DURAN DURAN UNSTAGED, THE MAYAN, DIRECTED BY DAVID LYNCH, STREAMED LIVE INTERNATIONALLY ON VEVO AND YOUTUBE, WEDNESDAY 3/23/11
I’m a sucker for wanting to be a part of a monumental event. If something is promoted as a once in a lifetime experience, I get very sucked in, believing that I physically need to find a way to get my body into that moment. So as soon as I learned about the Duran Duran show at The Mayan last Wednesday night, which was to be streamed live to the world via Vevo and YouTube and directed by David Lynch, I longed to be there. I had seen Duran Duran perform a few years ago at the Nokia, where my childhood crush on Simon Le Bon rekindled, and I so wished to be in his presence once again. With the help of what I can only explain as some seriously strong witchcrafting, I was able to find last minute VIP tickets including after party access. I usually don’t trust craigslist posts that seem too good to be true, but once I spoke to the guy on the phone and he gave me some more detailed information, he actually seemed legit so I decided to just trust a stranger and get the tickets.
When my friend and I pulled up to the historical Mayan theater that night, my heart was pounding. Would the tickets even work? He dropped me off right in front so he could find a parking spot while I found us good seats in the balcony. It was a very rainy evening in LA, so I popped open my umbrella, hopped over a giant puddle/moat, held my breath, and handed the usher my ticket. I quickly exhaled once I heard that glorious beep of the scan going through and was instructed to enjoy the show. I’m in.
I was escorted to the general admission VIP balcony where I found front row seats right behind the row of professional photographers. The show was to start promptly at 7pm since they were streaming it. No warm up bands, barely any time to dry off from the rain. While we had been cursing the rain for making LA traffic a nightmare, it actually worked in our favor since it made everyone else late and we were able to snag perfect seats even though we didn’t get there until about 6:40. My friend found me a few minutes later and handed me a vodka tonic, and then at 6:50 David Lynch walked on stage.
The legendary director explained to the crowd that the Mayan theater audience would see the Duran Duran show in its entirety, just like a regular concert, but when it streamed live to the world, he would be adding images to the show from his “van outside”. I now had an amusing visual of the wild haired Mr. Lynch sitting outside in a white unmarked rapist van, working his magic.
7pm hit, and out strolled Le Bon and the boys. He is seriously one yummy hunk of man meat. They started right in to their newest single All You Need is Now, a highly energized track that kicked the futuristic retro night into full gear. I’m not even sure futuristic retro existed until that night. The two hour set featured many highlights and a few guest stars. Beth Ditto from The Gossip took the stage to sing Notorious with Le Bon, and you could see it on her adorable face just how excited she was to be up there performing with Duran Duran. She even admitted she was nervous, and Le Bon, being a gentleman, told her he was nervous too. But the nerves were hidden and their harmony was strong.
Probably the biggest holy shit moment was the performance of the haunting new track The Man Who Stole a Leopard, which is destined to be an enormous smash. It is one of those softly sensual, pulsing songs that drives you to search out a sex club in leather thigh high boots at 4am. As Le Bon chants “don’t spill my secrets”, you almost feel his powerful hands reaching into your chest cavity, ripping out your own shameful skeletons. Guest vocalist Kelis sounded so sweet you would never have guessed that she was once luring boys to the yard with her milkshakes. She looked stunning in a floor length skin-tight gown, reminiscent of a pre-Bobby Brown Whitney Houston…if Whitney had worn chains from her nose. She returned again later for Come Undone, a song that never fails to bring tears to my eyes, and that sweet tragic lullaby never sounded better.
Another noteworthy new track is Blame the Machines. Some tech savvy fan has created a video of the track using scenes from the movie Barbarella. Duran Duran got their band name from the evil character Durand Durand from Barbarella, so the fan video is clever on several levels.
I had watched the video prior to the show, being the Barbarella junkie that I am, so I was already familiarized with the song. I can already tell from the short amount of time that the album has been released that I am going to wear the entire album out to death. Producer Mark Ronson really did quite a job at taking the band back to their core sound while still keeping them modern and new. When you buy the album All You Need Is Now, be sure to splurge for the deluxe set, which includes both a CD and a DVD.
I was thrilled when they performed their classic (Reach Up for the) Sunrise, a song which is basically an anthem for optimism, and it like I was reaching up and touching the scalding sun as I watched Le Bon throw his fists into the air and twirl around the stage. One reason I love seeing Duran Duran live is how joyous their performances are. Le Bon comes off as much more lighthearted than many of his British legend peers, which is most apparent during Sunrise, Hungry Like The Wolf, and Rio. And then in the next beat Le Bon can emote a somber depth for Ordinary World.
