Fandom. Sometimes it’s a blessing, other times, it’s probably a curse.
This past weekend, I went to a concert with friends. As with the previous concert I attended, this was more of a “concert in the park” than an actual ticketed gig. There were lawn chairs, blankets, and well…many bottles of wine. This concert, featuring the same band I’d seen the week before (DV8…previously known as DV8D until they discovered another band with the same name), had a much larger audience, since it was over a holiday weekend. Even so, we knew what to expect: a lot of 80s tunes, with some real zingers thrown in, such as “Hungry Like the Wolf”.
That’s right, your friend Rhonda openly chose to attend a concert that had “Hungry Like the Wolf” on the setlist (and yes, I knew it would be on there beforehand). I have a couple of comments to make. First, this shouldn’t surprise anyone, as I do still attend Duran Duran shows on the regular, and we all KNOW it will be on the set list. Despite their recent assertions otherwise, they do play it pretty much every night. Maybe they don’t HAVE to play it, but they willingly choose to do so. Somehow, that makes me feel even less “okay”, now that I think about it. Second, I’m pretty sure that whatever “Hell” I am eventually assigned will likely have this very song on repeat for eternity. May as well get used to it, am I right??
Fandom though. It is in times like the one I am about to describe, where the sort of fandom kicks in that we all know. It’s the kind where YOU can make fun of your band, but if anyone else does it, there might be bloodshed.
No, I didn’t end up in a fist fight. (But man that would have made for a good tale to tell!) I did however, call out a cover band, and I do it again. Simply put, if you’re going to play a cover song that was a huge hit for the folks of a “certain age” in your audience, you’d better do it right, or somebody might just point it out. Get the lyrics right, learn the featured solo, or just play the backing track. Don’t just fake it. Someone will know.
*I* am that someone.
So I wasn’t surprised when the familiar drum beat and guitar riff signaled that my time had arrived. My husband, trained in the art of Duranie, naturally had to lean over and elbow me. He claims he wasn’t sure if I knew it was “Hungry Like the Wolf”, but I’m pretty sure he just enjoys giving me a rough time about it. As I’ve said before, my family will absolutely play the song at my funeral, assuming they all outlive me. That’s just the kind of family we are. I groaned, but also paid rapt attention because the previous weekend, the lyrics were so incredibly botched I took the time to message the band.
Listen, I told you – I *am* that someone.
I was nice about it, but suggested that perhaps they needed to get their lyrics from a better website. I even gave suggestions. They don’t hide the fact that the lead singer has an iPod clamped to a stand so that he can read the lyrics as he goes. By all means, if I were up there, I’d do the same. I highly doubt he had any idea that whatever website he grabbed the lyrics from could be as wrong as it was. I wasn’t so awful as to suggest they pick any other song from their catalog, or send a list of my favorites – I just mentioned that I’m familiar with the song and that the lyrics were way off. There were a couple of other songs that were really wrong too, and that I knew of a couple of better sites if that helped. I didn’t even mention that the featured guitar part was so bad I nearly needed earplugs, or that they really need a keyboard player, so in that sense, I was well behaved!
I immediately noticed the corrected lyrics, so score one for Rhonda. Public service accomplished, and problem solved! But then, just as I could feel the muscles in my shoulders begin to release, up came the featured guitar part during the bridge. It’s not really a solo, but it’s also…well, I don’t know how else to describe it. My experience is with symphonic bands, not a rock band! It starts off with that familiar flutter between notes, and then the guitarist/keyboard player (did I mention that this guitar plays kind of like a keyboard? It is the oddest thing I’ve seen yet – right up with the keytar, and even THAT would have been better than this) decides he’s going to just ad lib.
I won’t go into detail, suffice to say that it didn’t go over that well. I did come to the realization that you know, it’s perfectly fine if *I* make fun of the song, or give the (real) band a rough time when they play it, it’s just not okay when others try to cover their music and do it badly. The interesting part of this, at least to me, is that this is a band that could play “Let’s Go Crazy” by Prince pretty well, they even did “Fame” by David Bowie (or as I like to say – Duran Duran), they played a few songs by The Cure, and even some by INXS, and played them all very well. But then there were songs like “Hungry Like the Wolf” and even “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” by Tears for Fears, and those were completely desecrated, not only by a singer who genuinely didn’t seem to know how the song went (is it really that difficult to listen to the original and learn it?), but also the lack of keyboard.
It all reminds me of the interview we did with Bart Van Bemmel from Wild Boys: The Duran Duran Experience. I remember talking with him about how discerning Duran Duran fans are about his tribute band. Although I haven’t had the opportunity to see his band Wild Boys, I have seen several other tributes over the years. I think he’s dead-on with his description of Duran Duran fans. We have zero tolerance for fakes, in a lot of ways. The word “overzealous” comes to mind, and I see that potential even in myself. I think sometimes, we can really ruin the experience for ourselves and everyone else around us by expecting perfection, which is really not possible. There’s no such thing. The best a tribute band can do is to try for authenticity. I can tell the difference between a band that is trying their best to honor the original, and a band that using the stereotypes of the original in order to make fun, and create their own shtick. The former can be an awesome experience, the latter tends to be cringy.
Some leeway has to be given for cover bands (as opposed to a tribute band, which in my head is about coming as close as possible to the original). They’re not going to get it all perfect because their goal isn’t necessarily to recreate the original as heard on the album. It’s to do a reasonable facsimile. That said, I think that if a cover is going to be done, the band owes it to themselves and their audience to at least know how the original goes. Learn the melody, even. There’s a difference between taking liberties with a song, or a guitar solo, and not actually knowing the guitar solo, or knowing the main melody. In some cases I’ve seen, the outcome is so bad one has to wonder if it’s an intended joke.
Just between you and I, dear reader – I had a hard time listening to DV8 ruin a decent Duran Duran song that night. Sure, it was just “Hungry Like the Wolf”, and I’d be thrilled if the band would just retire it for a tour or four, but it was the song that broke America in the 1980s. I actually defended its honor. What?!?