Duran Duran: Live at Hammersmith ’82!

Duran Duran - Hammersmith '82!Synopsis: Live At Hammersmith ’82 is a much anticipated release among followers of the band. Previously unreleased, it will come as a double DVD and CD pack, allowing fans to both enjoy the visual spectacle of the concert and CD audio, too. Filmed and recorded in the latter part of 1982 as Duranmania was sweeping the UK, the performance at London’s Hammersmith Odeon includes ‘Rio’, ‘Hungry like the Wolf’, ‘Girls on Film’, fan favorite ‘Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me)’ and more. The release also includes ‘Rio’ era videos and two previously unreleased ‘Top of the Pops’ performances.

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Duran Duran: Live at Hammersmith ’82! 8.5

eyelights: Night Boat. Save a Prayer. Planet Earth. Careless Memories.
eyesores: the editing.

‘Live at Hammersmith ’82!’ is a Duran Duran concert film that was originally recorded by the BBC for broadcast on UK television. Although it was broadcast at the time, it was only released on home video in 2009, in a CD/DVD set that includes a few bonus features. It’s one of the few official Duran documents from that era.

Recorded while touring their smash hit ‘Rio’, every listing that I’ve found claims that this is the November 16, 1982, show at the Hammersmith Odeon, London. However, there were three prior shows, two on November 14 and one on the 15th, and I suspect that they were also recorded for editing purposes (after all, you can never depend on a single take).

The fact is that the film was edited from more than one source: case-in-point, there’s an unusual shift in Roger’s attire in the beginning of the programme. Seriously, at first I thought that they had two drummers: one wearing black and the other wearing white (and a baseball cap!). Not at all! I had to scrutinize the stage but they really only had one drummer: Roger.

So, despite all claims to the contrary, there’s more than one show featured in ‘Live at Hammersmith ’82!’. Perhaps the audio is all taken from the one show (in fact, the show from the night before was released on CD separately), but there was definitely the use of more than one show for the video portion. There’s no shame in it. Trying to conceal the obvious, however, that’s dumb.

Anyway, back to the show! By November 1982, Duran Duran was on fire! ‘Rio’ had been storming the charts around the world since May of that year and their singles were blazingly hot, with videos that were in high rotation, lighting up the charts. The Hammersmith could hold 5000 people, and it looks like it was filled to capacity. London adored Duran Duran.

Despite the band’s growing popularity, the stage set-up was simple, with only four plain banners in the background, behind the band. Roger and Nick were set at the back (left and right, respectively) on a platform with a lit base. But there weren’t any background singers, screens or special effects on hand. Not yet. But soon, very soon.

Duran Duran were also not yet the glamour boys that we’ve come to know, and expect: while they’d toyed with fashion already, here they look nice but unexceptional: Simon is in a t-shirt, pants, and sneakers, Andy too, and Roger is wearing a baseball cap. Only Nick is in full David Sylvian mode while John is starting to shape up his style.

Being a TV broadcast, there isn’t much to this video presentation. There’s a short intro that shows the behind-the-scenes set-up by the technical crew, in a split-screen with a running checklist on the other side. Then the band come on stage and they blow the roof off with the first of many explosive songs in this one-hour set:

1. Rio: It’s hard to imagine now, but “Rio” wasn’t much of a hit in the US upon its initial release. It was only after the late success of “Hungry Like the Wolf” that it was reconsidered and re-issued for radio in March of 1983. At the time of this concert, it had just been released as a single in the UK, where it was an immediate hit. Unsurprisingly, it started the show off with a bang.  8.25

2. Hungry Like the Wolf: “Hungry Like the Wolf” was the band’s first big hit in the US, although it took a long time to get any traction (unsurprisingly, given the market, it had to be remixed first). In the UK, this was a big hit, so this one-two punch must have been something for concert-goers. The band is in top form, hammering out an excellent rendition, with Simon prowling on stage a little bit during the bridge . 8.25

3. Night Boat: WICKED! I love this song. I know that it’s totally an anti-Duran Duran song (they never recorded anything remotely as eerie since, and I highly doubt that it was part of their set list after this tour), but it makes for an incredible live track, what with the smoke and low lights going. Simon is suddenly wearing a brown fedora and leather jacket (I suppose, to echo the video in some fashion). 8.5

