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Duran Duran proves they are still “cool” at the Capitol Theatre in Port Chester

2 August 2015 16 Comments
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duranduran=new“Apparently Duran Duran is cool again…but we always though we are cool” said Simon Lebon – the suave and charismatic frontman of Duran Duran when he first addressed the audience at the Capitol Theatre at Port Chester (NY) on August 1. Hot on the heels of a new global recording contract with Warner Music, the release of their best single in almost 22 years titled “Pressure Off“, and an upcoming album titled “Paper Gods” (slated for release in September 2015), Duran Duran is back on tour to remind us of why they are a potent force to be reckoned with almost 35 years since their rise to global stardom. I had the opportunity to watch them on August 1 at the Capitol Theatre at Port Chester. Needless to say, the evening felt like quite a privilege.

The Capitol Theatre is a historic theatre venue within close proximity to the Port Chester train stop. It is hard to believe that it was once a movie theater which was then renovated to accommodate performances in 1970. To the casual live music fan, it might seem like an odd choice for a concert but it seems consistent with Duran Duran bass player John Taylor’s expressed preference for intimate venues (something he mentioned in an interview for the organizers of “Bestival 2015”).

The show’s opening act was Penguin Prison (aka Chris Glover) – a one-man electropop act. In the last few years, he has also gained recognition among pop music connoisseurs for his remixes. In theory, he was probably a good choice for an opening act for Duran Duran. Songs like “The Worse it gets“, “Golden train“, and “Fair Warning” (from his debut album titled “Penguin Prison“) are an ode to the electronic and synth-driven style that dominated a lot of popular music in the 80s. Unfortunately, Penguin Prison opted for a “DJ set” approach -which featured mixes of popular 80s songs such as “I wanna be your lover” by Prince and “All night long” by Lionel Richie with his own songs mixed in. He employed an approach better suited for a house music concert than for an audience that either grew up in or had a great admiration for the New Wave era. The result of this approach was one in which his entire set sounded like one long track – which is a shame since Penguin Prison is actually a very credible artist. In my humble opinion, he should have performed the original studio versions of his music. The songs would have made a perfect appetizer for the evening’s sonic main course (i.e. Duran Duran).

At around 9pm, the band entered the stage as they were greeted by a screaming audience. Lead singer Simon Lebon marched with a certain swagger all the way to front of the stage and stared at the audience with an intense look without even a hint of a smile. Part of his charm has always been his dramatic quirkiness – which has translated to his persona as well as the fantastic music he writes for Duran Duran. The band kicked off with “Wild Boys” – which today, sounds like a reference to what they used to be when they first took the world by storm. The hits rolled for around ninety minutes with not a single moment of “filler”. The setlist revisited the most commercially successful endeavors from their legacy – including songs from albums such as “Rio“, “Notorious“, “The Wedding Album“, “All You Need Is now” and “Astronaut“. That being said, the show definitely had its share of defining highlights. They were as follows:

a. “Election Day“: This just might have been one of my favorite moments of the evening. It was not a surprise by any stretch for me since I had clandestinely listened to the band’s sound-check at the theatre and this was the song they were rehearsing. For those that are well versed with Duran Duran history, they would know that this song is technically not a Duran Duran song. In the mid-80s, the band had splintered into two factions – Arcadia (which included the band’s keyboard player Nick Rhodes and Simon Lebon) and Power Station (which featured bass player John Taylor and the band guitarist Andy Taylor). Interestingly enough, drummer Roger Taylor featured on drums on albums by both bands. Nick Rhodes described this endeavor for all people concerned in the band as being “commercial suicide” (which we think is odd since both efforts were quite successful and the band had a US #1 hit with “View to a kill” soon after they regrouped). Needless to the say,the performance was dynamic and featured a long goosebump-inducing saxophone segment at the end. It suggested that the band was acknowledging a key chapter of the their history – however unsavory they thought it might have been in retrospect.

b. “Girl Panic“: In 1981, thanks to the launch of MTV, a generation of music video stars had been taken its birth. The faces of this generation were the band members of Duran Duran. Gorgeous women, style, and exotic locations were the key ingredients of their music videos and Duran Duran had created the visual manifesto for over-the-top escapist decadence in the early 80s. The collapse of MTV as the primary avenue for music exposure to the world over the past decade and a half has made the return-on-investment on music videos (especially expensive ones of the sort that Duran Duran was known for) incredibly low. Fortunately, on “Girl Panic“, Duran Duran did let themselves go and made a video that was true to their visual legacy. The video featured appearances by supermodels such as Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell, and Yasmin Lebon. This video formed the visual backdrop for a stellar performance of the track. Watching the visuals and the band performing the song simultaneously was a very exhilarating moment.

