PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.

Reviews

Duran Duran: 25 October 2011, New York

Duran Duran's North American fall tour sees the band make a worthy return to Madison Square Garden.

Duran Duran

Duran Duran

City: New York
Venue: Madison Square Garden
Date: 2011-10-25

With all the other venues on their North American tour of a considerably smaller nature, when Duran Duran announced their date at Madison Square Garden for October 25, it seemed a bit out of step. Sure, it was done in conjunction with some anniversary of a pair of popular NYC septuagenarian radio hosts, and as some cynic nearby said, they probably gave away a shit ton of tickets. But to poorly paraphrase a quote that may or may not have come from another aged New Yorker with a fondness for Madison Square Garden, Woody Allen: 80% of pop icon success is getting people to show up.

A lot of people turned up at the venerable arena on Tuesday night, skipping out on whatever else people do on a Tuesday night in and around NYC to hear the long list of hits in Duran Duran’s extensive back catalogue. And let’s face it: the hits are what much of the crowd turned up for. The faithful in the GA pit in front of the stage would have probably preferred to see a show with no hits at all, though they dutifully sang along with "Ordinary World" and "Hungry Like the Wolf" as they have countless times in the past. But those golden oldies saw the greatest number of iPhone lighter apps held aloft throughout the lower and upper bowls. The new songs? Well, that was something of a mixed bag, especially as far as audience participation goes.

Back in April, Duran Duran hit the US on a short tour which included what could have been something of a game changer for them, a sunset performance on the big stage on the last night of the Coachella Music and Arts Festival. For reasons they’re only partly responsible for, Duran Duran has spent much of their career marginalized by so-called serious music fans. Frequent spreads in 16 Magazine did little for their legitimacy in the '80s, though in their defense, if you were young, beautiful and stuffed stem to stern with cocaine, you might have pouted your lips for the camera and accepted the pre-pubescent shrieks of stadiums full of little girls as your lot too.

At Coachella, none of that mattered. Sure, there were dour musos who slouched their shoulders and bitched on their blogs about having to hear "Rio" in the desert, conveniently ignoring the fact that many of the other acts spread out over the three days of the festival had been influenced themselves by Duran Duran.

Maybe it was feeling like they had something to prove, or it was refreshing to tap into the art-rock side aesthetic that was such a part of their earliest work, but Duran Duran killed. Perhaps the stage was still likely buzzing with the unbridled energy of Death From Above 1979’s set, or it’s possible there’s more magic in the air at Coachella than all the piles of drugs consumed by some of the kids who go there. Whatever it was, from the moment they built the Euro-disco majesty of "Planet Earth" from the ground up to the closing crash of "Girls on Film", it was an absolute, unequivocal victory.

As has often been the case with Duran Duran since the mid-'80s, they failed to capitalize on that momentum. In this particular case, everything went quiet, as frontman Simon Le Bon suffered a summer of vocal rehabilitation.

And now they’re touring North America in support of an album that was digitally released 10 months ago. The Mark Ronson-produced All You Need is Now is one of the finest collections of Duran Duran’s career, but beyond its nearly universal critical acclaim, it didn’t make much of a sales impact.

Duran Duran belongs in arenas like Madison Square Garden. They did back in March 1984, when they played a pair of sold out shows there, and they have in the handful of times they’ve returned over the years. They play well to the back of the house and are still handsome enough to get squeals of delight out of their fans up front and those elsewhere in the house who saw them on the big screens that were part of the band’s fairly flashy stage setup.

The screens were mostly engaging, and the constantly shifting Twitter feed was fun to see. Also kind of cool was the presence of four giant plastic faces high above the stage, on which film that included the faces of Le Bon, keyboardist Nick Rhodes, bass guitarist John Taylor and drummer Roger Taylor were broadcast in a way that would be familiar to anyone who’s ever hit the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland.

But then we were also treated to clips showcasing the band’s inexplicable continued support for Second Life, the online World of Warcraft-style community for people who would rather pretend they’re thin and can dance. Duran Duran first became involved with Second Life around the time of their 2007 album, Red Carpet Massacre, and even then it already felt hopelessly out of fashion.

The music was also not without its peaks and valleys, especially if you gauge such things on how the crowd responds. Most people stood and swayed and even got some of the lyrics right during the chart-toppers from the '80s and '90s, and most of those same people sat during the other songs. There was an audible groan from someone in Section 108 when the lush semi-ballad "Leave a Light On" was introduced with the standard "here’s our new single" line. But that sort of behavior wasn’t just reserved for the new stuff: "Tiger Tiger", an instrumental from the 1983 album Seven and the Ragged Tiger likely aired mid-set to give Le Bon a chance to rest his voice, sounded great, but for many in the crowd, its moody vibe just didn’t mean anything.

The prospect of a night of vast chasms between ebbs and flows was established with the first two songs; the opening number was "Before the Rain", a solemn gem which either closed or turned up midway through the second half of the new album depending upon whether you prefer the initial digital version or the overstuffed CD/vinyl. As a means of beginning a concert – at least one in a vast arena – it didn’t have the feel of a party-starting jam, and the dour black and white footage on the screens that might as well have come from The Sorrow and the Pity didn’t change that. And then they played "Planet Earth", which was really where the show began.

