Friday, October 28, 2011

Duran Duran and Duran Duran

In another flashback to my youth, I saw Duran Duran twice over the past 10 days. Yes, Duran Duran. These two shows were my 5th & 6th time seeing them. I saw them 3 times in March of 1984, twice at Madison Square Garden and once at The Meadowlands in NJ, and once about 10 years ago. Way back at the 2nd MSG show in 1984, I had friends who had 4th row tickets. They went back and forth with the ticket stubs until about 10 of us were jammed into 4 seats in the 4th row. The moment the band came on we all surged forward over the seats and ended up in about the 2nd row. Why they even had seats there I have no idea… anyway… this time around I had seats off to the side, but very close. Close enough to make eye contact when Simon came to the side of the stage. But I must back up because I saw them in Philadelphia last week, before the recent MSG show.

I’d like to thank Google Maps for giving me very wacky directions that entailed weaving around inner Philadelphia in a zig-zaggy square… eventually I found my way to the parking garage adjacent to the theater.
Now, normally, like most people, I suffer through the opening act in anticipation of seeing the main group I’ve paid to see. However, I knew that the opening act, Neon Trees, had opened for 30 Seconds to Mars, and that many Mars fans liked them, so I made a point of checking them out. I was not disappointed! They were so much fun. The lead singer is a maniac – jumping and dancing all over the place, running into the audience, telling wacky stories, getting the audience to sing along. I even knew one of their songs! Here it is, I found it on Youtube, from that night:

I was jumping around, punching the air with my fistful of glowsticks. I probably looked like an idiot but I don’t care. Remember the Blondie show? Oh yeah. I can dance while surrounded by seated people, no problem! And does he sound classically trained? Maybe a little:!/tylerinacoma/status/128222171322515457
In between acts, Duran Duran had a screen on stage where they were displaying tweets with the hashtag, #duranlive. So much fun so see my own tweets up there, saying hi to people I knew in other parts of the audience and so on. Shrieking like a girl. Etc. OH yeah. Look.!/duranduran/statuses/126078204703277056

Finally, finally, Duran Duran came on! I’m happy to report that I love them now as much as I did back in the 80s. They were so good! And now they are much more relaxed and polished. They were so relaxed, obviously enjoying themselves, really connecting with the audience. They made fun of themselves constantly. Simon leBon is now in his 50s, how strange is that? As strange as me being in my 40s. Ok. Simon is just so charismatic. His voice – beautiful. So much better live than on the recordings. Their show was great. They had these giant head things up over the stage – you can see it in the videos I took, here and here:

Yeah. You can hear me singing along, in my fantasy job of backup singer with them.

The crowd was great. Everyone was pretty much my age. Everyone sang along. I love hearing the crowd sing at concerts – so cool. When they played Rio I thought people would riot with happiness. A Rio Riot!!!

They had a female backup singer, she was amazing and she also oozed charisma. Like I said. My fantasy job, to sing backup for Duran Duran. Sigh… I didn’t want to video too much – I just wanted to relax and enjoy. And my way of relaxing at a concert is go to insane. Jumping, dancing, fist pumping. Completely losing myself. In this case, I was mostly standing on the seat so I could see, with my knees pressed into the seat back in front of me. Yes, I came home from the concert with bruised knees.

Ok so then I saw them again this week at Madison Square Garden. Perspective: The Tower Theater in Philly holds about 3100 people, and I saw plenty of empty seats. MSG holds I think between 18,000 – 20,000 people. There were some empty seats so let’s say there were 15,000 people there. Compared to under 3,000. They did the same set yet it was a totally different show. They were definitely still relaxed and happy, but the energy – WOW. Seriously. You can feel it in the air when that many people are excited and when the band is excited. It’s a physical feeling. I met an old friend, someone with whom I went to see INXS, Adam Ant and Duran Duran back in the 80s. We had so much fun, and really great seats. Here’s my view:

And yes, there was a point where I thought, "OHMYGOD. Simon LeBon is RIGHT THERE." And my 16 year old self got very, very excited. Especially when he went onto that box thing you can see at the right side of the picture. Be still my teenaged heart! Our seats were in the section where the management and friends of the band get tickets. There were women in our section in ballgowns, seriously! Maybe they had somewhere to go afterwards? There were also people who looked vaguely familiar. When I left my row to visit the ladies room, there were two older men sitting near the aisle. Rather than make them stand up, I climbed up one row… We chatted about that a little…about still being able to climb over seats… and I swear, I knew these two guys. I don’t know how, I just did. Then in that next row, this guy asked me to take a picture of him and his daughter. I swear he looked so familiar. But as I’ve said before, I live under a rock. Unless I actually work with or went to school with these people, I’m pretty sure they were some sort of famous. Who were they? I don’t know. Who knows. Maybe I’m just old enough that I’ve met enough people, and now everyone looks like someone I already know.

There are tons of videos from that night up on Youtube. Again, I didn’t bother taking any because I didn’t want to worry about it. But you can see the happiness emanating off John Taylor – look!

And … my fantasy moment… happened to someone else of course… Simon jumped in the crowd and asked if there were any singers in the audience. He picked someone from the front row to help him sing The Reflex. Of course they were a little flat… drove me nuts…

PICK ME SIMON PICK ME!!! I CAN SING IT ON PITCH!!! Ah well. There go my chances of getting hired as a “backup” backup singer.

So. The people next to us. OHMYGOD. They were drinking. One woman was a little bit beyond tipsy. She was all over the place. On the floor with her feet on the barrier. On her friend’s lap, facing her friend. Leaning backwards over the railing. At one point I was holding her head to keep it off the floor. Yes, she was that drunk. Then… she lifted her shirt to flash the band. Was she wearing a bra? Of course not. Did they see? I doubt it. I saw. I didn’t necessarily want to see, but I had no choice. She was quite entertaining. I hope she didn’t wake up the next day with any regrets. Or a headache.

So they're playing again tomorrow night at the same place I saw Blondie. A tiny, tiny place. So...tempting... but... I can't. However, I am going to see Don Giovanni in HD tomorrow, and I'm bringing an Opera Virgin with me. Converting my Mars friends, one at a time.

Plenty to post about voice lessons and singing... next time.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

From Singer to Winger

Well, it was good while it lasted. The peeps in charge of the Opera Project have changed the focus of the group, to a more professional type of group, featuring people who have or are on their way to a career in opera. Makes sense - this way they can get more donations, more patrons, etc. I’ve known all along that I’m not in that league. The good news is, they’re creating a “wing” program for people like me – people with a halfway decent voice who want experience performing. They’re planning on holding 1 or 2 concerts a year. So eventually I will get to perform again… just not any time soon. It is sort of a kick in the gut when I get the press release emails about upcoming concerts … but I know it’s not a personal kick. To add a twist of irony to all this… Due to a miscommunication, I wasn’t informed that I wouldn’t be performing in the September concert, so I showed up for the rehearsal. Awkward… yeah. So anyway I got there at 2. A photographer from a local newspaper was there to take a picture to accompany the print version of this article. The people who actually were performing, including the accompanist, hadn’t arrived yet. The photographer had to leave, so I ended up singing while one of the founders/teachers sort of accompanied me. I say sort of, because I’m singing a different version of Nel Cor than the one in the Italian Aria book, but he knew the one from the book, so that’s the one he played. I plugged along singing the version I know while the photographer snapped away. Luckily you can’t hear in a photograph. So…I got my picture in the paper as a singer for the Opera Project…

...when actually I’ve been moved (let’s not say “lowered” ok?) to the Wing program. Story of my life. From Singer to Winger. My teacher told me of some other local, amateur performance groups in the area so I might check them out. The more confident I get, the more likely the chance that I’ll eventually maybe be back on the regular roster.