Alright! Third Duran Duran show!
And here I am thinking I’m hot shit when everybody around me is talking about how they caught the band on their Big Thing tour back in the late-eighties. You know, back when Simon LeBon thought he was the frontman for INXS and began sporting a stringy hairdo with bad leather jackets (which looks doubly special on grainy VHS transfers). But in hearing snippets of these anecdotes from the ever-thickening crowd, my nerves calmed themselves. The first time I saw the gang of British “wild boys,” it was in this very venue. The theater at the Foxwoods MGM Grand Casino Resort, a swanky adult arcade with a nightclub and trendy food options lining the perimeter of the gaming hall. It’s beautiful, really, if not a complete assault on the senses. And when seeing the band at this venue initially, two things became very clear almost immediately.
The 2011 Connecticut Stop
1 – The show did not sell out. Not even close.
2 – Half of the audience had complementary tickets and may not have been entirely aware of who Duran Duran were.
This made for a very tense and awkward experience. The more you dance, the more you actually look out of place. I was decked out in head to toe with Duran Duran swag, most of which was homemade. I was belting out the words to every track, and I tried to find a groove with the band. Unfortunately, probably about six people around me were doing the same. And somehow, we looked like the ridiculous ones. A grumpy, miserable crowd can ruin the entire experience, and although I was on Cloud 9 from finally seeing my favorite band tear through a killer set, I retroactively regard it as one of my most disappointing concerts. The band, of course, were so happy to be on stage that it didn’t really matter to them if the dorks in the backrow were sitting down with their arms folded, playing with their phones as if waiting at a bus stop. But quite a large number of people ignored the music until they ended with a kick-ass rendition of Girls on Film to close the show… and that pissed. me. off.
When I saw the band for a second time, in my hometown of Boston surrounded by tried and true Duranies, it washed the bad taste of my mouth. These tickets weren’t coupled with hotel rooms and promises of slot machines and free alcohol. These people had paid the money to spend an amazing evening with the boys of Rio. Aside from the fact that I ended up meeting the band that night along with a great friend of mine, the show was so much more fun from beginning to end.
I definitely had my reservations about returning to Connecticut for another casino show, where you never know just how the gauge the audience.
This time, though, I was pleasantly surprised. I was surrounded by fans. Some die-hards who knew the lines to every song and played along with some of the more obscure moments (White Lines, anybody?); some who were reliving their 80s glory days who really only knew the words to their top hits. But regardless, everybody (mostly everybody) was there to have a great time. At a Duran Duran concert, you have to accept the fact that there will be a lot of boyfriends and husbands dragged by their gals, who are snapping their gum all the way back to 1983 when they wore scrunchies and had John Taylor cut-outs plastered across their walls. But they stay out of people’s way for the most part. And a few of them, after tirelessly sitting through this band’s set multiple times a year, have come to enjoy A View to a Kill and The Wild Boys. They coyly sing along. It’s kind of cute. They stop when you catch them. Generally speaking, at least in our section of the theater, the crowd was having way more fun than when I had first seen the band at the MGM Grand Theater.
MNDR: The Awkward Opening Act
This enthusiasm was not shared with opening act MNDR (unfortunately not MDNA), a New York electro-dance-pop chick with a strung-out vibe and a slew of catchy tracks that ironically had no place at a DD concert. While it may have seemed like an orchestrated match in heaven by producer Mark Ronson, there was a serious disconnect between this spunky girl and the slightly more… mature audience. The collective age at a DD show, I suspect, is at around 36 to 45. And quite a large handful them are there to relive their glory days. It happens at every show. The cougar moms come out to play. Duran Duran made electronica cool to the mainstream back then. MNDR is way more suitable for a Frankfurt dance club, her sound far more punchy and abrasive than anything Simon and Nick have ever written. I wouldn’t call this audience a gang of wild club kids. Just people who like to have a few cups of wine and dance their asses off. I enjoyed MNDR’s music, but I did not enjoy her awkward and clumsy performance for sixteen apathetic people. I’d like to see her in her element and not at a casino. But only if she turns the volume down on her synthesizer because that shit was so loud that people, holding their ears, left the theater running until she cleared the stage.
About ten minutes before the lights went down, the crowd really thickened. Any anxiety I had about this show not selling well dissipated shortly after MNDR high-tailed it out of the spotlight. My friend and I were seated next to some real Duranies. I got to overhear their conversation a little, in which they seemed to be discussing past tours, tour books, and all things Duran. One of them commented on the pennant/scarf-thingy I bought from the DD Fan Store, and we shared a few laughs throughout the show. But I do wish I could have talked to them more, but I can be a total pussy at times. They seemed like they were enjoying the music the most out of anybody there.
I don’t tend to full out dance like I’m back in Germany, but I do like to find a groove, move around and scream out the lyrics like any good fan. I found it was easy to do given the people behind us and to the sides of us. There were a few sticklers placed right in front of us, but if they have to be anywhere near me, I’d prefer in front because they sit their asses down during some of the best moments, and I get to take clear shots with my camera. And I can only tolerate a few. Luckily, they didn’t have the majority and push it.
I’ve had my bones to pick with this setlist since they initially cut Being Followed out of it. The first time I saw DD live, they surprised the audience with a sparse and classic rendition of The Chauffeur. Unfortunately, there were no little surprises on this stop. And even though I have seen more of less this same setlist on all three shows I’ve been to on the All You Need is Now Tour, they never fail to make the old stuff sound fresh and new. Simon has a real presence, even when flubbing the lines on The Reflex and Before the Rain, and Nick found a way to make Planet Earth sound like they wrote it a week ago by adding a punchier synth beat at the beginning. It kind of sounded like something Robyn and Klas Ahlund would come up with. The show was rounded out with some interesting choices in the underrated Union of the Snake and crowd-pleaser White Lines, but the times I felt most connected to the crowd came during the audience participation sections of Notorious, Save a Prayer and (Reach Up for the) Sunrise, during which we held our hands above our heads until Simon finished holding that last final note.
The core members of the band were in peak condition, Roger’s drumming in particular being phenomenal. John played that fucking bass, Dom Brown showed off his talents, and the second Simon roared on his saxophone in a way that would make Clarence Clemmons proud. Lastly, Anna Ross, a stunning vision in black sequins, added some real spunk to album clunker Safe, a song most hardcore Duranies like to forget even exists. But let me tell you, the band certainly knows how to inject life into it, and Anna certainly turns up the energy for her solo contribution. At times, she feels like she’s a true member of the band. With this line-up, they sound unstoppable, and only gives me great hope for the future.
Bring on 2014 and a new album!