Thursday, April 10, 2008

Duran Duran Delivers! (Concert Review)


Once again, the Manila Bulletin gifts me with tickets to see Duran Duran at the more than modestly-filled Araneta Coliseum. Last week, I had to painfully give away the Philippine STAR’s complimentary tickets to the much-awaited (by me anyways) TOTO concert because I had to hurriedly leave town and join my family in Baguio City in the Tiong San Harrison fire (more on that in another entry). Thankfully this week, there were no tragedies, nor disasters to keep me from another 80’s fix.

I take it back. Duran Duran is more than an 80’s fix. They may have had their heyday in the 80’s, but with 90’s hits like the mostly-Warren Cuccurullo-penned “Ordinary World,” and “Come Undone,” and continuous album production throughout the 2000’s, it wouldn’t be right to dismiss these guys as a full-blown retro act.

But seeing Simon le Bon plant himself front and center at the stage, with the fog rising behind him with flashes of sharp colored lights framing his silhouette, in those shiny tight pants (said by Hugh Grant to “force all the blood to his heart”), skinny-chic necktie, and gelled up hair, somehow echoed nothing less than 80’s glam. Damn good pop star intro, but yeah… it’s a band that seems to unabashedly acknowledge that their best days are behind them… but damn, those best days were really good.

Seeing le Bon in his get-up prompted my wife to point out the spot-on similarity with Hugh Grant in his has-been role in the 2007 rom-com, “Music & Lyrics.” John Taylor now sports close-cropped hair, Nick Rhodes has turned himself into an Andy Warhol clone, and while acknowledged, nobody really cares about how Roger Taylor looks. But yeah, four out of five original members ain’t so bad… (maybe they should’ve brought back Cuccurullo to replace Andy Taylor?)

...with lead vocal chores exclusively on le Bon’s by now middle-aged shoulders, I wouldn’t be surprised if they had a stretcher out back just in case...
Given their song catalogue, it was a cinch for Duran Duran to fill the 1:45-hours with a good mix. A sampling of their more recent material, with a more than generous serving of their familiar hits made for an entertaining evening that had me cheering until my voice was hoarse, and slightly hopping in rhythm where I stood, considering I’ve professed for most of my thinking life that I do not dance. Ever. They made me hop. Rhythmically. Yes, it was good.

Breaking the ice with “the Valley” the kick off track from their new “Red Carpet Massacre,” le Bon coyly introduced the first of many glam-era hits by asking the audience in slight British sneer, “…are you ‘hungry’?” The crowd went positively wild like I did, when they slammed into “Hungry Like a Wolf.” Yeah, the party was definitely starting now…

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Followed by “Planet Earth,” “Red Carpet Massacre,” which Simon introduced, otherwise I wouldn’t have known what the hell it was. Two more unfamiliar songs, then “Falling Down,” a song they introduced with adequate name-dropping in the form of Justin Timberlake to try and crank up their hip factor. Yeah, right…

They bring in the heavy artillery with “Come Undone,” where we finally figure out the real purpose of the female back-up singer in the sidelines. And they positively bring the house down with the campy, but infectious “the Reflex,” then break into their number one hit “View to a Kill,” which ends this run of classics.

Yet two more new, unfamiliar songs later, we get a shout-out party with “Notorious.”

This is the part where one notices that Simon le Bon is starting to look tired. He has taken off his glam jacket, is probably trying to remember why on Planet Earth he chose not to roll on more under-arm anti-perspirant, and most likely hoping he could change into looser pants.

But this is also the part where I conclude that Simon le Bon has an alter ego… it’s called the Energizer Bunny.

I swear the man works hard for his money and his band. Granted, while melodic, 80’s New Romantic-era music mostly doesn’t require multiple-octave singing ranges, Simon le Bon holds the distinction of mostly still sounding like his records. Screw lighting and other special effects, doesn’t matter how tired and worn out Simon looked, all his pop star flourishes throughout every song showed you that this man was having a good time, and he wanted YOU to have a good time. Granted, while John Taylor helped in working up the crowd, with lead vocal chores exclusively on le Bon’s by now middle-aged shoulders, I wouldn’t be surprised if they had a stretcher out back just in case, given his gusto-filled performance. I also suspect that on his frequent runs to the rear of the stage he was taking whiffs from an oxygen tank.

He was moving, dancing and leaping around the stage in a spirited emulation of his 20-something year-old self. Though one cannot deny that this was a portlier, more wrinkled Simon le Bon and company, they obviously intended to deliver a good show.

The closest thing to a slow-down that le Bon got was to pointlessly strap on a guitar to find a place to put his restless arms and hands, and strum along to “Save a Prayer” (one of my favorite Duran Duran songs), then crank the energy onstage back up with “Girls on Film.” Slow down a tad again with a rather pensive rendition of “Ordinary World,” followed by another unfamiliar song, then (Reach Up for the) Sunrise, and finally topped off with “Wild Boys.”

Naturally, there’s an encore. Now here’s a perfect example of a great band with such rich back catalogue of genuine radio hits, where the encore could have been anything from “Union of the Snake,” “New Moon on Monday,” the political (but dated) “Is There Something I Should Know?,” “My Own Way,” or “Rio.” They wisely chose the last, and rounded up the evening in a colorfully flowing ocean that was a mix of happy 80’s nostalgia, excellent showmanship, and simply good, good, music.

When the crowd thundered for the obligatory encore, John Taylor commented that we “sure know how to make noise,” and mentioning that with [this kind of crowd] they should “come back more often.” I say, YEAH!

I left Araneta Coliseum hoarse and looking forward to going home for a few tablespoons of Pei Pa Koa. Now let’s wait for the Kemps, Tony Hadley, John Keeble and Steve Norman to officially reunite and drop by… not that watered down trio of Mr. Hadley, Mr. Keeble and Mr. Norman who came by a few years ago. Nothing like a full band.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Jasper Golangco!!! Yeah, its you man. I was one time browsing the friendster looking for some old friends, then I remember Montage Studios, scanning my mind who's a person that ive known there in full name. I typed up your name, no luck!!!Search thru yahoo, bingo! I landed in your very own blogspot.Hows things goin? its been ages since i work as newbie graphic designer at the ol Montage. Well, am currently working outside the Philippines here in Qatar together with my family. Been here for like almost 5years now, just got my vacation from Philippines a month ago despite of the crisis the country faces, I still love the Philippines. Times runs sooo fast. drop me sometimes at gene_magat@yahoo.com.

Gene Magat

Anonymous said...

Jasper Golangco!!! Yeah, its you man. I was one time browsing the friendster looking for some old friends, then I remember Montage Studios, scanning my mind who's a person that ive known there in full name. I typed up your name, no luck!!!Search thru yahoo, bingo! I landed in your very own blogspot.Hows things goin? its been ages since i work as newbie graphic designer at the ol Montage. Well, am currently working outside the Philippines here in Qatar together with my family. Been here for like almost 5years now, just got my vacation from Philippines a month ago despite of the crisis the country faces, I still love the Philippines. Times runs sooo fast. drop me sometimes at gene_magat@yahoo.com.

Gene Magat

Jasper Greek Lao Golangco said...

great to hear from you, gene...!