It would be disingenuous to say all the new stuff fell completely short with the people in the crowd who don’t give a shit that Duran Duran recorded anything after 1985, though the vibe was definitely not happening during "Blame the Machines" or "The Man Who Stole a Leopard". Aside from having the stones to play those absolutely terrific songs in an arena at least partly packed with people who’ve never heard them, the fault can’t lie with Duran Duran. They played it like they meant it from start to finish, and they sounded terrific. Le Bon’s voice was strong through most of the set, and when it wasn’t it’s probably because he’s always sounded like that. He’s a swashbuckler on stage, not a sophisticate.

In addition to the album’s eponymous lead single, the two All You Need is Now songs which got the best response from the greatest number of people were "Girl Panic!" and "Safe (In the Heat of the Moment)", which saw guest appearances by Ronson and Scissor Sisters’ Ana Matronic respectively. The former is slated to make some sort of splash next month with a video that harkens back to Duran Duran’s prolific early years, especially as it’s loaded with supermodels. Matronic has only appeared live on stage with Duran Duran to perform the duet on two occasions, with the first being Coachella.

Duran Duran’s tour rolled on through the northeast after hitting New York City, and they’ll pick it up again in Europe in a month or so, appearing on dates initially canceled when Le Bon’s voice bottomed out. They’ve good reason to be proud of the songs on All You Need is Now and despite the world tour happening so late in the game, it’s hard to blame them for wanting to try and support that music. But in Madison Square Garden on a Tuesday night, that noble mission statement only mattered to some of the people there. The rest were perfectly happy to sing along to the oldies.

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Jefferson Starship Soar Again with 'Mother of the Sun'

Rock goddess Cathy Richardson speaks out about honoring the legacy of Paul Kantner, songwriting with Grace Slick for the Jefferson Starship's new album, and rocking the vote to dump Trump.

Books

Black Diamond Queens: African American Women and Rock and Roll (excerpt)

Ikette Claudia Lennear, rumored to be the inspiration for Mick Jagger's "Brown Sugar", often felt disconnect between her identity as an African American woman and her engagement with rock. Enjoy this excerpt of cultural anthropologist Maureen Mahon's Black Diamond Queens, courtesy of Duke University Press.

Maureen Mahon
Music

Ane Brun's 'After the Great Storm' Features Some of Her Best Songs

The irresolution and unease that pervade Ane Brun's After the Great Storm perfectly mirror the anxiety and social isolation that have engulfed this post-pandemic era.

Music

'Long Hot Summers' Is a Lavish, Long-Overdue Boxed Set from the Style Council

Paul Weller's misunderstood, underappreciated '80s soul-pop outfit the Style Council are the subject of a multi-disc collection that's perfect for the uninitiated and a great nostalgia trip for those who heard it all the first time.

Music

ABBA's 'Super Trouper' at 40

ABBA's winning – if slightly uneven – seventh album Super Trouper is reissued on 45rpm vinyl for its birthday.

Music

The Mountain Goats Find New Sonic Inspiration on 'Getting Into Knives'

John Darnielle explores new sounds on his 19th studio album as the Mountain Goats—and creates his best record in years with Getting Into Knives.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 60-41

PopMatters' coverage of the 2000s' best recordings continues with selections spanning Swedish progressive metal to minimalist electrosoul.

Books

Is Carl Neville's 'Eminent Domain' Worth the Effort?

In Carl Neville's latest novel, Eminent Domain, he creates complexities and then shatters them into tiny narrative bits arrayed along a non-linear timeline.

Film

Horrors in the Closet: Horrifying Heteronormative Scapegoating

The artificial connection between homosexuality and communism created the popular myth of evil and undetectable gay subversives living inside 1950s American society. Film both reflected and refracted the homophobia.

Music

Johnny Nash Refused to Remember His Place

Johnny Nash, part rock era crooner, part Motown, and part reggae, was too polite for the more militant wing of the Civil Rights movement, but he also suffered at the hands of a racist music industry that wouldn't market him as a Black heartthrob. Through it all he was himself, as he continuously refused to "remember his place".

Music

John Hollenbeck Completes a Trilogy with 'Songs You Like a Lot'

The third (and final?) collaboration between a brilliant jazz composer/arranger, the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, vocalists Kate McGarry and Theo Bleckman, and the post-1950 American pop song. So great that it shivers with joy.

Music

The Return of the Rentals After Six Years Away

The Rentals release a space-themed album, Q36, with one absolute gem of a song.

Music

Matthew Murphy's Post-Wombats Project Sounds a Lot Like the Wombats (And It's a Good Thing)

While UK anxiety-pop auteurs the Wombats are currently hibernating, frontman Matthew "Murph" Murphy goes it alone with a new band, a mess of deprecating new earworms, and revived energy.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 80-61

In this next segment of PopMatters' look back on the music of the 2000s, we examine works by British electronic pioneers, Americana legends, and Armenian metal provocateurs.

Music

In the Tempest's Eye: An Interview with Surfer Blood

Surfer Blood's 2010 debut put them on the map, but their critical sizzle soon faded. After a 2017 comeback of sorts, the group's new record finds them expanding their sonic by revisiting their hometown with a surprising degree of reverence.

Music

Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.

Books

Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.

Music

'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.