It’s not every day that you get to see your teen heroes in a tiny club. The first time I saw Duran Duran, it was 1987 and they were opening for David Bowie’s Glass Spider tour. The show was at the now defunct CNE Grandstand, a huge open-air venue that held over 50,000 people. I was 16 and my friends and I were way up high in the stands. From where we were, John Taylor was the size of an ant.
Fast forward 24 years. I’m a member of the Duran Duran fan club, which was the only way most people got tickets to the show. The band is touring behind their best album in years and they decide to play a series of small club dates in advance of the promised big stadium tour. And that’s how I end up crushed into the Phoenix with over 1,000 other rabid Duran fans, all counting down the minutes until the boys make their appearance.
Nick was the first to appear, sending waves of synthesized sound through the packed room, and one by one, the other band members made their way onstage and the full glory of “Planet Earth” was unleashed upon us. Dancing was a challenge in such close quarters, but I managed. “Hungry Like The Wolf” followed and I had to admire them for kicking off with two huge hits back to back.
The band seemed a bit cramped on the Phoenix’s small stage, and it was amusing to watch them jostle for position for the first few songs. Songs from the new album blended seamlessly with the old hits, and diehard fans like me were thrilled to hear “Friends of Mine” and “Careless Memories”, both from that first album released way back in 1981. Thirty years ago, yikes!
I somehow missed that “The Chauffeur” was on the set list for this tour, so I was genuinely thrilled when those unmistakeable opening notes cast a spell over the room. I love discovering new music, but I also love, very deeply, the feeling of singing along to a song I know so well that the lyrics might as well be tattooed on my soul. Every time I hear “The Chauffeur”, it thrill and haunts me as much the first time I heard it. “Ordinary World” was a perfect follow-up, and the two songs together formed a lovely oasis of calm in the sweltering club. It was so hot that John Taylor joked about us all sharing a steam bath. If only, Mr. Taylor, if only. A lot of things change in 24 years, but my crush on you remains intact.
Duran Duran closed out the night with the power trio of The Reflex, Rio and Girls on Film, which included an extended jam in the middle while Simon introduced the band and treated us to a verse or two from “Poker Face”.
In case you hadn’t picked upon it, I am a huge Duran fan. It would have pained me greatly to give them a bad review, but I also believe in calling a spade a spade. This was my sixth Duran Duran show and I can honestly say that I have never seen them do a bad show, ever. If only I could say that about all my heroes. Yes, Bauhaus, I’m looking at you.
My inner 16 year old and my outer 40 year old had a ball at last week’s show, and I can’t wait for the stadium tour dates to be announced.