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After I got up out of bed this past Sunday morning, I put on a t-shirt that I had gotten from Paul Maxwell our merchandiser. It was a white shirt that had a variation of the 'Rio' image on the front. On the back it said 'Summer Tour '09', with the dates and places of the shows that we had just performed these last two weeks. Looking at those dates, feeling the feelings I had at that very moment I thought to myself if I had known a month ago what I now know, I would have suggested we name the tour the 'Duran Duran’s Short Sharp Shock Tour'!..

Of all the tours we have embarked on in recent years, this was the shortest, yes, lasting only fourteen days, and yet it was perhaps the most intense geographically, covering ground from Montana and California in the US, to Scotland and finally London two Saturdays later. In terms of what we aimed to achieve, on stage and off it was also rather ambitious. I am happy to report that each show on the tour turned out to be the proverbial 'cracker', and I hope that anyone who caught one of the shows would agree that the band has never sounded better. When I woke up on Sunday July 19th my first thought was that Duran Duran is a better band today than it has been in many, many years. And at an average age of 49, that ain't an easy thing to pull off....

Blowing his own trumpet

I'm listening to Miles Davis' 'Bitches Brew' album. It's a seminal album in the jazz canon, and much has been said and written about it. Basically, it's considered to be the first album labeled 'jazz-rock'. I've never thought of myself as a fan of jazz rock (or even jazz for that matter), but as I get older labels become less and less important. What I like is music. Good music, important music. Good art. Good art and important art. Music that is good, and important art, all at the same time.

I've come to believe that Miles Davis made good and important art. I've been an appreciator of 'Kind Of Blue' for years, (I would recommend that as the starting point for anyone wanting to get into Miles) and have become more and more familiar with his 1969 album 'In A Silent Way', the next milestone album after 'Kind Of Blue' (which had been released in 1959.) But 'Bitches Brew' is the monolith. A double album of crushing intensity.

'Bitches Brew' is Miles' 'Guernica', it divided his audience down the middle. He lost half of them, the conservative jazzers, because they only wanted to hear the styles they were most familiar with, but he gained ground with the rock 'heads', by playing concerts with The Grateful Dead, and on other more varied rock-centric bills. 'Bitches Brew' became the biggest selling album in jazz history. Try listening to it. It's an exercise in commitment. Back in 1970, when it was released, the popularity of hallucinogenic drugs probably made that process a little easier, and maybe even more interesting. Now it's just the music. Does it pay off on the investment? You tell me.

There have been a number of artists and works that over the years I've had to go back to again and again, in order to 'get'. Bob Dylan most famously. All except for a couple of the most obvious songs he had written, Bob Dylan proved extremely difficult for me to appreciate, I just could not get into him. But I kept going back, by trying this album, or that album, from friends’ recommendations, or listeners whose tastes I took seriously. Finally, the penny dropped, or rather the tear; once while listening to a song from 'The Freewheeling Bob Dylan', “North Country Girl”,( in a hotel gym of all places) a tear appeared from the corner of my eye, and I was hooked.

Artists like Dylan and Miles are worth the investment because once you are in, there's so much to dig, so much to love, and so many songs and stories to enjoy. Two of my favourite books about music are Miles’ 'Autobiography,' which he wrote with Quincy Troupe, and Bob Dylan's 'Chronicles Volume 1'. Better summer reading a music fan could not find.

July 4

JTPic1Found us in Big Sky country. God's country. Montana. Booked for a private performance at the ranch home of a sports mogul, (on previous years he had booked Earth, Wind and Fire, Journey and Lionel Richie) this gig was the perfect opportunity for us to come back together onstage after a few weeks away from each other. The basic hits set, there is always something challenging about these shows. Small stages, maybe a foot off the ground, and an audience whose age can range from three to ninety-three, and they're all on the dance floor, right in front of you, wanting to dance in most peculiar ways... Odd.

My philosophy toward live work has always basically been 'tonight's gig is the most important gig' and I continue to hold true to that. Some gigs do cast shadows both in advance of them happening and for days afterwards, (Lovebox would prove that), but by and large we all hold to this idea that each set is as important as the other.

The trip to Montana also enabled us to visit Glacier National Park and take a swim in the glacial run-off stream, which even Charlie said was 'the coldest water he had ever been in!' Ever so much fun, and very galvanizing (bonding).

