Back to the future

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Duran Duran takes its fans on a rockin trip down memory lane at the 'Dome

Back to the future

by Mike Bell
Calgary Sun

Where were you 21 years ago March 7? I was probably in my jammies watching the Dukes of Hazzard. (Oddly enough that’s also what I have planned for this evening.)

But most of the roughly 7,000 thirtysomethings populating the Saddledome March 7 were probably laying on their beds staring at the posters adorning their walls and dreamily imagining a first kiss with Simon, John, Roger, Andy, or Nick. (Again, something I may get to later.)

On March 7, Duran Duran’s show at the Dome was purely and simply about reliving those memories, returning to those junior high days.

And to a great degree, it was successful. It provided an outlet and a focal point for those who fell in love with the five 80s models-cum-rock stars and the art-pop they rode to fame.

Unlike many similar return trips that have come through town in the past few years, last night’s show didn’t betray the original spirit of that time.

The reason? Duran Duran have been and always will be cheese.

Sure, maybe it’s a little more high brow or a little more pretentious than much of the rock music from that period, but from songs such as Girls on Film to The Reflex, the fromage has always been spread thick.

That made it much easier to enjoy the two-hour reunion on a less critical level. It made it easier to forgive the catwalk rock -school posturing from the boys. It made it easier to forgive frontman/dreamboat Simon LeBon’s lame fingerpoint at the word ‘you’ to punctuate the phrase “I’m on the hunt I’m after you” in the early hit Hungry Like the Wolf.

Hell, it almost made it easier to forgive how heavy the quintet — plus one female backup singer and a horn player— went on the new material in the first half of the show. Almost.

The new songs such as opener (Reach up for the) Sunrise and the title track from new album Astronaut may benefit from some residual nostalgia — way moreso live than on record. But it was when the band dipped all the way back to the classics such as Planet Earth, from their 1981 self-titled debut or their huge hit Wild Boys, that things really came to life, when the memories really came alive.

That’s when it worked, that’s when the cheese congealed. That’s when you could enjoy everything the band brought to the evening.

They sounded great, they looked great and they were willing to go virtually all the way to take their audience back to those teen-beat times.

It wasn’t perfect, but it was pretty good — all you can hope for from your memories.

As for opening act Ima Robot, who visited Calgary last summer for the Vans Warped Tour, the nouveau new-wave quintet put on the best set of the festival.

Part of what made their set so sensational, so memorable, was their attitude and their antics, which mainly included frontman Alex Ebert rolling around in the dirt and gravel.

It was a lot to hope they would translate as well in a half-empty arena. As it turned out, it was a lot, but not too much. Last night, Ima Robot turned in a set that was just as entertaining, just as memorable.

Their jittery, melodic rock had a great deal to do with that — rock music it should be noted, that is more representative of Duran Duran’s heyday — but it was also the band’s cool aloofness.

And Alex Ebert? Well, he went one better than Vans, committing one of the most rock and roll acts I’ve seen on a Saddledome stage in 20 years — he fell off it.

Without missing a beat, but obviously injured, he crawled back up, grabbed a microphone and continued to perform. It was absolutely beautiful.

Courtesy Calgary Sun