4. New Religion: One of the lesser tracks on the ‘Rio’ album, it is still an outstanding number – which says something about the strength of the album. It has a terrific intro and it makes for a perfect follow-up to “Night Boat”. There was an excellent use of lights to set the mood on this one. 8.0

5. Save a Prayer: While I’ve heard this song probably way too many times over the years, it remains a mega-classic, one I can’t tire of. On the album, in tandem with “The Chauffeur”, it makes for one of the most perfect finales ever. The band is stellar, and Simon’s voice is pure gold here. Plus which he breaks out the acoustic guitar… and actually uses it (although not much). 9.0

6. Planet Earth: Duran could have done a heck of a lot worse than to bring the mood up afterwards by kicking into this more animated track; it got the crowd going and the band was completely energized. 30+ years later and this song still does the trick for me every time. 8.75

7. Friends of Mine: Not exactly my favourite Duran track , but it’s a decent number from the debut album. This concert footage is an obvious edit: the song started abruptly, not flowing out from the previous track. Perhaps vacuous material was excised, but it could also simply been taken from a different show. Either way, it’s a good performance. I quite liked Andy’s guitar work. 7.75

8. Careless Memories: I’ve been a long-time fan of this track; it has a great beat and bass line on it. Plus which it’s extremely-high energy so it makes for an awesome way to close their 43-minute set – after which Andy shouts out “Thank you, goodnight”. As if this would be the last we’d see of them. 9.0

9. Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me): Unfortunately, this video edits out the time between the main set and the encore, giving the impression that the band barely left the stage, turning the encore into a joke. It’s clear that time passed by, though, as all the band members (aside from Simon) are wearing hats now, and Andy no longer has his shirt on. This song is a cover of a track by Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel, which was a massive hit in 1975. No wonder the crowd goes wild for it right from the first few notes. It starts with Simon in spotlight, solo except for some keys from Nick. Then the band kicks in. There’s a good solo by Andy in this one. 7.5

10. Girls On Film: Of course, no Duran show would be complete without “Girls On Film”, their UK breakthrough. The whole crowd is clapping along through this one. Simon used the bridge to introduce everyone, including their tour saxophonist, and everyone got a short solo before the band broke into the final stretch on the song. Superb. Bizarrely, though, the credits rolled during that final bit. 8.5

After the glossy ’70s, bands like these were exciting; they were fun, animated, catchy, vibrant. Duran Duran kept the energy up through the show, Nick kept constantly busy with all of his keyboards and gear (it’s quite a sight) and Roger didn’t stop drumming like mad throughout. Even the guest saxophone had a few nice moments.

Beyond their hooky singles and good looks, these guy really knew how to entertain a crowd. It’s no wonder that they were a hit – and would become an even bigger one in the next couple of years. Heck, even today I would love to see a band as good as the Duran Duran in this home video presentation. They were still raw, but had that certain something.

From a home video presentation standpoint, this DVD is pretty good – if imperfect. The audio presentation was very nice, having been remastered in multi-channel formats, but it’s not nearly as punchy as modern recordings would be. Meanwhile, the picture was grainy during the concert, with diffused blacks. But this is hardly surprising as it was likely recorded on video tape.

Still, it’s a very respectable release, given its age. Plus which the DVD add a few extra features to bolster its appeal:

The ‘Rio’ videos

Also available elsewhere, the era’s videos were compiled in chronological order for this release.

(Nota bene: I subjectively rated the songs and videos separately, in the following format: song/video)

1. My Own Way: This single version of the song is different from the ‘Rio’ version, and was released many months before the album. It’s far too dancy for me, distilling the essence of the track. The video is merely a studio production, but it’s stylish and vibrant, with its red-white-black motif and split/triple/slash screens. For reasons unknown, there are shots of a bull fighter and flamenco dancers. And a parrot (not sure why). Duran is finally adopting a style that is close to the one we’re mostly familiar with during that era. 6.5/8.0

