October 6, 2011
Verizon Theatre at Grand Prairie
Grand Prairie, TX USA
Review by Love Tsunami
Photos by Julia Bessler
If you say the name Duran Duran, a lot of 40 year old women will squeal like a 12 year old swooning over Justin Beiber. Or possibly lose their g*dd*mn minds. On October 6, 2011 at Verizon Theatre in Grand Prairie, Texas, 6,000 grown women and 30 men turned into adolescent girls when Duran Duran took the stage at 9 p.m. after a reasonably entertaining warm up by opening band, Neon Trees. Just kidding - it was more like 1,000 men. Duran Duran was often scorned by males in their early career because they were so damn pretty, but the combination of erotic, romantic, intelligent lyrics and sensual visuals made them hard for the female of the species to resist. I screamed when Simon Le Bon walked on stage, nearly hyperventilating. I seriously couldn't help it. It doesn't seem like that long ago when I believed I was going to have tumultuous affair with each of them, ultimately wedding and bearing the children of my true love - Mr. LeBon - because my best friend had her sights on Roger Taylor and I couldn't break her heart by stealing him. It totally goes against a vital Girl Commandment. Thou shalt not psychotically crush on the same band member as your BFF.
Here we were - me and my very same BFF - at a Duran Duran concert. Finally. Her mom got us tickets for Seven and the Ragged Tiger tour, but my mom grounded me at the 11th hour so this wasn't just a concert. It was the cauterization of an old wound. They started the show with a song from their most recent album "All You Need Is Now". Brilliant. Hit the crowd with something new to rekindle the flame. They really knew how to romance us. Every woman in the audience had something special and private in their hormone dripping, youthful fantasies with one (at least) of the band members and "Before The Rain" was the musical equivalent of showing up on the doorstep with roses after 20 years.
A row of four 3-D blank white face masks hung above the stage as an integral visual element. Film footage, usually of the band's faces, was superimposed on them throughout the evening, making them larger than life. Duran Duran was the first band to use the big screens and live video in 1984 and they keep doing what works. They are so adept at creating atmosphere with video and lighting that the music itself can be lost in the waves of imagery crashing against the occipital lobe. I had to consciously bring myself back to a listening mode, especially during "Blame the Machines" when screens rolled clips of Fritz Lang's "Metropolis". They introduced the song with a touching homage to Steve Jobs, whose passing shook the world the day before.
John Taylor twanged his bass strings and peacocked like the rock star he is. He paraded back and forth with charming confidence, occasionally sharing the microphone and spotlight with Simon Le Bon who mastered the crowd only the way a seasoned front man can. Nick Rhodes was unobtrusive and refined, as always. His playing style on keyboard has a baroque quality, bringing a timeless sensation essential to the sound of Duran Duran. Roger Taylor is primal, precise, and visceral. His subtle stage presence and powerful drumming reminded me why sometimes the Girl Commandments are broken. Doubt it? Then listen to this and envision his well-developed guns glistening with sweat while he pounds away.
Yeah... oh, wait, sorry. Having a moment there...
Guest band members filled out their presence and gave them balance. Chastity Ashley on a small percussion setup doubled the bang of Roger's buck in several numbers. Anna Ross gave a strong, feminine vocal performance that tempered all the testosterone charging the stage. Dom Brown replaced Andy Taylor on guitar after the band cited irreconcilable differences mid-tour in 2006. He is a flawless contemporary British guitarist who engages well with existing Duran Duran members and makes strong contributions to their evolving sound. No 80s icon band would be complete without a gratuitous saxophone and Doug Brown filled the role without an ounce of cheese in his performance. John Taylor recognized the innate feminine need of his audience for communication and showcased Doug's talent with sax lead instrumental "Tiger Tiger" to give the crowd a TweetBreak. It was the first time I've ever seen a band use technology addiction effectively. It allowed the key members to get a break and change shirts before coming back to give us more. It was genius, I tell you!
This wasn't a great show because I'm a huge fan or because I could finally stop demonizing my mother for stealing a defining erogenous moment which irrevocably affected my relationship with her. It was great because Duran Duran really loves their fans with everything they've got. The time and effort needed to create and synchronize that visual cacophony with their music set rivals the efforts of award winning film installations at the MOMA in New York City and they do it night after night. That's reciprocal fan love, if I ever saw it. They still bring artistry and fresh passion to a body of work spanning decades. If you're a guy who hates on the Duran fan, consider instead thanking Duran Duran for creating a target rich environment filled with hot energy and fueling the imaginations of your former and future girlfriends. It's not like a bad band gets to write and play the theme for a James Bond movie, right?
Blame The Rain
A View To A Kill
All You Need Is Now
Blame The Machines
Leave A Light On
Hungry Like The Wolf