Synopsis: Packed with witty and spontaneous incidents, this behind the scenes documentary of Duran Duran’s 1984 American tour dispels the myth that they were mainly a video band. This film captures the fun, glamour and reality of 3 months during which Duran Duran traveled 18,000 miles and played 51 shows in front of more than 500,000 people.
Features the songs: Is there Something I Should Know?, Planet Earth, Rio, The Wild Boys, Girls on Film, Save a Prayer and more.
Duran Duran: Sing Blue Silver 7.5
eyelights: the band members’ sense of humour. the beautiful DVD packaging.
eyesores: the repetitious concert footage.
“In 1984, Duran Duran toured Canada and the United States. They started on January 30 in Calgary, Alberta, and finished in San Diego, California, on April 17. In those 79 days, they travelled 18,000 miles, playing 51 gigs in 43 cities to 554,000 people…”
‘Sing Blue Silver’ is an 85-minute documentary film that follows Duran Duran as they toured North America at the height of their fame. Released on home video mere months afterwards, at the tail end of 1984, it was also broadcast on music channels in a one-hour truncated format under the title ‘Blue Silver’.
Aside from some requisite concert footage, it consists of watching the making of the tour: crews putting things together, the production manager dealing with promoters, fans mobbing venues, interviews, photo shoots, behind the scenes footage, preparing for shows, killing time backstage, touristic activities, …etc.
It’s quite impressive to see all the hysteria surrounding the band, the throngs of people around at all times – not least of which are masses of screaming girls. Then there’s the size of the tour, with five semis taking the whole show on the road. It was quite something at the time: their large video screen alone was an innovative touch.
I was surprised to see no debauchery whatsoever – aside from a bit of alcohol and lots of cigarettes. While we all know that Duran Duran love women and partied quite a bit, there is no sign of that here. Surely this was to keep the band family and broadcast-friendly – so they played lots of backgammon and video games instead.
One thing that was strange was this large focus on their visit to the F.B.I. HQ, which has a museum component to it. Um… who cares? And it was slightly off-putting to see the demands of their corporate masters, which had them greet a couple of L.A. Raiders (then wear their jerseys on stage) or show up for a Coca-Cola press conference.
In some ways, it’s difficult feeling bad for them. But, on the other hand, you can see how trapped they were by expectations.
The band talks about the promotional demands of the tour: the interviews, photos, autographs, …etc. In a network interview, Simon and Nick defend the band against claims that they’re contrived, saying that they’re anything but, that they’re masters of their destiny. Andy, in another interview, says it’s all “self-inflicted”.
It’s some of the only candid moments that we get with the band members, who are mostly secondary to what is primarily a film about the madness of being on the road for a tour of this size. It’s not so much about Duran Duran themselves, and more of an observation of all that takes place behind the concerts themselves.
For me, the highlights of this film were:
- The press conference where the band is asked when they first started playing their instruments. The band members’ tongue-in-cheek answers were amusing. Um… when did you first play with your instrument?
- The fans begging for badges outside a show. The roadie was quizzing them about Duran Duran and they failed every question that the roadie asked, even the name of the tour or the lead singer’s name. The roadie jokingly called them “the worst fans ever”. Quite funny, in a pathetic sort of way. Fact is they were fans of Sting, not Duran.
- John being picked out at the Coca-Cola press conference to speak for the group. After a few off the cuff words, he decided to say that he preferred Pepsi – eliciting groans from the crowd, as the band’s tour was sponsored by the beverage. Too funny! It totally made up for the band’s clear discomfort at this event.
- The brainstorming that the band has with video director Russell Mulcahy about ideas for their upcoming ‘Arena (An Absurd Notion)’ concert film. He basically indulges them, but you get the impression that he already has his own vision. Still, there were some curious concepts thrown out there.
- At a sound check, right before a show that was being filmed, Simon pretended that he had sprained his elbow, telling the crew that he was told by the doctor that he would be in a sling for three weeks. I’m sure that they were all uncomfortable with his sudden handicap, but Andy obviously loved the gag; he totally lost it when the truth was revealed.
- Nick and Simon had a casual talk with a pair of fans. They were just sitting there on the floor, backs against a wall, as the two boys quizzed them about the origin of their name, …etc. It was very down-to-earth, like a chat between regular people – there was no apparent ego there.
The film is presented in stereo, in a 1.85:1 widescreen format with no narration. From time to time, there are scrolling captions below the picture to situate viewers. Otherwise, the film speaks for itself. For reasons unexplained, unlike the rest of the film, the concert footage is presented in a 1.33:1 full screen ratio.
There were many camera angles used for the concert footage (which was mostly culled from the ‘As the Lights Go Down‘ and ‘Arena (An Absurd Notion’ material). There’s a few excellent performances, including “Girls on Film”, but some of it, including the most recognizable footage, is littered with behind the scenes stuff.
What’s disappointing is that most of the live stuff is all too familiar to fans; there’s really not much that’s new here. And since the tail end of this documentary shows a bit more concert footage, it feels redundant, all too déjà vu. That kind of ruined it for me, because, if I want to see those performances, I can do that elsewhere.
Still, ‘Sing Blue Silver’ is an intriguing document. Furthermore, the DVD comes in a blue suede-covered box and features a thick book of tour photographs, as well as a promotional still of each band member – pretty cool stuff as far as packaging goes.
So, even though the material is slightly repetitive, I have to say that this is a relatively noteworthy release. It has only so much replay value, of course, but, for fans, it’s essential: this shows the band at their peak, as they likely remember them best.
I gave it a 7.5, but, for Duran Duran fans, this would be at least an 8.0
Date of viewing: March 25, 2014