Last night, December 3, 2005, Duran Duran played in Buenos Aires as part of the Personalfest, a festival sponsored by a mobile phones company. It was a large festival in two nights with a couple of dozen artists. The stars of the night before were Simple Minds, Macy Gray and Good Charlotte (these played at the main stage, there were other smaller stages and venues). The second night it was Erikah Badu, a local band called Babasónicos and Duran Duran's turn.
I went with a female friend called Marianita who insisted me to go, I wasn't decided because I had a hard week. This whole festival took place in Puerto Madero, a chic neighborhood in Buenos Aires next to the river that used to be part of the old port but they recycled the warehouses and now it's a touristic attraction. My friend works there (lucky her, it's a very beautiful place) so I only had to pick her up when she left work. She works in a restaurant (at an office) so she got us some free meal. Duran Duran was announced to play 23:30 so we shown up around 22:30 in order to skip all the other bands and catch them.
The weather was humid (it's always humid here). In fact, during the afternoon it has been raining a lot, but the rain stopped a few hours before the show. Maybe it was the rain, maybe something went wrong or maybe it was a Latin thing, but every act was two hours behind the schedule.
When we got to the main stage Erikah Badu was doing her act. It was a LONG act, the songs were slow and not catchy at all. The formation of her band was drums, percussion, bass, keyboards, flute, backing vocals and her, no guitars at all. Now, everyone was a great instrumentist, she has an amazing voice, but the show was LONG AND BORING. As a musician myself I realized this some time ago, that having technical ability as a musician doesn't mean that you can put up a show that people would like to hear. The songs seemed to be just a bunch of slow soul licks where she and her friends had fun screaming and singing. Then she announced she was leaving and played three or four VERY LONG songs more, while the public was asking for Duran Duran.
I found this to be very unprofessional. It is not the same playing for people who are your fans than playing at a festival to people who are there to see other bands. I think that that 90% of the people never had heard of her before. Maybe the problem was the fact that she was playing at the main stage, would have her played at a smaller stage no one would have cared. If I would have been her (or his manager) I would have played a shorter set. (This is one of the best pieces of advise I got, when in doubt, play a short set. This way your fans will leave wanting more, which is not a bad thing, and people that don't enjoy your music won't hate you). Also, good instrumentists without good songs are a bad formula. If your songs are not catchy stay home (specially if no one in the audience have your CD).
While she was playing I was standing with my friend next to a beautiful blonde girl, until some moron stepped between the girl and me. I started looking at the guy with a non friendly face, with a big frown, until I realized that he looked like Gustavo Cerati, Argentina's biggest pop star (former lead singer of best selling pop Latin band Soda Stereo). Some minutes after my friend confirmed that he was in fact the famous star. After three or four long songs he went away (probably because of my frown).
After a break of half an hour Babasónicos played. They played for 40 minutes, but since the songs were uptempo and catchy the show was cool. It was the first time I saw them live.
When they left the technicians and assistants started to prepare the show for Duran Duran. There was a technician that wore a hairdo from the 80's, he looked like Bon Jovi in 1986 with long blonde hair, a terrible thing. It seemed that someone locked him away twenty years ago and only let him go to set up things at shows. Since the set up took almost an hour people in the audience started to scream funny things at him ("Señora, se hace tarde" – Madam, it's getting late).
For those interested in keyboards, Nick Rhodes' setup was a Kurzweil, an Alesis Andromeda, two silver keyboards that I think that one is a Roland because he lated fooled with the A Beam or whatever it is called, a small Korg thing (an Electribe?) and a Mac laptop computer.
Finally Duran Duran came in. The five of them stepped in and stayed there standing in the front of the stage. The audience went crazy (their only visit to Argentina was in 1993, when they shot the video for "Breath After Breath"). Two things crossed my mind: One, that they looked strangely young and cool, and two, that only them could get away with wearing clothes like those and still be considered cool. Nick Rhodes wore a pink suit, Andy Taylor was in black with shades (moments later he would lit a cigarette and he would smoke throughout the whole show). John Taylor wore leather pants, a short with vertical blue and white stripes and a kind of blue blazer that made him look like an American civil war soldier, with some symbols and a skull in the back. Simon Le Bon was in black with a white shirt. He wore black jeans that seemed to cost around $15 and black sneakers with white design. His shirt was black too. He carried some sort of bird figure with brilliants incrustations in his belt. I can't remember what Roger Taylor was wearing, maybe in black too (the cymbals obstructed most of the view). A black tall girl appeared later and sung backing vocals, she wore a brown jacket with a brown miniskirt.
They started playing "(Reach Out For The) Sunrise" and people started to jump and dance frantically. Soon my friend (who is not very tall) asked me to go to a safer place (we were very close to the stage). Since it has been raining the place was horribly muddy. Then they played the usual hits, I remember "The Reflex", "The Union Of The Snake", "Come Undone", "Girls On Film", "Notorious", a changed version of "All she Wants Is", "Ordinary World"... They linked one of these songs to "I Wanna Take You Higher" but can't remember which one. From the new album they played "Can You Taste The Summer", "Chains" (they said it was about a guy who's home and waiting for death to come) and another one that I know is from the album but can't remember the title. After an hour or so a middle-aged saxophone player that seemed to have come straight from a Huey Lewis and The News show started playing with them.
By this moment a disturbing theory started to take shape in my mind: That the five of them looked so young and fresh because there's some sort of esoteric spell on the assistant hairdo: if the assistant even cuts his hair and gets an up to date hairdo the members of the band start looking 20 years older. Talk about Dorian Gray.
People started asking for "Wild Boys". Simon introduced the members of the band. He asked the people to salute John Taylor by saying "play the f***ing bass John, play the f***ing bass John". Then he picked out a girl from the audience to be introduced by her. The girl was very young, not an original Duranie, and hesitated so much that he whispered his name in the girls' ear. They played a last song, went out, went back for the encores and Simon told us that it was 25 years after John Lennon was shot and Amnesty International was asking bands to contribute with songs for a tribute album and they were asked to play "Instant Karma". He said that never played the song before a live audience so we should forgive the mistakes.
Now, until that moment all the fans were singing along with the bands, which is not very common in a Spanish speaking country, mostly when the lyrics are quite difficult and sometimes bizarre (try to follow the lyrics to "The Union Of The Snake"). When they played "Instant Karma" (not a very known Lennon song) I guess that it was only 5 of us in the audience who knew the lyrics to the song. While I sung along I had some kids looking at me to find out if I was pretending or did I really knew the lyrics to the song.
After that they played "Save a Prayer" and finally "Wild Boys". Simon asked the boys to sing "wild boys, wild boys" and the girls to sing "wild girls, wild girls". They made a very long version, with false endings and such. When the show was over the city was covered in fog, with limelights in the back... It really looked like an 80's video clip. It was 4:00 AM. For me, the show was a class of professionalism, I felt like I have taken "how to put up a cool show" 101.