March 24th, 2011Duran Duran
When Duran Duran took the stage at the Mayan Theater in Los Angeles last night for their UNSTAGED performance, directed by David Lynch, no one knew what to expect… including Lynch himself. The director’s only premonitions were taken from “great dreams about Duran Duran” of “spontaneous musical images” and a hope for “happy accidents.”
The production, streamed live for fans and lookie-loos around the world via YouTube, started off in a typically Lynchian manner (if such a thing exists): The director barked fan-generated questions in his familiar backwards-ish way at the four band members, demanding answers ranging from how they maintain benevolence in their music, to current influences. Was Nick’s response of “1950s sci-fi soundtracks” a sign of things to come? The band responded to each query with the utmost gravitas and respect. It was as if the inquisition was a kind of test, and once the master was pleased, the show could begin. Lynch snapped his fingers, and lo and behold, it did.
The internet audience was given the choice of three views, or ‘cameras’. Two were mostly fan-focused, the Funhouse Cam featuring the frolicsome crowd reflected in — you guessed it — a funhouse mirror, and the additional, perpetually swaying Swimming Fish Cam. Neither of those were views you would want to watch the whole time, rather they were amusing diversions during an extended show. These choices did, however, provide the attention-deficit Internet viewer with a chance to visualize what the rave scene in Matrix Reloaded would look like if it were shot in a karaoke bar. Thankfully, we were also provided with a special channel marked Lynch’s View, focused on the band and overlaid with dreamlike imagery. The shots were tight and didn’t quite capture the energy of the band playing off of each other, but did satisfy the keenly focused gaze of the fan-base.
The air disappeared from the auditorium as the instrumental Diamond in the Mind led straight into All You Need Is Now; all shot in stunning (and flattering) black and white, with dramatic visual overlays of smoke and whirling clocks — Durantime gone mad. A spinning penny and visual distortion, reminiscent of Clunie Reid, designer of the new album sleeve, announced to viewers early on that Lynch was both well-versed in, and appreciative of, the Duran aesthetic.
When Gerard Way of My Chemical Romance joined Duran Duran onstage for Planet Earth, one couldn’t help wonder if it was an attempt to win over the kids. Simon even nudged the audience with, “How cool is this?” Never has a thought been more fleeting, though, as the chemistry between Le Bon and Way absolutely electrified the 30-year-old classic. Cool indeed.
Friends of Mine was delivered with impressive snarl and swagger. Nick Rhodes’ sinister synths curling and re-coiling around the serpentine guitar of Dom Brown, framing the song perfectly for Lynch’s production. Written thirty years hence and in consideration of a future where “Georgie Davis (was) coming out,” the song sparred beautifully with the equally dreamlike Lynch visuals; the result, something gorgeous and outside of time: an artistically menacing dream state: one known, otherwise, as Now.
Like weddings, every big production has to have at least one thing go wrong, however. And this show was no exception; with the good-luck flub delivered by The Gossip’s Beth Ditto. A panting vision in hounds-tooth, Ditto arrived nervously on stage announcing that she’d “ran all the way from Portland,” and implored Simon to lead her. Unfortunately, the nervousness wasn’t an act, and Ditto forgot the words throughout Notorious, deflating what could have been a fiery duet . Le Bon shot a few daggers towards the blushing Beth, and the show swiftly ushered onwards. The first-time live Blame the Machines giving backing vocalist Anna Ross chance to strut her stuff, after which Simon delivered some (honestly) top-notch yelps during Hungry Like the Wolf.
With taste-buds alive, Mark Ronson – all serious looks and intent, and introduced as “at least 1/5 of the reason our record sounds as good as it does” – stepped in to take over guitar duties on Safe (in the Heat of the Moment); a song otherwise driven full-tilt by the flawlessly relentless John and Roger Taylor rhythm-machine. JT was then tasked with engaging in audience banter while the string section was set up. He seized the opportunity to plug the new album, only to be gently chided by Nick; and Simon told one of his trademark silly jokes, this time about a dog in a blender. Hey, it’s supposed to be wacky and surreal, right? The pause reminded us that even though the show is the coolest thing we’ve ever seen, it’s still “our boys” up there.
Things quickly resumed a cinematic air with a pristine version of Leave a Light On. Armed with an acoustic guitar and a shimmering mantel of sincerity, Le Bon and co. absolutely nailed it. Lynch drove this home with images of – what else – hammering nails. With subtlety damned, however, Ordinary World was to prove the evening’s only true point of pretense, when Brown’s guitars edging precariously towards overkill.
