Duran Duran: A Diamond in the Mind

Duran Duran - A Diamond in the MindSynopsis: Filmed at the MEN Arena in Manchester on December 16th, 2011, this stunning Duran Duran live show is the perfect combination of great music, amazing visuals and iconic style which has been the band s trademark throughout their career. Following the release of their acclaimed All You Need Is Now album, this concert combines new songs from that release with their classic hits. Whether in the studio or the live arena, Duran Duran are masters of their craft and this latest concert bursts with energy and oozes class in the way that only they can.

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Duran Duran: A Diamond in the Mind 8.0

eyelights: Duran Duran. the set list. the editing.
eyesores: the mild inertia of the band.

In 2010, Duran Duran’s 13th studio album, ‘All You Need is Now’, was released as a free digital download. Originally issued in a truncated version, it was subsequently given a proper full-length release in 2011 on various formats. It didn’t sell especially well, despite surprisingly strong reviews for it, with some critics claiming that it was their best effort since ‘Rio’.

As a long-time fan of the band, I naturally got the free download at the time. I liked what I heard, but wasn’t entirely satisfied with it. I also hated the cover, which has become a recurring theme since ‘Big Thing’. So when the album came out, I eyed the CD but waited for the special edition to drop in price (no artist has my unwavering devotion, I’m afraid).

But that’s a good thing! Let me explain.

Meanwhile, the short version grew on me and I was enjoying the tracks more. And when the band released a concert on DVD and Blu-ray in 2012, I was even further intrigued. I read a review of it that was quite good and discovered that there was a japanese set that included the special edition studio album, the live album and the show on DVD and BD.

I could get everything in one 6-disc package (unlike the regular release, the japanese live album is two CDs, not just one). Sweet!

At around 100$, it pretty much became an investment, and for a while I wondered if I should just buy the domestic releases for considerably cheaper. But there was the pull of the exclusive material, such as three bonus tracks on the studio album, an extra track on the live album, and even a bonus live track on the blu-ray. So I eventually sucked it up and ordered it.

It was the best decision I could have made. Not only do I have exclusive material, the set comes in a handsome transparent box with the lovely traditional obi strip on its spine. And the exclusive material, while not of the same caliber as the rest, is all quite good and worth it. And I would have regretted not hearing it; I would always have wondered what I’d missed out on.

The 90-minute live show (which, for inexplicable reasons, was edited down from a longer set) was recorded at the Evening News Arena in Manchester, England on December 16, 2011. It finds the band in excellent form, completed by Dominic Brown on guitar and supported by Anna Ross on background vocals, Simon Willescroft on sax and Dawne Adams on percussion.

Everyone seemed quite relaxed, with a bearded Simon chewing gum and spending much of the show casually wandering about the stage, while John looked happy, if not blissful throughout. Roger and Nick were focused from start to finish, the latter filling the soundscapes with a terrific array of textures. With an additional layer of percussions, Duran served up a very full sound.

The show started absolutely perfectly, with “Return to Now”, an instrumental number based on the title track of ‘All You Need is Now’. On the album, it was used as a bridge or sort of intermission, but it was a nice way to introduce the band. It was soon followed by “Before the Rain”, which was a great show opener, with its military drum sounds and the initial red smoke and lights.

I especially liked that they used the album’s closer as the opener because it actually helped to ease us into the show, starting mellow but slowly picking up momentum. This is exactly what I felt the band should have done with ‘Astronaut‘, instead of shooting their load right at the onset and leaving nothing but mid-tempo numbers for the second half of their disc. Not so here.

The band then segued into a couple of classics, taking their time dishing out “Planet Earth”, allowing it to simmer to a boil first. It was a tasty morsel featuring a lovely dynamic bass from John. Then they tackled the perennial favourite “A View to a Kill”, which found the fiery silhouette of a woman on the screens behind them. Sadly, the performance somewhat lacked vigour.

However, the director decided to enhance the video with a jittery effect at key moments in the track. This compensated to some degree and added a techno element that I quite appreciated. I was quite impressed with the way the show was made visually interesting by simply changing colours, using a CCTV process, digital distortion, inserts or Matrix-like slow-mo effects.

And not those super quick cuts that make shows incoherent.

The screens behind the band also contributed to some degree, with different films playing during each song. The most notable of the lot was the b&w shots for “Girl Panic!”, which showed supermodels filling in for the band members, first getting made up and then playing the song, as Duran. Then there was the 3D fantasy setting with its video game characters on ‘The Reflex’.

