Sunday, 6 December 2015

Duran Duran @ The NEC Genting Arena - 04/12/2015

The Genting Arena is best described as a cross between an airport departure lounge, what premier league football stadiums dream they are and an exercise in seeing how much you can overcharge for every kind of food and drink under the sun. It's also got lovely staff and on this brisk - but not too stormy - night, it was the venue for the return of Birmingham's greatest 80's export (or, as Simon Le Bon put it, it's "bastard children"). The venue was mostly rammed, the audience was mostly over thirty and everyone was moderately buzzing at the chance of going back to their youth. The only problem was: both the acts they had heard of had actually done a lot of stuff since they were last heard on the chart countdown.

Before that: Bloom Twins, a pair of quite talented Darkwave performers from Ukraine who do a good line in synths, live drums and mixing of 50's cinema tunes, with modern sounds that ends up being haunting, emotional and interestingly minimalistic. It was also wasted on the audience - the few that had turned up to see them by that point - and, in a neat nod to the 80's, suffered from the Ultravox problem of 'how do you make things look interesting on stage if everyone is stuck behind a sodding huge set of keyboards". I would happily listen to them again if their tunes came on the radio and would love to see them if they played in a club, but at 500 feet it was, inevitably, a bit of a non-event.

Little known fact: Seal has done seven studio albums since he released "Kiss From A Rose", something that he was quite happy to tell an audience that appeared to think he'd been keep in stasis since 1994. However they would be forgiven for having that thought, as 52 years olds really aren't supposed to be able to belt out tunes with that much power AND command the stage with that much presence AND interact with the audience with that much grace and warming wit. He started, perfectly, on Crazy and Killer which got a huge reaction. He then, perfectly, did a brace of soulful, R&B meets rock, classics from his other albums which were meet with polite applause from everyone more than three rows from the front, and finished on an, unsurprisingly perfect, rendition of "Kiss From A Rose" that got everyone singing and cheering.

Duran Duran have also not been resting on their laurels since their heyday of 1981 to 1989, especially with departures, returns and a brief hiatus when no-one really thought they would get back together again. They also (finally) have a really solid album (Paper Gods) to show off and thus were more than happy to kick things off with the title track, before kicking into a set that was 50/50 classics/tracks most of the audience didn't know because they weren't written in the 80's. But they lapped it up because it's Duran Duran, they can rock it like devils and they were overly happy to be playing to their hometown crowd, so wanted everyone to know how chuffed they were to be there.

The stage show wasn't anything too fancy and involved a bit of AV with well timed lights; the theatrics were kept minimal with only Danceophobia having any real choreography. But the impact was undeniable; the charm, charisma and confidence just dripping off every more and note. Simon Le Bon and John Taylor stalking their stage like the pop superstars they are, Nick Rhodes stayed at his keyboards like a conductor-general marshalling his forces and Roger Taylor just hammered his kit.

When they played tracks the crowd knew, everyone was dancing; when they played tracks the crowd didn't, everyone was listening - and when the moment was right, then everyone was singing. The big moment for that was the encore with Save A Prayer; something that was obviously going to be emotional, given it having become somewhat of an anthem for the Paris attacks. Le Bon introduced it well, stating the facts and offering it up as a song of hope - and then let the audience do most of the legwork. Hopefully there won't be much call for things like this in the future, but that night it gave a much-needed sense of togetherness and optimism. Then they kicked into Rio and people got back with the main point of the night: brilliant Pop that's a bit daft, occasionally poignant, and always damn good fun.
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