March 28th 2016 – DPAC – Durham, North Carolina[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]When I was a wee, toe-headed lad in the mid-1980s, MTV was my Bible. Video most assuredly killed the radio star. At the vanguard of that war was Duran Duran. Years after “Rio” released, they still received heavy airplay on MTV for “Hungry Like the Wolf.” I remember being enthralled by the sexy, feral catwoman, not to mention the sweet yacht and brightly-colored suits from the “Rio” video. As soon as I learned the word “rock star,” I equated it with Duran Duran.
Fast forward 30 years. That’s right: THIRTY FUCKING YEARS. In that time, we have seen fads rise and fall right alongside foreign regimes. Sons of American presidents became presidents themselves. Vinyl went out of fashion then back in again. A weird, scrawny kid from the Midwest moved out east and started a music blog with his best friend that no one reads. So much happened! During that time, my love for Duran Duran waxed and waned. I grew up, I got into death metal, Duran Duran put out some questionable records, Deftones did a bitchin’ cover of “The Chauffeur.” You know: normal stuff. But then Bex asked if we wanted to see Duran Duran at DPAC. I instantly reverted into that dorky kid from the Midwest, trying to put my finger on what was “cool.” I knew that being “cool” started with Duran Duran for me. Would it come full circle, 30 years later?
Lan and Bex rolled through to scoop me up on the way to Durham. I put down a couple of Mad River Jamaica Reds and walked toward DPAC, ready to see how 30 years treated the biggest rock stars in the world (not to mention myself). My favorite shows nowadays are always “adult shows.” [Editor’s Note: No, not like the nudie booths.] Shows where the median age is well over 30 and there is ample seating. DPAC fits the bill and is one helluva nice venue. Not a bad seat in the house and beers were in the high, single-digit range, which is great for any upscale venue. Lan made a pit stop to put some nuts in his mouth (of the roasted variety) and we made it to our seats for the opening act, Shamir, whose interracial cavalcade started out with some funky basslines, groovy organ, and spacey synth but quickly lost me in the third song when they devolved into Shallow Gravy from the Venture Bros. [Editor’s Note: I swear H.E.L.P.E.R. comes pre-programmed with the same beat.]
Shamir employed an interesting mix of gender-bending vocals, especially by the backup singer who overused the vocoder on her second mic, turning her into a baritoned hype man as a counterpoint to Shamir’s high-pitched alto. All the bigoted normies in NC who thought that H.B. 2 was a good idea probably came down with a case of the vapors midway through the first song, trying to wrap their heads around which bathroom Shamir should use. [Editor’s Note: Like it has any impact on their lives whatsoever, except to allow them to continue to oppress people who lead alternative lifestyles. Thanks, North Carolina. I thought I moved east to get away from such small-minded, baseless hatred.]
The highlight of the show for me was when Bex commented on the synth player who, while singing backup and performing altogether admirably, looked like she missed her home-school graduation to be there that night. [Editor’s Note: #rekt.]
After Shamir’s set, I got up to expel the first 3 beers I imbibed and to pick up another. By the time I sat back down, the venue had filled up so quickly that I had a hard time finding my seat again. The empty row of seats to my right were now occupied by a handful of middle-aged women who had delved into the murky depths of their closets to squeeze themselves into their best vintage 80s gear in honor of Duran Duran. I honestly thought that they would harsh my buzz, man, but it turned out to be the exact opposite. [Editor’s Note: More on that later.]
DPAC erupted with the high pitched screams of women reliving their teenhoods as they caught their first glances of Simon taking the stage. For most of the shows I attend, I try to wear earplugs of some variety. I didn’t need them for Duran Duran but I wished I had had them to mitigate the damage caused by their screaming fans. That was something I had never experienced in my years of seeing underground metal bands. I guess I just don’t make it out to “pop” concerts very often.
What separates Duran Duran from many of their now-retired contemporaries is simple: Pure showmanship. They had the crowd eating out of their collective hand with their delightfully British banter and upbeat attitudes. They seemed rather surprised that Durham, NC of all places came to get wild on a Monday night. Even after a false start on a song midway through the set, Simon was nonplussed and found a way to parlay it into a shout-out to Nick Rhodes. That is the kind of save that can only be accomplished by a seasoned professional.
As they launched into “Hungry Like the Wolf” early in the set and after my ears stopped ringing from the crowd’s banshee-like screeching, I wondered to myself what must it feel like to have written a song that is still great after 30 years. That must be a unique kind of pride in one’s accomplishments. I was also stoked to relive the early 90s “Wedding Album” era tunes that I remembered so well as a counterpoint to the grunge movement at the time. Personally, I’ll take “Come Undone” over “Come as You Are” any day. [Editor’s Note: Though maybe not over “They’ve come to snuff the Rooster.”]
As the 19-song set carried on, I began to notice the middle-aged woman next to me begin to encroach on my personal space as she was dancing. In a traditionally male viewpoint, I also noticed that I didn’t care because she was rather attractive. She and I exchanged a smattering of pleasantries and touches of the arm during the first half of the set. When I got in line for another beer around the set’s midpoint, the same woman walked up, pointing out, “You’re my neighbor!” We chatted a bit about Duran Duran fandom, the extravagance of ticket prices, her 6 (!) kids, our ages [Editor’s Note: 34 and 40, for those of you playing at home.], and the heavy-handed pours from the bartender. As we returned to our seats and kept tossing back drinks, she started coming out of her shell more and more. By the time Duran Duran were wrapping up their set with “Girls on Film,” Lan remarked that I was making some decent progress. [Editor’s Note: I know. I was as shocked as you are.] Before I knew it, she and I were dancing to “Rio” so closely that you couldn’t have fit a piece of paper between us while her friends were taking cell phone pics of our tawdry escapades. For the record, I will now take this opportunity to share the intro to my Craig’s List Missed Connection:
“Dear woman in the snakeskin pants and tasseled top in Section 5, Row H of the Duran Duran show at DPAC:
Thank you for deciding not to go home with me. You would have surely been disappointed. But in all seriousness, you should probably call me anyway. You single-handedly made me increase the age range on my Match profile by an extra five years. And there was no way you had 6 kids. You were looking foine, gurl.”
And they lived happily ever after.
4/5 stars = Great
I would have given them that last star had they played “The Chauffeur,” one of the best album closers of the entire decade. (Or if that smokin’ cougar would have made a terrible life choice and decided to come home with me.) Either way, Duran Duran proved that they still have it after all these years.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]