I grew up surrounded by music, an environment my parents provided out of their love for it that has served me well throughout my life. When I'm not getting enough of it, especially of the live variety, something goes sideways in my world that has to be put back on course.
So it was that I drove to Portsmouth, Virginia, yesterday, to see Duran Duran live on the first day of a trip I'll tell you about soon. I had seen them in October, the latest in a series of their concerts I've gone to that altogether kinda sorta make up for the fact that I missed seeing them on the Seven and the Ragged Tiger tour in 1984/85. That one was special, as in off the crazy train of awesome hook special, because I got to shoot some photos of the show from the very front of Constitution Hall.
Very front. As in, that is John Taylor's hand, and I took it, so, yes, that is where I was.
So I can say I did that, one time. That was a pretty big deal for me.
Sarah took that, and lets me use it when I want to. Thanks, Sarah.
Last night I wasn't in the photo pit, nor did I even have my big camera with me, because I didn't know the venue well enough to know if it would fly to have it or use it, and there is nothing more aggravating than getting stopped with a camera and my car was all the way over by the Coast Guard building and, well, iPhone, it is you and me, as usual. (It turns out it probably would have been okay, but I was actually kind of grateful not to have to deal with it.) (Every time I walked or drove or parked by that building, I said "AHOY!" aloud to myself. Don't you wish you were there? No? Yeah, I totally understand.)
Ntelos Wireless Pavilion is a cool spot, an outdoor performance space on the water that is covered with white tent-like things that make it look like a much tinier version of the Sydney Opera House. Except yeah, it's totally not, and it's in Virginia. I catch crowd vibes quickly, and these people were out to have fun. Portsmouth was drinking beer and watching music this Wednesday, you guys, and it was fun just to be among them.
I also hadn't road-tripped to a show in years, probably since I saw Pearl Jam in Toledo in nineteen ninety-something, when I was living in Dayton. I liked being a stranger in a strange land inhabited by some of the most vocal, devoted Duran Duran fans I have ever seen, men and women, young and as old as I am, maybe even older, if that's possible.
My highlight was overhearing the guy in sunglasses who came bounding from the stage area before the show to show his friend his setlist AND the lyrics to Planet Earth. I don't know where he got them, but he couldn't have been more excited. He'd seen them at Hampton Coliseum in 1984, I know that much now, and they were AWESOME and are STILL AWESOME. Yesterday appeared to be his Duran Duran Christmas and high school reunion combined. Favorite part:"Let the Music Play" is in the band's pre-show house music rotation. He recognized it, and yelled, pointing towards the heavens, "LISTEN! It's SHANNON! From the EIGHTIES!"
I like being around happy people, and happy people on music? Better. He was incredibly loud and in my ear with this, and I didn't even care.
So, the show was fantastic. It might have been my favorite of the five I've seen. I like that they bring the same level of energy and range and crowd interaction to every show. I like that they are fun. I like that they don't play to some less-than-two-hour phone-it-in standard. I like that they have a gorgeous stage production. And yes, I like that they are still cute. (Because they totally are.)
But most of all, I love the music, the old stuff and the new stuff. Of course I'm emotionally wired to react to The Reflex and Wild Boys, Notorious and especially the oldest stuff, like Planet Earth, which still gets me moving like no other. But I really like Girl Panic, The Man Who Stole a Leopard, and the title track from All You Need is Now. It's a solid album. My favorite artists are those who keep reinventing over the years. This is why I love Indigo Girls, worship at the Prince altar, and cannot wait to see what Lady Gaga comes up with in ten years. This is why I can't get with Chris Cornell's solo work, because it's not...good. This is why I mourn Janis Joplin and Jim Croce especially hard, and why I'm sorry Amy Winehouse couldn't kick her demons. This is why I took myself to see The Red Piano in Vegas. Yes, Elton John is one of my personal and musical heroes (it's deep, I'll tell you about it sometime maybe, how I even forgive him for The One.) And one of the reasons is that he has changed so much, and tried new things. The wealth and fame of a pop/rock/whatever career doesn't guarantee or necessarily motivate this, so I appreciate growth and change in artistry more than anything.
I'm happy that Duran Duran stuck around, and that they keep making new music, and that they keep touring a central part of their lives at what must be rather a sacrifice to their personal lives, but hey, I guess it's good work if you can get it.
I'm especially grateful that they played "Save a Prayer" before ending with "Rio" for the encore. They didn't play it in October, and I thought I wouldn't hear it again. Thankfully my phone died (the only time you'll ever hear me say that, I'm pretty sure) before that, so I could focus on the music. I hope the girl next to me wasn't too freaked out by the lady next to her crying like a fool through the entire damned thing, but I couldn't help it, and oh well, I'll never see her again.
"Take a chance
Like all dreamers can't find another way
You don't have to dream it all, just live a day"
It's interesting how favorite songs can change meaning for us as our lives change. That was good. Just live, one day. I can do that, I think.
I need a life that includes more music, and more experiences like this, is the thing. That's what last night told me. This show gave me what I needed to help put me back on course. It made me remember my better self, what feeds me inside, what makes me smile and sing and dance. I haven't had many experiences like that lately. You never know what will do it, but sometimes you do. You just have to remember. You just need a reminder.
I'm hitting the road better for it, I know.
Thank you to Sasha at Red Magnet Media for hooking me up with the tickets, and to Duran Duran for making a day in my ordinary world rather extraordinary. These shows burn into my brain in the best possible way, and I'm grateful for the opportunity to share this experience with you. If you're in or near Atlantic City or Pittsburgh, they'll be up that way this weekend. Snag a ticket and go. I totally would if I could.