Although I don’t really put in for many shows at the BEC (it’s such a long way to go to hang around waiting for a band and then get kicked out after three songs and have to come all the way back again) I just really fancied covering Duran Duran for a bit of old time nostalgia. The Reflex was the first song on the first album I ever bought (Now That’s What I Call Music 3) and with Wild Boys being everywhere after it was released in 1984 and then View To A Kill (Now That’s What I Call Music 5) in 1985, for a couple of years, and a couple of years when I was starting to discover music properly, they were unavoidable any time you turned on a TV or radio or bought a compilation album, as everyone does at that age. I can remember the Arcadia and Power Station side projects from more compilation albums (Arcadia’s Election Day on Now That’s What I Call Music 6 and The Power Station’s cover of Get It On on Now That’s What I Call Music 5 again) and reading the disappointing reviews of the Notorious album in the papers and Smash Hits, even though I thought the title track was a good song (Now That’s What I Call Music 8). A few years later they continued their fine singles form with Ordinary World and Come Undone but I guess that’s the last time I paid much attention to them, even though Wikipedia is telling me that was 1993, almost 20 years ago and they’ve released seven albums in that period. They did play at V Festival a few years ago (2008) but I think they clashed with someone I really wanted to see (possibly Smashing Pumpkins), although I’ve got a feeling I stood at the very back of the field as I was heading to another stage to catch a very brief glimpse from a couple of hundred metres away. If I’m right about them clashing with Smashing Pumpkins, in retrospect I probably should have stayed with Duran Duran…
Having put in weeks ago to cover it, I’m not expecting to get to do it when I hear on the grapevine the day before that there are no review tickets. However, I get an email at 4:53pm on a Friday afternoon confirming it; the big promoters have a habit of leaving media requests until the very last minute, a really annoying trait. Having heard the whisper that there were no review tickets I had then been looking forward to a Saturday night off instead of the show, something I really could have done with after five shows in seven nights and with Duran Duran now pushing it out to six shows in eight days. When you request a load of shows it always seems like a good idea and you always convince yourself that it’s not too much on top of a proper 40 hour a week job and that everything will be ok.
But by the time I get to the BEC, I’m feeling terrible and really feverish. We’ve been told to get there for 8:15pm but don’t get taken out to the auditorium until 8:40 with the band not starting until another 5 to 10 minutes after this. The BEC is in a layout I’ve never seen before. Whereas Roger Waters sold out three nights here last month, there’s a bit black sheet at the back of the venue tonight hiding the fact that it’s only half sold out. It’s probably a crowd that would have just filled the much smaller BCC in town. The ticket prices were expensive though, with the cheap seats up at the back still being $130 and those close to the stage double that. It obviously hadn’t sold well as there was a fire sale in the last few days before the show. I saw tickets being advertised for $65 and also heard that they were then as low as $50 at the very last minute.
As you might expect from going to see Duran Duran almost 30 years after their peak, it’s largely an older female crowd, especially those in the front seats. When the lights go down, there’s a run for the front although I think security were trying to send the people who had clambered over their seats to get to the front back to their original positions. I know it’s an older crowd but it probably would have made more sense to have a General Admission area at the front with no seats.
The three songs we get to photograph tonight are a new one (Before The Rain according to setlist.fm), Planet Earth and View To A Kill. The band sound really superb. I know I shouldn’t be but I’m really taken aback by just how good they are. Simon Le Bon is in fantastic voice, again I didn’t expect him to be that good, and he sounds exactly the same as he used to thirty years ago. When he walks out you can feel a slight pang of disappointment from the crowd that he’s heavier than he was back in the band’s glory days and bearded, but he’s still looking really good for a 53 year old. Even playing to a middle-aged (and older) crowd, John Taylor is still the band’s obvious heart throb, the big hair of the 80’s has gone but he can still get away with a green highlight stripe. Roger Taylor is largely hidden behind his massive drum kit but just looks like an older version of his mid-80s self. As for Nick Rhodes, again time has largely stood still, he’s still looking stylish, still has the mop of blonde hair and is still wearing the New Romantic make-up look. The trouble is that while you may have gotten away with that look in your 20s, more than 30 years later it just makes you look like someone should be submitting your photo to www.menwholooklikelesbians.com.
As usual, as the end of the third song we’re escorted from the photo pit and out to reception.
It’s strange because it’s such a thrill to photograph them, a lot more than I thought it would be. I thought it would be a bit of fun on a Saturday night but in the end I was really hoping the promoter would say that we could stay and that there were a few spare seats at the back somewhere. It’s the main reason I don’t put in for many BEC or BCC shows but it’s still annoying and disappointing that you make the trip all the way out there and back for 15 minutes, while the reviewer always gets a +1. As there’s not enough time to get to the train station to get the next train back to the city, I have another 30 minutes to kill and so sit outside the doors to the auditorium in the main entrance room and listen to the band while downloading photos from my memory card. As I do so, middle aged women who work at the BEC have a bit of a dance and a bit of a sing around the foyer. Even through the walls they sound excellent. I probably should have bought one of those $50 tickets. Still, the 12 year old me would have been mightily impressed that one day he got to stand so close to Simon Le Bon.