c. “Ordinary World“: Over the years, the live rendition of this beautiful lead single from the “Wedding Album” has always sounded better than the studio version of this song. It is also the song that is bound to convince skeptics of Simon Lebon’s immense vocal competence. Apparently, time has not eroded Simon Lebon’s ability to deliver something vocally stunning especially when it comes to this song.

d. “Pressure Off“: Over a month ago, when we reviewed “Pressure Off” – the lead single off the upcoming album “Paper Gods“, we described it as the sonic sequel to “Notorious” wherein the common thread between the two songs is production maestro Nile Rodgers. Rodgers has successfully brought the band’s inner funk to the surface on both these tracks. Hence, it was great to hear them being played one after the other in the show. “Pressure Off” successfully marries the band’s musical past as well as a sound that is fresh, modern, and relevant – and that marriage translated incredibly well in a live environment.

Like any concert, this one did have its share of potential improvement areas. In the spirit of providing a balanced review, I believe that these should be captured.

First, while fans love to hear the songs they are familiar with, it would have been nice for the band to give us little more of a showcase of the new album “Paper Gods” by performing at least two other songs (besides “Pressure Off“) that have not been heard before off that album. If anything, it would have been a small reward for fan loyalty that has lasted over 30 years.

The second improvement area was the length of the gap between the primary setlist and the encore. The gap was incredibly long. The theatre’s staff had actually started shutting off various stage production elements forcing people to believe that “Rio” was the last song that the band was to perform. The audience responded with screams of “we want more”. Closer to the stage, there were murmurs of “What? No performance of The Reflex? I don’t think these guys are getting back on stage”. I am still not sure if the band had actually intended to return to the stage. The crowd refused to leave. Fortunately, their enthusiasm was rewarded. The band returned to the stage to perform “Careless Memories” and “Girls on Film“.

The third improvement area is more of a suggestion to the band. Duran Duran has a huge catalog and while it is true that they did lose commercial momentum during a few periods in their career, those lulls were not because of the music being sub-par. We applaud the band for celebrating elements of their history (i.e. the performances of “Election Day” and “White Lines“) that marked commercial dips, but we would like to see them do more of this more often. They have earned the right to do so. It would be great to hear songs such as “Serious” (from the “Liberty” album), “Falling Down” (from “Red Carpet Massacre“) and “Out of my mind” (from “Medazzaland“). After all, concerts are more than simply a showcase for the popular or the overplayed. I believe they should also sow the seeds for a journey of discovery for the members of the audience -something that has them digging deeper into the back-catalog of the artist or band. The Duran Duran catalog has its share of gems that never seem to see the light of day at concerts. We strongly suggest that the band revisit them in a concert setting.

Despite some of the shortcomings, it goes without saying that the concert at the Capitol Theatre was beyond fantastic. The show ended with Simon Lebon saying “we are Duran Duran and were designed to make you party!”. Interestingly enough, the band doesn’t sound out of place saying something like that despite all the members being in their early to mid-50s. To younger fans, Duran Duran offers hope and optimism that the 50s can be a vibrant and dynamic phase of life. Duran Duran created the aspirations for decadence back in the 80s. Today, through their brilliant stage performance, they are creating aspirations around being cool in mid-life. It is my sincere hope that the band continues doing what they do for a very long time.

For those that missed the show, or are curious about, here is a short photo album capturing the concert’s highlights (Feel free to click on the photos to navigate through the album via Facebook):

STAR RATING: 5 out of 5 stars

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16 Responses to "Duran Duran proves they are still “cool” at the Capitol Theatre in Port Chester"

  1. Frannie says:

    Great review! I love that you support artists, but you are also very objective. What is the logic behind not playing any new music? And the encore thing is kind of weird. Why the delay?

  2. Frannie says:

    I know they played Pressure Off, but I meant more songs from the new album. I guess maybe they are trying to keep the album under wraps for it to be a surprise. But most artists do like to test out new songs before a smaller audience first. I”m sure hearing more new songs would not stop the very dedicated fans at a show like this from buying the new album.
    Hopefully, they will add more new songs after the album is released when they do the regular tour.

  3. @Frannie: The two bits you mentioned were definitely sticking points for me. I didn’t quite get it. Of course, in the grander scheme of things, it didn’t matter since the concert was fantastic. Getting to Port Chester, for some of us, was quite a hike (one that I just realized I will have to repeat on a weekday later next month for Tears For Fears) so it would have been nice to be rewarded with at least a couple of new songs. I am sure they had their reasons though.