Even though I was fairly certain Ana Matronic couldn’t be there to sing Safe, which she guest vocals on the new album, since I knew that same night she was scheduled to open for the Lady Gaga show with the Scissor Sisters in Sacramento, I was still disappointed when she didn’t appear onstage. I was actually a little surprised that Le Bon didn’t at least give mention to the fact that she sang on the album, but he didn’t reference her at all. The only other disappointments I felt was the absence of Say A Prayer and Wild Boyz from the setlist. But I realize they can’t perform every song that everyone loves or the show would go on for days.
Once the show ended with an electric rendition of “Girls On Film”, we heard some people talking about the after party, which we hadn’t really received any concrete information about. Once I saw someone pull out a wristband that looked just like the ones we had, I asked an official looking guy in a blazer where we should go for the after party. He told us to wait for a minute while they gathered more people and then they would take us down. We waited about two minutes and then the group was on the move. There was a blonde woman with a furry leopard coat in our group, so as we scurried down the stairs I told my friend to follow that leopard coat! Down to the main stage we went, through a side door, out to the alley that runs alongside the theater, then down into the bowels of the Mayan via a sketchy concrete stairwell. And then we walked into the room.
The after party room was not large by any means. The first thing my booze loving ass noticed was the bar. The first thing my male companion noticed was the food table. There was a spread of appetizers, fruit, vegetables, and a mermaid stuffed with loaves of bread. Being the aquatic enthusiast I am, I became over excited about the bread mermaid so much so that she became one of the top celeb sightings of the evening.
So I got my drink at what I discovered was the open bar (bonus!), and my friend made himself a plate of food. Then he got another plate of food. I gawked at him as he ravenously stuffed his face with mini shrimps like someone sort of seafood fetishist. I asked him how he could be eating so much shrimp as we became more and more surrounded by party goers. He kept urging me to have some shrimp, so much so that I finally said, “I’m sorry, but I am not going to meet Simon Le Bon with shrimp breath, that is just not my destiny.” He laughed and I noticed some cocktail sauce on his face and inside I prayed for my friend to hurry up and get full so he could get it together and act like a regular human again. While I love eating, when I’m in an overwhelming situation where Duran Duran could walk before me at any moment, the last thing I want is a paper plate of picked over finger foods in my way.
My friend did finally get his fill of shrimp, but not before an awkward encounter with electronica god Moby. Unbeknownst to me, while I waited for my first drink, my friend had walked up to Moby and asked if he could take a picture with him. Moby said yes, so my friend told him he was “going to go get the camera”. Once I had my drink I walked over to my friend as he started devouring his shrimp, and he failed to tell me that he talked to Moby. Then Moby kind of walked up to us. He was standing before me and my scrambled brain thought ok now is my chance to meet him, but I was also thinking oh my god, what is Moby doing? Is he just coming over here to talk to us? What is happening? My friend just stood there continuing to hoover his food. So I started talking. I told Moby that we saw him at The Wiltern a few years ago and it was one of the best shows I’ve ever seen and that it was like a religious experience. He thanked me and was very nice, so I asked him if he wouldn’t mind taking a picture with me. He accommodated and we posed and then my friend kind of nudged me with a mouthful of food and said he wanted one too, so then I took a picture of them (plate of shrimp still in my friend’s hands) and off Moby went. That is when my friend thought to tell me that he asked Moby for a picture earlier. So then my mind was spinning like oh no now Moby thinks we are weirdos, I don’t want that to be my Moby experience, and I soothed myself by guzzling down an entire glass of Grey Goose and tonic.
But I quickly laughed off the odd mini fail, and we started walking around the tiny room to people watch. We saw Marilyn Manson talking to a group. We saw Samantha Ronson talking to Mark Ronson. My friend left to use the restroom, and in walked David Lynch with an entourage, one guy with a huge camcorder following his every move. They darted to the other side of the room, seemed to only stay about 5 minutes, and then paraded right by me, and as he exited the door, he turned around smiled in my direction. Then he waved goodbye to it seemed like just the general crowd, and off he went, his camcorder caboose in tow. Did that just happen? I felt like I had just momentarily transported back to the ’60s and I just saw Andy Warhol. Head spinning, I continued my Grey Goose consumption.
Then, a few minutes later, in filtered THEM…the members of Duran Duran.
We saw a commotion happening near the door which we could tell was from people taking pictures with Le Bon. Le Bon then moved right past us because someone was leading him directly to Marilyn Manson. The leader was saying, “He’s over here, he is wearing a hat,” and they flowed past us, Le Bon’s face beaming as he rushed Manson with a huge bear hug.
