By Nick Thompson
Let’s set the scene: a Tuesday evening in a run down area one mile out of the Birmingham city centre. A venue capacity of 2500 people, with a full-queue around the block of an old converted church and assembly hall to see Duran play live for the first time in five years. While I imagined there would be more women than men, I was surprised to see that there were slightly more men in line than women, maybe 55% men to 45% women.
For me, it was my sixth time setting them live since 1988. My wife Suzanne and I had tickets to see them at the Isle of Wight festival, but that was rescheduled due to COVID. The new date clashed with our honeymoon plans. So, we sold those tickets. Then, new gigs were announced. Read on.
Imagine, two short weeks before your wedding, dashing in from the bottom of the garden…. “You know how we’re going to Wales for the honeymoon? Weeeelllll…. If I can get tickets…. Would you fancy staying the honeymoon a day earlier in Brum watching Duran Duran???” Cue the next 24 hours: desperately getting tickets, and finding “suitable accommodation” to justify the first night of the honeymoon. Certainly not just any old rainy night away, but the first night of our honeymoon! Thank God for Mastercard in times like these…
The email said no support band, Duran Duran would take the stage at 2030,(ed: that’s 8:30 for those of us yanks out here!) but by 2110 (9:10) the crowd were getting restless watching the same roadie move bottles of water around the stage, and checking and re-checking Roger’s drums.
Come on! It’s been five years!!!
Of the three released tracks so far, I was intrigued to see if they’d play “More Joy”, as I couldn’t see how they’d weave that into a set list. I was not surprised to see that they’d omitted it, in favour of an unheard track named “Tonight United”, which I recorded for Twitter Duranies brethren around the world to hear. I liked the bass slapping in it, but wasn’t blown away by the vocal arrangement. The set opener “Invisible”, and mid-set offering, “Anniversary”, were both faithful reproductions of the recordings.
Simon threw himself energetically into the performance, and hit the high notes on tracks like AVTAK, and Save A Prayer, during which the audience took over and dutifully sang the chorus.
I was pleased and surprised to hear deeper cuts like Skin Trade, which I really love, but the crowd seemingly weren’t wild about. The mood definitely changed with Friends of Mine. It’s a real classic from the first album that wasn’t a single, but is beloved in the community. A fact certainly made clear by the reaction from the audience around me where I stood, about a third of the way from the stage.
Anna Ross joined Simon at the front of stage for “Pressure Off”, and really shined, seemingly enjoying her moment. I’m adding PO to my list of classic DD tracks now as the audience really got into it, especially during that “Pressure pressure pressure off” break 2/3rds of the way through, followed by the oh oh oh ohs….