From Montana we flew into Seattle for our Sunday evening performance. This was the first real test of the new show, and in particular the encore arrangement, a rather lengthy medley that Mark Ronson had invented for us to perform in Paris last year, complete with versions of 'Planet Earth' and 'Girls On Film', with a few bars of 'Le Freak' thrown in. It starts out with our tribute to the James Bond theme tunes, Simon then takes the stage in tuxedo and bow tie for a Sinatra-esque 'A View To A Kill'. In Seattle, being so far north and it being summer, it's mostly light out during the set, but by the time of the encore it's gone black as night, so our stage lights get to do their thing. It’s pretty spectacular, and has quite the desired effect, if I say so myself...

Blowing in the wind...

Sunday July 5th, being, in Duran Duran touring argot, 'a three city day' (waking in Montana, gigging in Seattle, flying then to bed in San Francisco), it's an exhausting day. Thanks be to the lord, Monday is a day off. I awaken in a beautiful room with great views of the city. The light in San Francisco is so strong, and I love it. So many of my favourite movies have been made here, 'Vertigo', 'Dirty Harry', 'Bullet'.. it's a city that is filled with cinematic magic. Of New York it is said, that if you are tired of it, then you are tired of life. I think the same is true for San Francisco. JTPic2

In the afternoon I meet up with Kelly Wright, and we take the requisite trip over to the Haight-Ashbury area. It's an imitation, really, of the neighbourhood it was from whence the whole flower power/hippy movement got its start, now being mostly horrible shops all selling the same souvenir hippy crap, but there is still Amoeba on Haight Street, the finest music retail outlet on the planet, and Amoeba must always be visited. We meet Simon and Kristen, our tour photographer, at the store. Both Simon and I are still caught up in vinyl mania, and buy quite a bit of good stuff. We assented to both do interviews for Amoeba's website, about our tastes in music and what we both bought. Check out www.ameoba.com

The following day's show is at the Fillmore. Mike Caddick from Swordfish in Birmingham (swordfishrecords@btconnect.com) asked me days later about the Fillmore, 'Is it the original building still? and does it feel 'special' to play there?' If you are reading this and don't know anything about the Fillmore, google it. It is one of, if not the most significant live music venue of the rock era. Also significantly, the Fillmore is famous for it's concert poster designs, some of which are stone cold classics. Again, check them out on google. As far as I know, it is the same building it always was. On the wall in the dressing room is a poster for a 1970 performance by Led Zeppelin. Also on the bill; The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band and Rasaan Roland Kirk. All that on acid. Freaky.

It's a good sized building that holds about two thousand ravers. Hours before show time the room is packed. How could it not be a special night? Everyone who plays there takes to the stage with an awareness of themselves within the space-time-continuum that is the music business that they have at few other times. Just thinking about that night's show as I write this makes me smile. We did indeed kick out the jams, motherfucker! We played everything; 'Election Day, 'Late Bar', 'Do You Believe in Shame?', The big boss encore medley... we damn near wore ourselves out! And I kid you not, about forty-five minutes in a thought passed through my head that said, 'This is the best concert I've ever played...'

Off the Wall...

The sad death of Michael Jackson has finally made clear to us all two truisms about the music industry:

1.) That you are lucky if there are more than two music retail outlets in your local town (that is; stores that sell CDs)
2.) i-tunes never goes out of stock.

The day after the sonic festival that was our return to the Fillmore West the four of us drug/dragged our asses down to Apple in Cupertino. The agenda was to make some friends and discuss possible projects that Apple and Duran could engage in together. Possible promotions around the forthcoming album, a possible DD application, and future i-tunes projects. It was a surprisingly enjoyable afternoon, and we found everyone we met at apple to be nice and enthusiastic about working with us. Watch this space.

Child friendly…

That night we played in Silicon Valley, at the Saratoga Winery. It was a very bourgeois affair after the urban crack-fest of the SF city show (okay, so I'm exaggerating...) but it was very family oriented. I had the most delightful child standing in front of me right through the show, maybe six years of age, who knew all the words to 'Tempted' of all songs!.. So charmed by him was I that I had to pick him up and bring him and his sister onstage at the end and let them get a taste of the spotlight.