  4. Frannie says:

    Was there some reason it was in Port Chester, instead of Manhattan or Brooklyn? That is odd also, Most major artists tend to do a NYC show. That would be a problem for people who don’t own a car unless it’s accessible by public transportation.
    I live in Washington, DC and usually when shows are in the suburbs it’s because it’s an outside venue not a theatre type of place. The bigger outside venues do provide shuttles from the nearest subway stop for fans which is nice. Was there any of that type of thing with this? A lot of people who live in big cities like NYC or here in DC don’t own cars because of the expense of parking etc.

    Where is Port Chester exactly? It’s on Long Island somewhere, I would guess, but not sure.

  5. AudioBot says:

    Well coming from the inside…. The band intended to play the set right through. The encore was completely unplanned. Not because they weren’t enjoying the show. It was just planned to be played as one long set. They came back on because the audience just would not leave without a ‘classic encore’. The show HAD actually ended!!

  6. @Frannie: Not sure why they opted for the Capitol Theatre. There is no dearth of intimate venues in New York City. The theater is accessible by public transportation. It is right by the Port Chester Metro North station. It is a 40-minute train ride from the city followed by a 2-minute walk to the theatre. Port Chester is in Westchester county.

  7. @AudioBot: Thank you so much for the clarification. I too got the sense that the encore was unplanned. The time gap as well as the fact that Simon had already changed his clothes were indicators of that but I could not be sure. That would be a short song set without the encore though right?

  8. Laura says:

    When the band first left the stage, it seemed like every other show when the band would return for the encore. It felt oddly long, but I kept telling my friends that they’d be back because the house lights weren’t on. Then the damn house lights came on! Roadies were turning off equipment, and the screen showed “power off” on he display. They were gonzo, but everyone looked kind of stunned. Some people left a it upset, but we decided to stick it out until the Capitol Theater insisted we leave. Glad we did. After about another 10 – 15 minutes, and now with only about 3/4 of the original crowd left, they dimmed the lights again, and started the smoke machine back up. In about another 5 minutes, the band came back out. Simon told the crowd that they had already changed into their going home clothes, so he kidded that they would be going home all sweaty. Great show. Great intimate venue. Glad we stuck it out.

  9. @Laura: The only reason I stayed was because the crowd stayed. In fact, I got even closer to the stage (pretty close to begin with) since some folks from the absolute front cleared out. They’d given up. Like you, I too figured the theatre would kick us out when they absolutely had to. The show was fantastic though and the venue was perfect. Going back there late next month for Tears For Fears. Can barely wait! Thank you for the comment. Just out of curiosity, how did you discover our radio station and blog?

  10. Ralph says:

    The wait for the encore was indeed too long and unfortunately I was one of those who left. In my 35+ years of concerts I’ve never experienced a wait that long. I assume it wasn’t that long on the Sunday show? AudioBot is right, I checked their set lists from previous shows and they did not play any encores. Their sets averaged 15 songs, so 17 was a treat. Too bad I missed the last 2!

  11. @Ralph: I always though the standard concert setlist has around 20 songs. Hence, 15 definitely felt on the shorter side. I don’t recall how many songs were in the setlist when I saw these guys on the “All you need is now” tour back in 2011 but I distinctly remember it being longer. “Careless Memories” and “Girls on film” aren’t personal favorites of mine so I don’t necessarily feel like I would have missed much had I left earlier. Just out of curiosity, how did you discover our radio station and blog? We would love to know. Thank you for the comment!

  12. Frannie says:

    Yes, 15 songs does seem on the short side. For instance, Culture Club who might be comparable to Duran Duran in terms of a band starting out in the 80’s does either 20 or 21 songs on their current tour set list.
    But I guess it would depend on how long each song is. Does Duran Duran play the songs like the recorded versions which I think are mostly around 4 minutes long each or are they extended versions?

  13. Frannie says:

    But perhaps it’s shorter because they haven’t added in the songs from the new album. If they added those in, it would be the standard length for concerts. I assume they would do around 5 or 6 songs from the new album so that would bring it up to the standard length.

  14. Frannie says:

    Have you heard their new song and the title track Paper Gods?

    I have to say I didn’t care for it too much, but some fans seemed to like it. It is definitely more experimental than Pressure Off.

  15. Frannie says:

    Another new song.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yq_164toLuE#t=125

    You kill me with Silence. Not really liking these new songs except for Pressure Off. It’s very synth driven with no real hooks or danceability. I guess there are trying to experiment but I don’t get this at all.

  16. @Frannie: My sincere apologies for not having acknowledged your last few comments. Duran Duran plays the regular version – except for “The Chauffeur”. They play a brilliant extended version of that fabulous song.

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