As the lights go down on another Record Store Day, Duran Duran have finally delivered a record worth the 5am wake-up call and four hours in a queue with other like-minded music fans. After last year’s disappointing EP Budokan, it was time for Duran Duran to deliver something of lasting excitement to their fans. This year’s package is an exquisite reissue of the band’s 1984 performances at the ridiculously named Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Arena. While the packaging alone makes it an essential piece of Duran Duran history, a few quibbles keep it from fully capturing the excitement and energy surrounding the band in 1984.
My first thought when I saw the announcement was, how different can it be from Arena? To put that to the test, I spent an afternoon flipping between the vinyl and an original CD version of Arena. Right away, the mix was noticeably different with regards to the synths. Nick Rhodes can be heard much clearer on As The Lights Go Down compared to the original Arena. However, when compared to the 2004 remastered version, the live performances sound pretty similar. Playing giant sheds, the sound quality remains a challenge but the mix on this release goes a long way to capturing what even the audiences might have missed under the din of screaming fans.
Where the album stumbles resides in the sequencing. The opening of “Tiger Tiger” builds in intensity and you can visualize a dark arena ready to erupt when Roger hits the first floor tom on “Is There Something I Should Know?”. Just like the tour, it is followed by Simon asking “is anybody hungry?” followed by a roaring version of “Hungry Like the Wolf” that sounds as good today as it did when it first the airwaves. Breaking the order of Arena, “Union of the Snake” follows which provides a more authentic concert experience. On the 1984 tour, the band typically followed “Hungry Like the Wolf” with the three singles from Seven and the Ragged Tiger.
At each Oakland show, “New Religion” followed “Union of the Snake” so apart from skipping “The Reflex” and “New Moon On Monday”, the show unfolds much like it did at the time. However, then the show becomes a bit jumbled with “Save A Prayer” appearing far too early on the record followed by “Rio” which paired with “Girls On Film” at the end of each Oakland show. It really doesn’t belong in the middle of the record given how important it is to the band’s popularity. It would never have appeared mid-set in 1984 so it’s an odd choice to slip it into the mix here. On the remastered Arena, it was wisely included with “Girls” at the end of the CD.
The album reaches an emotional peak with “The Seventh Stranger” and “The Chauffeur”. The moody darkness of the songs hints at the deeper essence of the band which was plastered over by the media at the time. Hearing them live again, the fans aren’t the only ones who remember how meaningful they were. Revisiting the tapes of the shows to prepare this release apparently inspired the band to dust off “The Seventh Stranger” for their 2019 tour dates. Having seen two of the shows, I can attest to the emotional waterfall it created in the audience.
The final side of As The Lights Go Down ends strong with the expected hits that dominated the end of their 1984 shows. “Girls On Film” sounds especially good on this record. Best of all on this release, the energy of the show is not disrupted by studio single “The Wild Boys”. While it made sense commercially to tack it onto Arena, it never made much sense wedged in the middle of the album. Having a more full concert document from 1984 is an absolute treasure and the beautiful artwork takes you back to the Sing Blue Silver era when we were all under the spell of Duran Duran.
Could the band have done a little more for Record Store Day? I’m looking at a wasted slab of vinyl that makes up the D side so, yes. There were at least two more live songs from that tour in the vault: “The Reflex” and “(I’m Looking For) Cracks In the Pavement” which surfaced as b-sides. A little editing of the title to As the Lights Go Down (live 1984) would do the trick since they weren’t recorded in Oakland. Add those songs to the release and move “Save A Prayer” and “Rio” to where they would have appeared during the tour. Then we would have the most complete reminder of the Sing Blue Silver tour. But as the lights go down in my music room tonight, I really don’t care. I’m watching a beautiful pink disc spin me right back to being an eleven year old obsessed with the coolest band on earth.
Jason Lent (Velvet Rebel Music) is our newest Daily Duranie Contributor! You will be seeing more of Jason’s contributions, and we are thrilled that he agreed to write with us! He 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.