Sunday, April 24, 2011

Duran Duran, House of Blues, Chicago

I am now deaf in both ears.  Or more aptly, I can't hear anything over the loud ringing.  Every one of my muscles aches.  I feel completely hungover, yet I didn't drink a drop last night.  
I did, however, see Duran Duran at Chicago's House of Blues.  The show was amazing while the evening was...interesting.
It started out as most concerts do by waiting in line outside the venue.  My friend, SM, saw a woman he knew from high school approaching the line.  They greeted one another and he introduced me.
"Oh you must be a great husband or boyfriend to come to a show like this.  This guy," a point to her bulky husband with her "would never go see Duran Duran."
Ahhh, you know what they say about the word "assume?"  I leveled my gaze at her and spoke.
"This is my 16th Duran Duran show."
"Which one is your favorite?"
"Nick," I said, unflinchingly.  "I see him as the artistic heart of the band."
"And he's so dainty," the husband added, complete with a limp dangling of the wrist.
I smiled, chortled, and bid the jolly troglodyte a good evening.  
Nothing I'm not used to.  I've always run up against this uniquely American attitude of "a straight male who loves Duran Duran is like a vegetarian who cooks a mean steak."  
In fact, one of the many female Durannies at a show once challenged me, suspecting my fandom as merely a way to pick up women.  
"Quote a line from a song that wasn't a hit," she demanded.
" 'We're miles away from nowhere, and the wind doesn't have a name.'  'Hold Back the Rain.'  It's 5th track on Rio."  The chick was toast.  That's right.  I'm hardcore, bitches.
Anyway, we entered the venue.  If you've never been to a House of Blues, it is essentially an open pit space before a stage, ringed by bars (the booze-dispensing kind) and underneath gold leaf balconies.  You get there as soon as you can, get as close to the stage as you can, and then stand and wait.  And wait.  During the wait, a few of us caught Roger Taylor peeking out from one of the upper balconies.  We waved, he waved back.  A very nice gay man off to the side of me yelled to him.  "Come on down!  We have cookies!"
Not wanting to falsely lure Roger, I tried to think of where the nearest convenience store was on Dearborn. It'd have to be a decent one, one that carried Keebler Soft Batch brand because I wasn't giving Roger a cheap bag of Chips Ahoy, tasty as they may be.  Oh fuck, what were we going to do?
It gets better.  I spent the hours standing and waiting for showtime by kibitzing with fellow Duran fans, again they were mostly women.  We talked about the album All You Need Is Now, performances at Coachella and the Mayan Theater, and previous tours.  SM thought if any of them confessed to an interest in UFOs, well...that would've been it.
Then...he showed up.
Just before showtime, an older man in a tweed jacket who looked exactly like Kid Rock minus the mullet, squeezed in front of us and stood.  He brought his trailer park darling in tow.  They both stank of vodka and Carmex.  Obviously inebriated, this Kid Rock Sr. swayed back and forth bumping into me.  Gin and juice in hand (I used to bartend, I could smell the drink), he  leaned back to me and said in a rural drawl,
"I can duck down if you need me to.  I don't know the first fucking thing about this band, couldn't tell you one fucking song they sing.  I'm here for her."
He promptly sucked face with his Wal-Mart strumpet.  Now this was not a big deal for me.  Unpleasant, but not untenable. I've been to see bands like Slayer and Ministry and dealt with far tougher hombres than KR Sr.  But many of the women in the vicinity were upset with his drunken presence, so I simply said to them, "It's ok.  He says he doesn't give a fuck about this band and will duck if we need him to."
Well that was it.  The blood was in the water and the Girl Panic sharks began to swarm, demanding that he move on.  All I had to do was lean back and watch.  Security eventually told him to keep walking.  He did.  About three feet.  Soon I began to hear a woman say, "don't touch me."  SM tapped me on the shoulder and said, "KR's bothering these ladies.  I'm going to get in front of them."  SM's a man of wide form.  I had his back, but I knew it would be tough for KR, all seven sheets to the wind, to try to get past him.  Sure enough, when ol' Kid did try to scoot by, he tripped to the floor.  Security moved in rapidly and uh...escorted the gentlemen to the outside.  That's right.  Respect, courtesy, and band devotion may be absent in your parlance, but it's how we Durannies roll, motherfucker.  And oddly enough, Wal-Mart girl remained on the floor with us, indifferent to Kid Rock's removal.  I guess he had elsewhere to go and be "livin' free."

