them have mentioned grappling with the mere notion that David Bowie is no longer with us.

I can remember going online that day, and seeing the heart wrenching tweets from friends and people I admire. The loss was palatable, and the space David left will never be filled.

We’ve had a year of Duran Duran touring and incorporating Space Oddity into their shows, celebrating David Bowie. My own daughter (my youngest) thinks that it’s a Duran Duran song because she saw them play it live at her first concert this summer. There is still a sense of melancholy, and great love and respect when they segue from Planet Earth to Space Oddity during the show, with David Bowie, “bigger than life” looking  on behind them. As strange as it might seem, I’ve enjoyed Duran doing the song – sharing their love and influence with the rest of us, letting us in to help in some small way, shoulder their loss. Our loss, really.

This past weekend, Simon took part in a very special show at Brixton Academy in London, on what would have been David’s 70th birthday.  “Celebrating David Bowie with Gary Oldman and Friends” was a show featuring David’s band, along with a myriad of special guests, including Simon, members of Spandau Ballet, Joe Elliott of Def Leppard, and Mr. Hudson. For Simon’s part, he performed “Let’s Dance”.

I didn’t watch all the videos for the show, but you BET I watched Simon’s. If you want to catch any of them, check out NME’s wonderful article and collection of videos, including the entire setlist.  Rest assured, Simon sounded fantastic and strong. While I watched him perform, he seemed so proud to be up there, maybe even reverent. Even from here, I was proud to see him knock that song out of the park.  I thought about how music heals, and how much deep love and respect these musicians have for David Bowie.

People often say that these people never completely leave us, that the music stays with us forever, and it is their gift.  Sometimes that thought comforts and other times, it feels like a huge cliché. I’m not going to lie, the thought does very little to quell my own fear of loss. I learned early on in my life to make sure that the people I love most know how I feel – which is really hard to do when it is a band like Duran Duran. The complexity of the “fan” thing tends to get in the way as much as it brought me to them to begin with. However,  we all do love and treasure them, in very much the same way as they do Bowie. We can only hope they know.

During a year where many of us have lost idols and artists we love and respect, seeing Simon—and all of Duran Duran, really—pay respect to their own idol, has taught me a lot about grace, love and celebrating one’s idols.

-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 Feel A Void: Lady Gaga’s Tribute to Bowie

Yeah, I saw Lady Gaga last night. After realizing I wasn’t going to be at home in time to catch the beginning and a quick text home, I knew I’d be playing with the fast-forward button on my DVR in order to squeeze in the more interesting parts of the Grammy Awards into my evening TV plans. Rest assured, Lady Gaga and Nile were on the top of that list.

Naturally, I watched some of the rest of the awards show as well. I don’t know about anyone else, but it very much felt like a LACK of awards show, and much more about just performances, which is fine…I guess…but it was strange to be five minutes into the broadcast and have LL Cool J announce that Lamar Kendrick had already won five awards. What the hell?  Maybe that’s just me.

As I continued fast forwarding whenever possible, I finally got to the Bowie tribute. Here is where things get tricky for me. First of all, I wouldn’t dare call myself a huge Bowie fan. I have dear friends who are huge Bowie fans, and it would be unfair to put myself in that same category. I will say that I have become far more of a fan since his passing, and that’s probably a subject for a much different blog post that has more to do with art than fandom. Moving on…

Performing something called a tribute is a very difficult balancing act. The goal of course is to honor the artist. That artist might be honored posthumously, as in the case of David Bowie…or they might be watching in person, as in the case of Lionel Richie last night. Either way, I truly believe that the people performing do so in an attempt to honor.  Do fair justice and respect to the work without making the performance about you (the performer) when it should be about the artist being honored. Make it too much about the person you’re honoring, and it can end up looking like a mockery of the very person(s) you’re trying to honor.

This goes as much for tribute bands, who make a living (or try to do so!) playing onstage in the persona of the band/artist they honor as it would for something like the Grammy’s where a huge portion of the show was dedicated to tributes (like last night). When I go to see a tribute band (I go often and have seen many, from Elvis and the Beatles to Oingo Boingo, Depeche Mode and Duran Duran to name but a few), the acts that are the most successful are the ones that take it seriously without going over the edge into ridiculous. Make too many jokes about the band you’re paying tribute to – and you’ve just taken that down a road that fans will not like. Play too much like your real-self, changing the original music and arrangements to suit your own taste, and you’re just a cover band, which is fine, but don’t call yourself a tribute act. There’s always a fine line to walk, and many bands do not do it well.

So, with that in mind, I watched intently as Lady Gaga’s face appeared on my TV screen and became painted like the Starman. She came on stage with beautiful red-hair and sang incredibly.  Had she just done that: relied on her voice, her obvious love for Bowie’s style, music and art, I think it would have been fine, I really do. But somewhere along the line, either she decided or someone told her that she should try to completely embody Bowie. And that’s where it all went wrong for me. I am not even a huge Bowie fan, and yet I couldn’t help feeling as though I was watching a poorly executed Vegas act in certain moments of the performance. It wasn’t her voice, gosh no. She was incredibly strong and did a beautiful job. It was theatrics that really got me. No one need point out that Bowie himself was theatrical. Believe me, the point has not been overlooked. The problem is, in recreating that drama, it felt very over-the-top, sliding down the steep terrain into mockery. It was pointed out to me by Katy Krassner that she really didn’t seem to be doing that intentionally (and I am sure she wasn’t), but I struggled with how to describe it all.  Campy is the right word. Picture a Vegas lounge act, and I think we’re on the right track.

Here’s the thing, at least for me: Lady Gaga sang beautifully last night. I want to make sure that point comes across. As much as I disliked and was confused by what was going on visually, her voice completely blew me away. I really don’t know that they could have found anyone else to do the job as well when it came to singing the songs. I loved seeing Nile every time he was given precious camera time, and I was thrilled to hear just a few bars of “Let’s Dance”.  I just don’t understand why her voice and Nile’s obvious talent and emotion for his friend weren’t enough without the theatrics.

The difference between Gaga and Bowie comes down to artistry. Bowie just knew how to make it all work together without one overshadowing the other, and he did it with ease. Bowie’s work never really looked like he was forcing it into being a spectacle, in my opinion. Even at the time of his death and in the making of the videos for “Blackstar” and “Lazarus”, he was able to work in those deep, hidden messages without changing the intention of his work. Hell, I fell in love with Lazarus before I even realized what it was truly about. That it ended up being this lasting message to fans about the end of his life on this earth, and the idea that he made his death into this gorgeous supernova which becomes a black star (another word for a black hole) that will live on, just makes me long for more. (I could write and talk for hours about that single album and its artistic references. I mean, the man turned his death into a fucking multimedia event. Who does that?!?) When Bowie sang Starman, for instance, it wasn’t campy or in danger of becoming a late-night lounge act on the Vegas strip. It was just enough without going over the edge. That’s where the real art lies, and for me, that’s what last night’s performance was missing.

I’ll end with this thought: should the day come when it is Duran Duran being honored, I would hope that it would be done with the utmost in care and respect. I don’t need to see a full-mock up of the yacht from Rio, military suits, tigers, leopards, or a scene from Wild Boys on stage to honor them. I simply want to see respect from an industry that has offered them very, very little over the years. I would think that is all any fan would want.

-R