The next day, Thursday (try and stay up with me here...) I took a morning flight back to Los Angeles. I'd had some dental surgery the week before and had to have the stitches taken out. I was able to use this as an excuse to check back in with my LA life for a mad, bad and dangerous to know twenty-four hours. On Friday afternoon Gela and I jumped on a plane and flew out to Las Vegas, getting there just in time to slap on some make-up for the show that night at The Palms.

It was our first time at this venue and we enjoyed it immensely. It felt like a much bigger venue than it actually was, in part, perhaps, due to the audience seating area, which went high, high into the ceiling. Everyone gets a great view of the stage. Afterwards I was pleased when veteran West Coast concert promoter Andy Hewitt said '... that was strange... I've been coming to see you guys since The Roxy (in '81), and I have to say, I don't think you've ever sounded better...' I thought to myself, file that one away, JT...

After the show Gela was most excited that stores in Vegas stay open until midnight!!... and she could actually shop at that late hour. I agreed to accompany her to the mall... After a few minutes though, maybe twenty, an extraordinary thing happened. My wife turned to me and said, 'I think I'm too tired to do this...' In all my years of husbandry, dear reader, I don't think I have ever heard those words uttered before in relation to clothes shopping... it was really, really quite extraordinary. Totally. I record its happening here for posterity as I fully doubt it will happen again.

Something I always look forward to in Vegas in hooking up with my friend and ex-cohort Larry Aberman. Post Terroristen Larry took up the drum stool at the Cirque-du-Soleil's pervy 'Zumanity' show at New York New York. Then he took up with the beautiful Marcella, a performer in the show, and they took up together to have baby Ella, now almost a year old. I had yet to meet Ella and was thrilled to see the three of them for breakfast and cartoons Saturday morning. I'm so happy to have Larry as a friend. He is of a rare breed. Deeply sensitive and passionate about music. He is also a raging pragmatist who gives thanks every day for the good graces that life has brought him. It was wonderful to see him so happy with wife and child. Lovely. Oh yeah, and to make matters even more child friendly and lovey-dovey, Dom called me at midday to announce the birth of baby Laila Hope Brown, born in London early that morning!JTPic4

Saturday and it's time for the final gig on this short but perfect US run.

Down to the O.C. for a performance at The Pacific Amphitheatre. Everyone is feeling the heat of the schedule, but it’s good to have Gela with us onboard the Starship ‘Rio’... The Pacific Amphitheatre is one of those venues one only finds in America, as it is attached to a State Park. We had played there once before, the second gig of the reformation, as it were, so we all felt good about going back. We got to the backstage area with hours to spare. It’s times like that for which I bother to make up pre-show playlists of all the music I have been loving recently. This time it’s classic Motown and lesser-known Northern Soul:

Man Without A Woman
Michael & Raymond
Girl (Why You Wanna Make Me Blue)
The Temptations
Road Runner
Jr Walker And All Stars
Love Child
The Supremes & Diana Ross
Maybe Tomorrow
Jackson 5 Maybe Tomorrow
6 By 6
Earl Van Dyke & The Motown Brass
Reparta And The Delrons
Do I Love You
Chris Clark
Shoot Your Shot
Jr Walker And All Stars
It's Better To Have (And Don't Need)
Don Covay
Ain't No Mountain High Enough
The Funk Brothers
How Long Has That Evening Train Been Gone
The Supremes
I'm Wondering
Stevie Wonder
(Come 'round Here) I'm the One You Need
Smokey Robinson & The Miracles
Love Is Here and Now You're Gone
The Supremes
Carifornia Soul
Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell
Just Walk In My Shoes
Gladys Knight & The Pips
The Night
Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons
Wonderful Baby
The Four Tops Reach Out
Tell Me It's Just Rumour Baby
The Isley Brothers
Love Is Like an Itching in My Heart
Diana Ross & The Supremes
Get Ready
The Temptations Gettin' Ready
If I Were Your Woman
Gladys Knight & The Pips
Darling Dear
Jackson 5
Still Water
The Temptations / The Four Tops
Just a Little Misunderstanding
I'm Gonna Make You Love Me
The Temptations and Diana Ross & The Supremes
You Don't Know Where Your Interest Lies
Dana Valery
Tainted Love
Gloria Jones

I had invited a lot of my friends down from LA. It's another terrific gig and I want to thank everyone who made the effort to get there. Although the audience were mainly from the Los Angeles/Orange County area, I know many others came from much further afield.

….to be continued