2. Hungry Like the Wolf: The song is fabulous – a total ’80s classic, bass-driven and with hooky guitar licks. Andt he video is one of the most played videos ever on MTV. It’s a ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’-esque adventure that takes place in Sri Lanka, and features the band looking for Simon while he’s seeking a savage tiger girl in the jungle. Most of the video consists of him wandering around by riverboat, on a bridge, in the forest, wading through a river, …etc. And coming face-to-face with his wild beauty, of course. It’s exciting, fun, beautiful, and was totally innovative at the time. 8.5/8.25

3. Save a Prayer: This is such a gorgeous song, featuring wonderful melodies and even a flute passage that lifts the overall piece. But it definitely works best at the tail end of the album, as part of its finale. The video is meaningless, but impressive: jungles, sunsets, beaches, the sea, palm trees, ruins on top of mountains, elephants in a river, Buddhist children, and the rock fortress of Sigiriya (featuring giant sculptures). 9.0/8.25

4. Lonely in your Nightmare: I adore this song but, like “My Own Way”, I prefer the original album version, which is different. Frankly, I’m surprised that they made a video for this, but it was produced for their first VHS release – not as a single. Anyway, it’s a simple affair, featuring gorgeous scenery and exotic locales. There’s Sri Lankan dancers, and an exotic woman sleeping in a white, net-covered, poster bed. This is a song that Simon  sings to the woman (while sleeping, looking at the scenery, …etc.), trying to get through to her. It’s appropriately tender, and not necessarily romantic. 8.0/8.25

5. Rio: Listen to those hooks! This is such an awesome song! To think that this, the album’s title track, wasn’t even the leading single! It was fourth! It was a great strategy, though, because they built up momentum with the others. And this video’s more stylish than the others: the editing is slicker. the women are prettier/sexier, the band is hanging around on an Antigua beach, under the sun and aboard a yacht. Oh, sure, there’s lots of fluorescent colours, which dates the video badly, but it gives it a distinctiveness. It’s totally style-over-substance, but it’s exciting visually and sonically. 8.25/8.25

6. The Chauffeur: This song is total ear candy: I love the vocals, the flute and the beats.. The mix on this video is a little off, however, especially at the beginning and towards the end. Preceded by “Save a Prayer”, it makes for a great one-two punch at the end of the album. The video has an awesome style and cinematography: it is black and white, sexy, luscious (it’s slightly influenced by ‘The Night Porter’ and wouldn’t have played on TV because of the nudity). The band isn’t in it at all: It’s about two beautiful women (in lingerie, of course) going for a secret rendez-vous in an underground parking lot, one going by Rolls Royce and the other on foot. The shadow dancing between the two women and Perri Lister’s sensuous choreography at the end are unforgettable. Is this exploitative or art? To each’s own, but I like it. 9.0/9.0

Top of the Pops performances

Although it seems surprising that Duran Duran only had two Top Of The Pops appearances while they were in the stratosphere, this is what this release seems to suggest. Doesn’t matter, because they’re pretty mundane – as any lip-synching performance (the standard on that show) would be. Frankly, it would be hard for a band to be inspired in that context.

(Nota bene: I subjectively rated the songs and videos separately, in the following format: song/video)

1. Hungry Like the Wolf: Hampered by a really poor audio fade in, this is a decent lip synch and performance – but it’s evidently not live. The set is bland and there are people dancing  around the band. Nothing significant. For fans only. 8.0/7.0

2. Rio: This one is marred by weaker synching, as well as poor audio fade in and fade out. This time, Duran is performing on a stage that looks like a box made of aluminum beams – with people dancing in front. The highlight is that Duran take the piss out of this pre-recorded performance crap: Simon mock-whistles during the bird effects and Andy laughs in lieu of the woman laughing on the track. Nice! 8.0/7.0

Rounding out this substantial CD/DVD, the package also includes a booklet with short bios of each member, fan club-style with large promo pictures of each. It’s a vacuous and silly addition, but it’s nonetheless amusing that it was reproduced for this set. I’m sure some 1982 fans will be nostalgic.

All told, the ‘Hammersmith ’82!’ DVD is an excellent package for Duran fans and completists. It covers a significant moment of their career and is a fan favourite. Even the curious would do well to check this set out because it’s a good indication of what the band were like at their apogee. Or almost.

In that context, I can’t recommend it enough.

Date of viewing: January 22, 2014

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