I feel very lucky to have grown up in a period where music was special. The Seventies and Eighties may have had a rough ride in the press for many years for the music the times spawned but it was such a rich and creative period. One that produced songs and bands that still capture people’s attention all these years on.
Music seems to have been so much more precious in my youth. I have fond memories of Sundays at home, a bag of nerves, muscles tensed, fingers hovering like coiled springs over the play and record button of the tape cassette machine. The top forty on Radio One was the highlight of the week and you were anxious to hear who would be where, to record the songs so you could play them through the week. Getting to school on Monday morning was about meeting your friends to discuss who recorded what songs onto tape and whether your favourite group had the recognition they deserved, had they made it into the charts, how high had they climbed, who was number one, even more exciting was when a new track lit up your evening, a new discovery.
Back then there was less choice, less distraction. You listened to music properly, whole heartedly. You absorbed it, let it swirl around your mind, kindle passion in your heart. You sought meaning from it, a connection, excitement and very much at that time hope.
I don’t think the enjoyment of music today is any less but I wonder if the depth it penetrates into the psyche is as powerful. In a throw away society, a world of instant gratification, do bands produce music that will survive the decades and resonate in the same way with future generations.
I remember vividly when Duran Duran burst onto the scene with ‘Planet Earth’. The wave of New Romantic music entered a world that was much greyer than todays. Post oil crises of the Seventies the Eighties began with British Steel workers striking, Margaret Thatcher announcing benefit pay for strikers would be halved, Radio Caroline running aground and the SAS storming the Iranian Embassy. Maggie Thatcher made her famous ‘This ladies not for turning’ speech and MG finally stopped producing cars at Abingdon (I just seem to have discovered that Aston Martin apparently failed to raise funds to buy MG, what might have been!)
Through this tumultuous period rose the New Romantics. They were just one part of a wave of change, of need for improvement and there was a joy of anticipation for a future ahead, the challenge for a generation to build something better and brighter. In February 1981 ‘Planet Earth’ burst onto the radio airwaves and TV Screens via Top of The Pops. Duran Duran arrived with a bang.
The songs of that period all invaded my soul, I won’t profess to having been a die-hard Duran Duran fan, amongst my friends it was kind of cool not to like the new romantics. Through the years in between it’s safe to say that the bands hits have become favourite songs. I never imagined that I would see them live and on Tuesday 8th December 2016 I had an opportunity to experience two new delights.
Please don’t ask me why I haven’t been to the 02 previously, that’s kind of embarrassing to admit; perhaps I’m a little sniffy about big venues.
Break for the Border, Astoria 2, The Forum in Old Kentish Town, Brixton Academy, Hammersmith Apollo, Shepherds Bush Empire, the Leas Cliff Hall, all are venues that have provided amazing memories and an intimacy with bands that the likes of Wembley Arena somehow don’t seem to quite manage. OK so being stood in front of the stage at Wembley Arena listening to Bon Jovi (i didn’t buy the tickets i was coerced there I promise) was pretty special and I have seen some great gigs over the years at that venue. The O2, to me, had this apparent air of being too big and in the past I’ve arrived too late at the ticket sites to get anything more than a ticket labelled ‘restricted view’, something that makes me shy away instantly unfortunately.
Duran Duran appeared on the ever reliable Jools Holland show and as my wife is a huge fan of the lads it seemed sensible to see what they were up to. A quick search online and hey presto there they were appearing at the O2, after divesting myself of a little more money than I might otherwise have chosen to spend we were booked into seats that looked onto the side of the stage.
Driving up to the O2, parking (next time I’ll be more organised and book more than two weeks in advance to save extra) was all so easy!
On the night we settled into our seats nice and early to hear the support bands, yes I wanted to ensure I got my moneys worth.
Music from Ukraines – Bloom Twins began the evening, it’s always intriguing to hear something new and although the auditorium was lightly populated for their set they got some strong applause from a polished group of songs; soaring vocals with a somewhat haunting quality got the audience prepared and active for what was to come.
For me the real magic began when Seal walked on stage and went straight into ‘Crazy’. Wow! As he whipped through his set showcasing some of his new songs the crowd went mad. He has an amazing voice, every bit as wonderful live as it is at home on vinyl (the only real way to listen to music, but CD is ok :-). Here is a performer that knows how to charm a crowd. As he stepped up to the barrier to carry on singing beside the fans and later walked into the audience you knew you were going to be buying his new album as soon as you could. For a moment, listening to him, I must admit to wondering if Duran Duran had made a mistake having him support them and would get upstaged (my apologies to the faithful Duran Duran fans and the band for doubting), how wrong I was.
Thirty five years on Duran Duran seem to exhibit a passion for their music, for performing and for their fans that is undiminished. They lit up the O2 and had the roof coming down. In a show that was all about the music the power of their performance and the strength of their songs was incredible. The stage show was great but very much there to complement the songs not overshadow them.
I love bands who write for performing, it shows a passion for their music and a joy of sharing it that makes the whole experience so much more incredible. The tracks from Paper Gods, their latest album, are at their best played live, they gain body, power, they expand and are so much more than when played through a stereo system at home.
Simon Le Bons stage presence and the bands captivated the audience and immersed everyone in the experience. His voice, their polished performance all combine to confirm the band deserves its iconic status amongst the ranks of the music elite. The appearance on stage of Mr Hudson and Lindsay Lohan was a nice addition to the experience.
For two hours the venue pulsated with adoration and enjoyment, upturned faces filled with rapture sang with the band through the songs and a truly memorable evening came toward a conclusion with a moving dedication of ‘Save a Prayer’ to the victims of the recent terrible events in Paris and especially at the Bataclan.
That two-hour set made me regret not having seen the band before and I am now a confirmed fan. The whole evening, including the ease with which we got away from the O2 means I will definitely be returning and hopefully on numerous occasions.
Thank you everyone who appeared on stage for making it a superb evening!