I was wrong about something, and while I’m super depressed, I’m also willing to admit my mistake. For years now, I have chided the band for continuing to play show, after show, after show, filled with primarily “hits”, leaving little room for anything else. Decades have now drifted by, with barely space for three or possibly four “new” songs, and maybe one or two “deep cuts” on a set list. Yes, I have been that person who, at least at one point or another, dared to complain about the setlist never really changing.
Granted, some others have chastised me in return for doing such things. The suggestion has been made that I should just be “grateful they play” in the US, as many other places in the world have been overlooked.
That point is fair. They definitely don’t come to the USA just because the like the fans. I dare say it’s likely money that does the convincing…but, even so, point taken.
Despite the change in my own tune over the years – I have learned to accept that the set is going to remain hit-dependent – the set list debate is ongoing, at least while the band is touring. For as many times as I’ve read that shows just are not worth attending unless Duran Duran plays “The Reflex”, or “Rio”, or even “Hungry Like the Wolf”, I’ve also read emphatic posts from fans that insist it is time for the band to “mix it up a bit” and play a variety of other suggested songs. It’s a lengthy list, to be sure!
Mostly, I’ve just given up. Duran Duran is going to do whatever it is that they’re going to do. I can either let the argument go and just be happy to see them; or I can get upset over something as trivial as a set list, nitpick, yell, scream, what have you, and just not see them live any longer. They’ve never been a band to take suggestions from the fan community, so isn’t this a lot of wasted energy anyway? My thought, at least during the past couple of tours, has been “Yes”.
Even though I’d largely given up the fight and let others do the debating, I still think about the set list at times, particularly when they’re about to do two intimate shows for fans that I’d give my eye-teeth to be at, if not for the current Covid situation. For most of us, we are at a point in our fandom where the band could play just about anything, and we would know the words. Whether the band plays hits, or they play deep, dark cuts that haven’t seen the light of day in decades, I think most of us would know the song within a note or two. We are lucky in that regard. Other fans, people who maybe know their hits, or knew their hits in the 80s and haven’t seen them since, might not.
This brings me to the mistake I mentioned. Last night I went to see Pat Benatar at the Vina Robles Amphitheater in Paso Robles. In case I haven’t mentioned it, the venue is probably the nicest I’ve ever visited. I’ve seen a lot of concerts over the years, and believe me when I say this is saying a lot. Anyway, as I sat on the lawn watching her show last night, I realized a couple of things. First of all, she has some die hard fans. They were sitting in the front five or so rows last night, and three of them got into a near fist fight in the front row. Enough of one to cause Pat to stop the show and comment about how she is somebody’s grandmother and “don’t make me come down there” to break it up. Regardless, she had fans who knew every single word to any song she sang, hit or not.
My friends and I, on the other hand, were on the lawn. Out of our group, it seemed as though I knew the most about her career and her music. I knew most of what she sang last night, and not many of the songs were hits. Comparatively speaking, my group felt that Train – the band we’d seen just a few days prior – had a much better, more energetic, show. They stuck to mainstream hits, and while I would agree that the band had more “get up and go” compared to Neil and Pat, who were the only people on the stage that really moved around at all (and to be fair, they are also at least 10 if not 15 years older than those in Train), I think it had far more to do with the set list at hand.
While I’d love to pretend that most of us who go to Duran Duran shows are diehard fans, I think most of us realize this just isn’t the case. Sure, people within the first few rows are probably dedicated fans – but behind all of those people we recognize and call “family”, are a legion of fans who likely know the MTV video hits, and perhaps a few others. Maybe, if we are lucky, they’ve heard “Sunrise”. More than that though? We’re kidding ourselves. All you have to do is turn around during a Duran show, where the first five rows are mostly standing, and see everyone sit down as soon as the band strikes up “Paper Gods”, or “Secret Oktober”, or even “Girl Panic”. Hell, I’ve watched people sit during “Planet Earth”, which boggles my mind. If that’s happening, the newer albums don’t even have a chance. Even if people like what they’re hearing, they’ve never heard it before. They don’t know the words. They can’t quite dance to it with the same energy as “Girls on Film”.
Even so, I trudge on. All of Duran Duran’s catalog is just SO good. Why should it matter so much? Can’t they just sneak a few songs in and cut something else we’ve heard 50,000 times already??? Nick’s response in nearly every Katy Kafe when he asked is almost always worded the same way. “We have a great catalog with many wonderful songs, which is a fantastic problem to have. We simply cannot leave out songs like ________________ because we don’t want people to go away disappointed.” Gah. So sick of that answer. Really???
Yes, really. Read on.
Pat Benatar has her own catalog of hits to choose from, particularly when playing for an American audience that was coming of age in the 1980s. Yet last night, she played about four that *most* people knew, choosing to instead highlight songs that went mostly ignored on American radio, or were new songs she is including in a musical written over the past five years that is due to be announced in the next few days. I wasn’t familiar with that much of it, and found myself growing bored. I was disappointed because even during the encore, she played one song I hadn’t never heard, and a medley of about four of her hits – which still didn’t include my favorite, “Shadows of the Night” (yes Jason, it is my favorite too!). I came away from the show a little bit deflated. I really don’t think I’d go see Pat again, although I do want to acknowledge that she looked and sounded great. You would never know that she is 68 years old, much less a grandmother. That alone continues to keep her in my heart as my hero. When I grow up, I want to be just like her. I just wish she’d played more of the hits I knew and always wanted to see her sing and play.
As I walked back out to my car, the thought struck me. “Dammit, Nick was right.” (I see you grinning, Nicholas.)
It figures. Point taken.