Review: Duran Duran at the Mountain Winery in Saratoga
by Kerry Benefield
For weeks, the Saratoga show sat precariously on the edge of a summer lineup that had been wiped out by Simon’s ongoing voice problems. Even when the show was announced, and later when tickets were secured, I had some anxiety about whether or not that show would fall victim to the band’s aestas horribilis.
So when the day finally came, I’ll admit there was a ton of excitement — but more than a little relief.
I had friends who attended opening night in Everett and the follow up in Portland, so I insisted on hearing no set list information. I even turned away when Duran Duran posted the set lists on Twitter and everywhere else but I knew a few things… like “Before the Rain” would likely open the set.
It’s a good tune, but it is a bit mellow for an opening number. Having said that, a mellow opener makes the segue to “Planet Earth” that much more awesome.
Throughout the show, it was clear the guys were working some things through (Simon started to introduce the wrong song at one point only to be tsk-tsked by John before righting himself) the performance was strong. The crowd responded in kind.
Mountain Winery, a castle-like venue set atop a windy mountain road overlooking Silicon Valley, seems a great place to have a nice meal and a glass of wine while on a date before seeing some live music, but the beauty of the setting almost takes away from a rocking show (and one that I think must end by 10:30 p.m. per noise restrictions). The guys did their best help the crowd work off their meal – I didn’t see a person sitting in a seat from the opening note. Not bad.
“Notorious” was an absolute killer Monday night. Super funky, super lively and a great time. And the “Wild Boys” arrangement with Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s “Relax” sounded fantastic and got the crowded from their feet to their tippy toes. “Careless Memories” was thundering and when Nick played the opening notes for the finale, “Rio,” the place came unglued.
But in all, the set list was a little light on AYNIN selections, to my way of thinking. I realize the DD catalogue is massive and many folks come to hear “Hungry Like the Wolf” and will go away disappointed if the guys don’t play “Rio.” I get it, I love those songs. But with a recent release as strong as “All You Need is Now,” I say throw a little bit of a caution to the wind and blow the date-nighters out with some “Girl Panic” or “Networker Nation.” Those tunes are begging to be played live and many of us are dying to hear them.
The boys also left “The Man Who Stole a Leopard” off the Saratoga lineup – a keen disappointment, especially since it was played at both Everett and Portland and added again in Los Angeles. That’s a personal gripe – I’m dying to hear that song live.
The tunes the band did play off the new album sounded tight and energetic. Anna Ross delivered a great rap on “Safe (In the Heat of the Moment),” and “Blame the Machines” and “All You Need is Now” were popping with energy. If people in the crowd weren’t as familiar with them, the guys’ energy got them on board pronto.
In all, the show was solid. Simon’s voice sounded strong and he didn’t back off of anything – going after “Ordinary World” and other tunes that test his higher range. And I don’t know if it was relief or excitement or both, but the band seemed happy to be on stage and back where they belong.
Great review. I wish I had been there! I hope you get to hear “The Man Who Stole a Leopard” soon enough–performed live, it’s a keeper!
Fantastic! I was at the same show in Saratoga and loved it. I can’t wait until they are back again. Until then, I’ll keep reliving the memories…
Spot-on review. Obama may have been in town that day, but the leaders of my free world were on stage that night.
My theory on the set list is that they were trying to be sensitive to the concert-series-season-ticket-holder crowd. Playing 5 of 9 of the AYNIN tracks wasn’t enough for me, either, but I can understand how they didn’t want people to gripe about not hearing “Rio” or “Hungry Like the Wolf” when they already left “Girls on Film” off the list.
Spot on review for an amazing show!
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