I started to make a bee line for Le Bon, as if I was cosmically magnetized to his tight British buns. I just wanted to meet him for a second, to have those eyes looking into my eyes. No one was going to get in my way. A few seconds later I was standing right next to him. A woman was talking to him and while I’m a determined girl, I’m not a rude girl, so I waited for them to finish talking. I quickly realized that this girl was a fan as she leaned over and told Simon is his ear how she grew up on his music and that she just loooooooveees him. Yep, the chick was shitfaced. I was trying to decipher if Simon was annoyed by this embarrassing display of a sexual advance. I couldn’t quite tell…and then the girl literally turned around and started grinding her ass onto his crotch. He said “Whoa what are you doing…”, but then got this huge old man pervert grin on his face and started moving along with her, and then actually full on grabbed her ass. There I stood, this short little blonde with this nervous smile and he was looking right at me as he grinded with this groupie. Oh wow, so this was my Simon Le Bon encounter destiny. This boozy ho somehow made me feel like a doe-eyed innocent who was just now at that second discovering that babies don’t actually come from storks. And all the while as I felt this, due to the crowd I was pressed right up against Simon’s sleeve as he kept glancing at me with amusement and confusion. I looked to my friend who was holding my camera in preparation to take my picture and we exchanged baffled, bulging stares. And I just stood there like an idiot with this frozen in headlights smile, powerless to do anything but gawk and wait for it to end, riding out the terror. It felt like an eternity but in reality I think it was only about a minute and then finally drunken butt grinder got distracted by something shiny and went away. I then told Le Bon how great the show was and we posed for a picture together. I looked into his eyes…those gorgeous eyes…and they looked a bit spaced out. Pretty sure he was buzzed on something, but I didn’t care since the Grey Goose was kicking in right about then for me. I felt his arm around me and if it hadn’t been, I might have floated away. He then turned to someone else who was demanding his attention, and I slinked off.
We made our way around the room again and I noticed Moby with only his friend next to him and I remembered something I wanted to say to him. Giddy off my Le Bon high, I marched over to him and I told him about a blog that he wrote that I really loved. It was a true story about the night he woke up to find a stranger on his couch at his house in Silverlake. He quickly realized the stranger was on acid and in his psychedelic state had stumbled into Moby’s unlocked door. Instead of calling the cops, Moby gave the guy a sweatshirt and sent him on his way. He told me that he was just really glad the guy hadn’t stabbed him in his sleep. I laughed and told him that I thought the story was so hilarious but also so sweet since he didn’t bust the guy. I then told him again what a big fan I am, thanked him for talking to me, and wished him a great night. So I had just talked to Moby about an acid trip while feeling like I was on an acid trip because I was talking to Moby.
Once the party started to die down and others began filtering out of the room, my friend and I figured it was time to head out. We walked back up the stairwell that led us to the side of the stage, and I decided to stand up on the stage and take a few pictures of the now nearly vacant arena. What was just a few hours ago throbbing with creative energy, music, and screams had now become just a large room with a few stage hands moving speakers around.
We then headed out to our car parked across the street, and I looked up into the night sky to find it swirling with smoky clouds, making the night look like a tie-dyed tapestry. The air felt so crisp, the dampness from the rain still heavy in the atmosphere. And as we drove away from the theater, I threw my arms into the air out the window and shouted “No No Notorious!” Or at least that is what I would have done had this been the closing scene of an ‘80s teen flick.
Instead I spent the ride home concentrating on my vibrating body, trying desperately to hold on to the feeling of wild, reckless happiness…to burn it to memory for the next time I inevitably come undone.
All You Need Is Now, Being Followed, Planet Earth, Friends of Mine, Notorious, Blame The Machines, Hungry Like The Wolf, Leave A Light On, Ordinary World, The Man Who Stole A Leopard, Girl Panic!, Careless Memories, Sunrise, Rio, ENCORE: Come Undone, A View To Kill, Girls On Film
Over this past week, I’ve visited Duran Duran’s Vevo page to rewatch the performances. Now I am seeing the show the way David Lynch meant for the world to see it. Lynch doesn’t pander to the audience – he is full on Lynch, whether you like it or not. What would even be the point of bringing Lynch into the mix if he wasn’t allowed to go full throttle. The black and white effect gives the performances a timeless feel, while his mysterious images give the clips the perfect signature Lynch touch. I’ve read some comments online that say the performances would have been better off without Lynch getting involved. But while Lynch’s style isn’t for everyone, I believe he is the perfect match for Duran Duran. What an innovative concept, to bring together such an iconic band with a revered director. Both entities share a dark humor. Both acquired great fame in the 80s, Duran Duran rising to the top as a solid staple of ‘80s Brit pop, and Lynch’s cult success with the 1986 film Blue Velvet and the early ‘90s television series Twin Peaks. And here they are, twenty-plus years later, voyaging a new media frontier together.
Coolest pioneers EVER.
[You can watch many of the performances from that night at http://www.youtube.com/duranduran. Click below to watch specific videos that I’ve chosen. A window will pop up redirecting you to youtube, then click on the “Watch on YouTube” link to be taken automatically to that specific song.]