Saturday, April 12, 2008

Duran Duran in Manila

It was a trying weekend, and an even more trying Thursday. I was so busy dealing with the heinousness of a childhood friend's behavior towards me that I totally did not realize Duran Duran was in town. Righteous anger + tears + miserable summer heat = headache and lost productivity. Surely nothing could be so bad, you say? It was THAT bad.

"Hey, guess what," Jopet says, calling from his cellphone. "I'm here in Megamall, in line for tickets to the Duran Duran concert." There's a Duran Duran concert? How come I never heard or read about it? I, who at 18 actually became a bonafide member of the official Duran Duran fan club in Birmingham in their heyday (thanks, Ninong R)! Who had all the records, posters, shirts, pins, and whatnot? I felt middle-aged. I closed my eyes and wanted to cry, but nothing came. "Jopet," I said in this teeny voice, "I'd love to go, but I'm tired and emotionally drained and I don't have any cash on hand." At this point I had to tell him all I went through. "But you fixed it, right? You got an apology, right? So you won, it's all over, and now you have to celebrate. I'll call you when I've got the tickets."

For the next 5 minutes I was in shock. Each ticket for the upper box at Araneta Coliseum cost P2100 (reserved seating). Next thing I knew, I showered and dressed and met Jopet at Shangrila mall. He was right, I was victorious, and I was in a mood to celebrate. Life is too short to worry about all the details. We met Ryan at Cibo for dinner. I had the most wonderful sandwich, mushrooms sauteed in olive oil with garlic and herbs on grilled country bread. Nothing like food and friendship to restore you to your senses.

Once in our seats, we wondered how the producers were going to fill the venue. There was barely any advertising. No billboards, no fancy lifestyle articles. No product sponsors. Just MTV Philippines and Araneta Center. The seats filled slowly but steadily. The tickets said 830pm but the program actually started at 9. Still, we were in a mood to enjoy. Sandwich was the opening act. Sandwich! With Myrene Academia playing bass! When we were in college Myrene and I were Durannies together. What a dream come true for her to be sharing the same stage as the band, and to be playing bass because she was inspired by John Taylor.

The set was quite simple. A cityscape background and the instruments on elevated platforms. Lighting was quite good, though. Simple, but effective. When the band finally came out it was to loud cheering. Earlier we scanned the audience and found them to be of our generation - 80s kids - with their children! People brought out their point-and-shoots, taking pix and videos. The pics here were taken with my Asus V80 phone (whose camera I find superior to that of the Nokia 6120).

This time there were only four of the original Fab Five. Apparently, they no longer have a comfortable working relationship with Andy Taylor. They got a new lead guitarist, Dominic Brown, whom I must say was quite good. Simon Le Bon looked slimmer than he was in their heyday, dressed in a grey suit. Those narrow suits are back, just less shiny. The amazing thing was that his voice did NOT change. He still hit his high notes! John Taylor was still the prettiest. From where I sat I could see he still liked to tie kerchiefs to his sleeve. Nick Rhodes looked like an imperious Andy Warhol, hair and all, only he smiled more.

And Roger Taylor. I was so in love with Roger then. He was such a talented drummer, and I'm pleased to say, despite the long performance hiatus, he still is. I read some time earlier (just before Astronaut was released) that he had suffered from exhaustion from all their touring and had a nervous breakdown at some point, and withdrew to his farm. I also heard his wife Giovanna divorced him recently. By chance, I saw them perform Reach Out For The Sunrise on Top of the Pops a year or so ago, and was shocked at how much the fatigue had aged him. He used to have really great '50s Elvis Presley hair, and really sexy eyes (they all wore too much eyeliner in those days), and great-looking biceps. While he is no longer the pinup material he was then (his eyes are too sad now), I'm happy he got his mojo back.

The band interspersed new songs from their new album, Red Carpet Massacre, with old favorites: Hungry Like The Wolf, New Religion, Planet Earth, The Reflex, Wild Boys, Girls on Film, Ordinary World, Save A Prayer. If there were songs I forgot to mention, it's probably because I was in a happy daze for most of the concert. I was a bit disappointed that they didn't perform Is There Something I Should Know. They saved Rio for their encore.

Red Carpet Massacre is better than their previous album, Astronaut. Duran Duran have (Brit grammar) returned to their dance music roots, for which I'm glad -- there were several cuts from the album that felt like they had club remixes lined up for release. In one of his spiels Simon mentioned collaborating with Timbaland and Justin Timberlake (like many acts have done lately). Good move, boys! Nothing like keeping yourselves updated. Take your cue from Madonna.

So we sang along, surprised that we still knew ALL the words. I discovered that Ryan was born just when Duran Duran were becoming famous, but there must be something universal about their dance groove, because Ryan thoroughly enjoyed himself. At one point we were standing and dancing for 5 songs straight! Simon's energy was infectious. His armpits were stained with sweat. There were barely any intermissions. What rock stars! What rock stars.

It may have been somewhat cheesy to be waving my cellphone to Save A Prayer, but I was one with my generation -- young enough to keep dancing, old enough to know when not to care, as long as I had fun. Afterwards we were so hungry we went straight to Italianni's, shared 2 different pastas and a huged baked cheesecake.

By the end of that long, trying Thursday I had reclaimed my cheerful self. My balance.

(You are a lifesaver, Jopet!!! Thank you, bro. Your karaoke nights in Boracay are on me.)