And yet… and yet: The hotly-anticipated appearance of Kelis, who was nothing short of stunning in a futuristic earring/nose-ring combo, was absolutely worth the wait. The Man Who Stole a Leopard is the jewel of All You Need Is Now, and Kelis’ vocals were exotic and alluring; the writhing purity of the tale trucking us deeper into the realms of the mystical. Then, with no intention of even trying to top such a high, Ring Master Lynch swerved us off further left-field, with Simon recalling (to order, one presumes) a quaint dream he had recently. Involving a caravan full of prostitutes.
Cue Ronson on guitar again: for Girl Panic, at which Lynch ignited our view with sparks, and the band took off into a hyperkinetic energy state. Going for the one-two, Duran then punched in with a fierce rendition of Careless Memories; and by the time the naked dancing Barbies arrived onscreen for Sunrise, and the collective do-do-dooos of Rio were rung, the whole conceit was well and truly up to bliss speed. With trick mirrors a thing of the past, the fantastic-looking crowd were clearly energized, the band were surging, as was – I would imagine – a raving Ethernet of Duran fans cabled around the world.
Pulling up just short of meltdown, there was just time for breath before Kelis returned to the stage, with haunting vocals that were suddenly – obviously – Come Undone: albeit one she helped take to a new high. Achieving the divine, even Lynch’s incoming visual of hand puppets and a barbecue grill full of hot dogs somehow made sense. Which is saying something.
But what comes up, must come down; and after just shy of two galloping hours, in shimmied the elegant Ronson architecture of the now obligatory Bond theme medley, culminating in the perpetually redeeming A View to a Kill. Of course that could not, would not be curtains; because no one should ever leave a Duran Duran show without witnessing Le Bon shooting stars amidst a climaxing Girls on Film; the edict of “the band designed to make you party” ceremoniously etched like the mark of Zorro upon the sweaty crowd. Mission accomplished.
As so to that delayed curtain; yet as the veritable orchestra of performers gathered for their well-deserved, collective bow, the mysterious Mr. Lynch was nowhere to be found. Everyone paused to look around, until Simon declared sharp as a tack, that perhaps the director had “teleported himself into another universe. Like this one, but better.” A statement of intent which, I reckon, should actually be used to sum up the sublime deliverance of the brave Duran Duran UNSTAGED. Brilliant.
Highlights from Duran Duran: UNSTAGED will be available here. And are not to be missed.Tags: Beth Ditto, David Lynch, Duran Duran, Gerard Way, Kelis, Mark Ronson
March 20th, 2011Duran Duran
Music and film fans around the world are anticipating the “Unstaged” live Duran Duran performance directed by David Lynch, which will be live-streamed at 10:00PM ET / 7:00PM PT at www.YouTube.com/DuranDuranVEVO.
Completely independent of this project though, David Lynch created a remix of Girl Panic!, the next single from Duran Duran’s 13th Studio album, physically released worldwide this week. Nick Rhodes told Gimme a Wristband that David Lynch had completed this remix for Girl Panic! unsolicited and entirely on his own, before the “Unstaged” project was even presented to either party. Lynch’s version will be available as the b-side to the vinyl 7″of Girl Panic! available exclusively for Record Store Day on April 16.
Here’s the appropriately dreamy and dark Lynchian version of Girl Panic! with video by Leo Horsfeld.
UPDATE: YouTube links have been removed at request of Duran Duran management.
While you’re in the mood, check out this blissed-out, deliciously trippy version by Johnson Somerset and John Monkman. Johnson Somerset produced the latest Bryan Ferry album Olympia, and is also half of the band Nuevo with Peter Godwin. You can check out a preview of Monkman’s new album here.
UPDATE: YouTube links have been removed at request of Duran Duran management.Tags: David Lynch, Duran Duran, Duran DUran remixes, Girl Panic, Johnson Somerset & John Monkman
Firstly, can we just say how truly grateful we were to hear that Nile Rodgers, who was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer back in October, received the all-clear from his doctor yesterday – meaning the man who remains crucial to Duran Duran, and the world of music in general, is out of danger.
