Saturday, October 10, 2015

Get ‘em to the Greek

You’ve gone too far this time
But I’m dancing on the valentine

~~ Duran Duran, “The Reflex”

Play that fuckin' bass, John!
Whoops, I had really intended to write before this, but after getting back from our whirlwind San Francisco trip, I was occupied with laundry and other things around the house, as well as re-adjusting to my usual time zone (I seem to be very time zone sensitive), and just generally recharging my batteries. As much as I love to travel, it does seem to wear me out being around all that humanity.

We had a wonderful time in the city! It was so great to see Todd and we’ll make sure the next visit doesn’t take us as long as this one did. We had lots of delicious seafood and I had a little too much fun at the Tonga Room (Beware the Lava Bowl!)! But it was a ton o’ fun and San Francisco is still one of my favorite cities to visit. We rode the cable car one day, and something about it was just so iconic that it made me verklempt. Hearing the rumble of the wheels on the tracks, the clang of the bell, the creak of the car as it took the curves, and seeing the hilly side streets going up and up...ahhhh. It was a lovely moment.

Do I look happy and excited? I was!
Anyway, the impetus of our trip was to see Duran Duran at the Greek Theater at UC Berkeley! We took BART over to Berkeley fairly early so we had plenty of time to find a place to eat. We decided on pizza and beers and sat outside in a pleasant little courtyard. We ended up talking to the women at the next table, Sarah and her girlfriend Crystal from Bend, Oregon. They were just so sweet and so fun to talk to and we are now Facebook friends! I bet we’ll see them again at some point, maybe on a visit to Portland. Then we talked to a woman sitting next to me, who was originally from Slovenia. We had a nice conversation with her, too. Then we talked to a group of three women a little further away who were also going to the concert and they were also super nice! It was such a lovely dinner because everyone was in a very happy mood and it was so much fun to talk to everyone! (Although some of that might be why I was so exhausted when we got home!)

Then it was time to make our way to the venue. The UC-Berkeley campus was gorgeous (at least what we saw of it), and the Greek Theater is a beautiful open-air theater with a capacity of about 8,000. The seats around the perimeter seem to rise fairly steeply, so I suspect that there isn’t a bad seat in the house. Ours certainly weren’t, because we were in the fourth row! To make it even better, we were on the left, so we were in front of John Taylor (insert automatic swoon here)!

I had to wait a while for Duran Duran because there were not one, but two opening bands. The first was Clean Bandit, who are apparently causing a bit of a buzz among those who like dance music. I had seen a couple of their videos and liked them, and they had a lot of energy and were very fun! Next up was none other than Nile Rodgers and Chic, and they blew me away. Nile Rodgers is an amazing musician and performer. He had us all up dancing and got us perfectly primed for the main act! I knew we’d see Nile again since he was a producer on both Notorious and the new album, Paper Gods.

Finally, it was time. Duran Duran opened with the title track from Paper Gods, as I knew they would, and it was fabulous. We were off and running! I can’t say that I screamed like a teenager—I don’t think my voice reaches that register anymore—but I did my share of yelling and I know there were moments when I had my hands on my head in a sort of “Oh my glob!” gesture. This is a band of consummate professionals, people who know how to not just play, but how to command a stage. It helps, of course, that they were a veritable hit machine for quite a few years, with so many of the songs indelibly familiar to many of us.

Some of the most magical moments (yes, I said magical...and they were for me!) were when the crowd was singing along. I’m not always a fan of singalongs, but when they work, they work. It’s a moment of shared experience with other human beings and a communal vibe that just feels good. We all sang to “The Reflex” and to “Rio,” with a little bit of singing for various other songs. The new songs sounded great and the party vibe of “Pressure Off” (with Nile Rodgers joining on guitar) was aided by a big ol’ confetti explosion that made it feel like New Year’s Eve. The older songs didn’t sound tired or dated; they were as fun and danceable as ever.

Let me just say again how talented this band is as musicians and performers. You can tell they’ve been doing this for a while (35 years, in fact), and they’ve got it figured out. In some bands of this longevity, that can come across as stale or “calling it in.” That is not the case with Duran Duran. They seemed to be genuinely having fun out there and made sure to put on a good show for the crowd. The sound and visuals were great, no one sounded off or off-beat, and Simon’s voice was phenomenal. He hits some high notes on some of the new songs and it wasn’t just digital manipulation because he hit those same high notes live. I think his voice has matured as he’s gotten older, and I read that he worked with a vocal coach to “rebuild” his voice a while back. He learned to not force it as much and just let it go. I noticed that on the new album and it was also very noticeable in concert.

This show immediately rocketed into my Top Five concerts of all time. If you know me or have been following me here for a while, you know that I’ve been to a lot of concerts! I know I was primed for it because I’ve been on such a DD kick for a while now, so that may have had something to do with it. But I went into this with high expectations, partly because I was so excited to see them and partly because I’ve heard that they are a fantastic band live. They did not just meet those expectations. They exceeded them. It was just a great, great show. I could have listened to them play for another hour and a half and would have stood and danced on the valentine the entire time!

Oh, and they looked kind of nice, too.

[video from Concertkid found on YouTube]