The lights went down.  Nick Rhodes walked on stage.  I had been purposely avoiding setlist previews, hoping to be surprised by the chosen songs.  Nick struck one chord on his synth and I immediately knew..."Planet Earth" was the opener.  Righteous.  The show then kicked off and here are my bullet-point thoughts on it:

-Anyone who thinks Duran Duran are an 80s nostalgia act is an idiot.  They have amazing new material featured in their sets.  They have hit songs from the past decade and the 90s and I am adamant that they only play better with age.  Not just that, but they look like they're having even more fun than ever.

-John Taylor can pound the hell out of the bass.  In fact, I'll go so far as to name him the best bass player currently in rock music.  No one has his signature style.  Doubtful anyone ever will.  "Play that fucking bass John..."

-Andy who?  That's right, Mr. Taylor.  Dominic Brown has your role covered just fine and your services will probably not be needed.

-"Ordinary World" is a beautifully written song.  I've always known that, but when I hear it live, I can't help but be reminded of the superbly powerful lyrics and layered sounds.  It is indeed one of the crown jewels of the Duran Duran catalog.

-Give Roger Taylor two toothpicks and a soda can and he will probably be able to pound out a beat.
-Simon LeBon was in rare form.  I've never seen his stage banter border so much on stand-up comedy.  For instance, in introducing the song, "Blame the Machines"...
SIMON: Technology drives our world and our little lives.  But what happens when it goes wrong?
SIMON: That was a cue, Nick.

-Nick Rhodes needs to write for Strange Horizons.  As Simon's introduction explains, "He is the future.  The future of the human race.  The man from transhuman space.  Soul-brother, Nick Rhodes!"
Give me a double "hell yeah!"

-I can't dance.  Not one step.  But at a Duran show, I don't care how dumb I look.  Last night, I was a movin' and a groovin', flailing my arms around during "Rio."  Bonus.

Here's the setlist:

Planet Earth
Hungry Like the Wolf
All You Need Is Now
Being Followed
Leave a Light On
Friends of Mine
Blame the Machines
The Chauffeur
Ordinary World
Girl Panic!
Careless Memories
(Reach Up for the) Sunrise
The Reflex
Girls On Film

All in all, a great show.  Duran Duran have always been there for me.  Therefore, I will always be there for them.  They and their music have always been spiritually re-energizing to me in a way that little else has.  Case in point: as I stopped in a gas station on my way to an Easter meal this morning, the clerk noticed my shirt and tie combo and asked, "Going to church?"
"No," I replied.  "I went last night."

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  1. Jon,
    I love this blog post. This is exactly how it feels to go to a show. We are duranies this is how we roll. This post is amazing ! There is a spiritual aspect to going to a show. For me also a good music experience especially Duran is " going to church" . Its like comming home.
    So glad you had fun. Wonder what ever became of Kid Rock SR ?

  2. Funny you should ask, Tracey. :)
    I saw him as I exited HOB. He was sitting on the street curb, hunched into his cellphone and yelling, "they fucking kicked me out!"

  3. That is so funny .. He is going to be bitching about duran duran for weeks.. gin soaked rantings

  4. On Facebook, SM said: "Wal-Mart strumpet. Totally working that into everyday conversation."

  5. Just got a Tweet back from John Taylor!!
    Ok, this is my Beatlemania moment...