Many of you may have been following Nile’s blog, so will know how humble yet courageous he has been in the face of what was a shock diagnosis. Nile had been feeling unwell, so visited his doctor – only to be suddenly thrown into battle with a deadly foe. With this best possible outcome delivered, I’m sure you will all join us in paying thanks to the fact that, despite all of the problems in the world today (not least the continued challenges thousands are facing in Japan and the Middle East right now), sometimes miracles can and do happen – and prayers are answered. There’s a lot of fixing to do everywhere right now, so we need all the good guys we have.
Over in Austin Texas, Duran are currently working the SXSW Music conference – which in this 25th year, and as part of the overall multi-media SXSW focus, seems to have reached an international level of interest akin to Robert Redford’s Sundance film festival. And there’s been plenty of activity.
The band took to the Stubbs stage just after midnight last night, for a thirteen-number show. The venue was at capacity, and the gig was a belter – as we will reveal in a moment. Kicking off with View To A Kill (as they did at the previous Shepherd’s Bush Empire, in London) and climaxing with Girls on Film, the set was not beamed out live as with many other SXSW shows this year; however, a delayed stream is due to go online at some point soon.
Rewind: “This is what we do!” roared Simon Le Bon. A fin-de-siècle proclamation equal parts triumph to not unjustified defiance. A heartfelt shout-out fully charged and three years in the making; addressed at everyone, yet no-one in particular (except, one suspects, the odd passing music critic). One the singer had every right to deliver as the rest of the band exited stage-right, sweaty, smiling and sated. Because, from where I was standing, down in the heat and the steam front-of-stage, the set I’d just witnessed had blistered; caught fire, not just from new All You Need Is Now material, but the peppered mix-in of smoldering Duran classics from the band’s white-hot past.
Hitting SXSW was the perfect showcase to introduce Duran album number thirteen to mainland USA, before kicking off the forthcoming world tour. It announced this ain’t no nostalgia act; more Duran Duran as a force that remains; an enduring and innovative charge that, for all its media alternation between hits and occasional misses, high visibility and conspicuous studio-bound anonymity, still surges with direct energy once the amps
boom into life.
Throughout the show, the band came off as solid as the scuffed dirt floors of the venue, screaming deep as it was in fans and the energetically curious alike: Stubbs was a hot-ticket last night, that’s for sure. All the familiar hallmarks of the Duran Duran show were up and at us: the Simon Le Bon swagger; the sexy John Taylor bass grooves. Roger keeping it all locked, while Nick remains mysterious. But there was also new energy, born from the band’s rightful confidence in All You Need is Now; and bolstered by the undeniable fact that Duran Duran, for all their critics, remain a band that can seriously bring it.
Le Bon’s vocals were top-notch, from the highest notes of Ordinary World to the spiteful snarls of Friends of Mine. The band even managed to look cool while calling themselves to a halt, and taking it from the top again on Safe; showing a serious commitment to quality while still remaining playful. Yet for that one misstep, each and every other song, old or new, had the unmistakable charge of being right there in-the-moment. And from beginning to end, the crowd was right there with them.
If you want to check out the Stubbs show for yourself, the audio stream will be hosted online by NPR. As of this moment, it is still not live, so please keep checking back on that link.
Earlier that evening, before the show, JT and Nick had also called in to take part in a live Facebook interview, the recording of which can be viewed here.
Wider afield, the Duran Duran / David Lynch Youtube channel page is now up online, in preparation for the band’s Unstaged gig on March 23rd. If you’ve been on Mars, or lost somewhere amidst SXSW, the Unstaged show – which is sponsored by American Express – is to feature Duran Duran in performance, directed by that legendary left-fielder, David Lynch (see promo spot, below).
Timed neatly to occur the day after the physical release of the All You Need Is Now album, the event will be streamed live and feature a host of real-time interactive features. These will include options to choose camera angles, as well as submit text, which will play into the overall visual display. As we speak, the dedicated channel for the event has over 638,000 subscribers, which goes some way towards illuminating the level of anticipation around this multi-media project.
Echoing a previous announcement over on our more news-reactive Gimme a Wristband Facebook page, fans have also been given the chance to submit pictures of their painted face and/or hands. This opportunity is still open (as of today 17th March), and for further details and links to submit your own images, please go here.
The official poster for the event has also been released. Designed by David Lynch himself, it makes use of some elements from the album art; and utilizes the same mixture of abstracted image and inverted colours, which, along with the album and Mediterranea EP sleeves plus the above promo clip, are fast becoming the dominant visual motif of the current campaign.Tags: cancer, David Lynch, Nile Rodgers, SXSW, Unstaged