Another neat effect that the band used to enhance some of the performances were a set of four large heads above the stage, on which were projected Simon, John, Nick and Roger’s faces singing along to some of the lyrics. Thankfully, this was done sparingly (ex: for the “Woah oahs” of “Blame the Machines”) and these masks were used for other effects, such as disco balls.

Overall, the renditions were spot on, with few exceeding their studio counterparts (“Wild Boys”, which bridged nicely into “Relax” halfway through, and “White Lines”, which was far superior here) and others left wanting (ex: there’s no urgency in Simon’s voice on “Careless Memories”, the guitar on “Ordinary World” isn’t as clean, and the intro on “Hungry Like the Wolf” lacks punch).

The new songs merged quite well into the set, with “The Man Who Stole a Leopard” being by far the best new number and “All You Need is Now” being the weakest – although it was a faithful rendition, I’ve always disliked the intro. Another intro I quite dislike is the remix/live version of “(Reach Up for The) Sunrise”; although the album cut had a weak opening, they can do better.

But, all in all, this was yet another solid Duran Duran show. And, truth be told, I would watch this line-up perform this set any given day. Sure, they could punch up the on-stage energy, but it’s not 1983 anymore – and this certainly does not take away from an excellent, well-crafted show all around. Duran has struggled at certain points in their career, but they show no signs of that now.

By living in the moment, they’re giving us all we need.

1. Before the Rain 8.0
2. Planet Earth 8.25
3. A View to a Kill 8.5
4. All You Need is Now 5.5
5. Blame the Machines 7.75
6. Safe (In the Heat of the Moment) 7.75
7. The Reflex 8.0
8. The Man Who Stole a Leopard 8.25
9. Girl Panic! 7.75
10. White Lines 7.0
11. Careless Memories 8.25
12. Ordinary World 8.0
13. Notorious 7.75
14. Hungry Like the Wolf 8.0
15. (Reach Up For The) Sunrise 7.5

Encore
16. Wild Boys / Relax 8.5
17. Rio 8.25

Beyond the main event, the blu-ray features a few extra tidbits:

Documentary

Duran Duran 2011: The title of this documentary is self-explanatory. Over the course of 12 minutes, all of the band members tell us how 2011 was amazing, that they’ve done things they’d never done before (like outdoor festivals or the David Lynch film, which they’re all ecstatic about).

Roger tapers the enthusiasm by addressing Simon’s vocal problems, however, which abruptly cancelled the British tour; he had lost his voice and no one knew if he could ever get it back. It was extremely frustrating for him to not be able to hit high notes anymore (as the rehearsal footage attests), but it was distressing for the others because they had to face the possibility that the band was no more.

They also talked about how tight a touring unit they’ve become, now having had the same line up for six years or so. Then they briefly touched on the making of the “Girl Panic!” video, which must have been fun to make. It’s a brief, but decent doc. My only beef (aside for its brevity) is that Nick is typically smarmy and hyperbolic, which always makes him sound insincere. 7.75

Bonus performances

Come Undone: This is the first of three outtakes from the concert. It finds the band performing the track quite well. I was particularly impressed with how Anna Ross’ vocals suited the song. In fact, I was generally quite pleased with Ross’ presence on stage throughout the show; she may very well be the best fit of all the background vocalists they’ve had. 8.0

Is There Something I Should Know?: This is a solid rendition of the track, maybe even as good as they’ve ever done it live. Since I’m no great fan of the original, I’m probably not the best judge, however. 7.5

Tiger Tiger: This is an exclusive bonus video on the japanese blu-ray and it finds the band playing this golden oldie for what must be a rare occasion these days (although they used to open sets with it back in the day). It was nice to hear, although I found the saxophone too central to the mix.

Of note, it begins with John thanking the audience, but notably the die-hard fans who have been there every night, and then he prompted fans to tweet to @duranduran to get their texts put up on screen during the song. A bit awkward, but it’s a nice try at connecting with fans. 7.5

So, was getting this blu-ray worth it? Absolutely! Whether you get the standard version without “Tiger Tiger”, at a very accessible low price, or this fully-loaded edition, the concert looks amazing in widescreen and it sounds dynamic, crystal clear. ‘A Diamond in the Mind’ is well-crafted and the band are in terrific form, so there’s absolutely no reason why fans wouldn’t grab this one.

It’s a keeper.

Date of viewing: June 27, 2015

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