Cambridge Junction Rehearsal Show, 8th September 2011
After the commercial failure of Duran Duran’s attempt at Hip Hop on 2007’s Red Carpet Massacre, the band had to dig deep and enlisted the services of self-proclaimed Duran Duran fan, producer Mark Ronson. Mark wanted the band to revisit the special time that launched them into the mainstream, into the hearts and minds of millions of people across the world. So it was back to basics, a throwback to the sound that gave the band the niche that has provided them their much deserved elevated position in music history.
I was fortunate to get hold of a ticket for Cambridge Junction, a modern indoor live music and arts venue, as tickets had sold out in a matter of days. Located next to a railway line and once a cattle market, it was an unlikely setting for an up-close, pulsating, intimate show. Playing to a capacity audience of 500 baying revellers, these legends, hailing from Birmingham UK, took to the small, stripped back stage. There was no extravagant entrance and the stage lighting was basic. There was no seating so everybody surged to the front, pushing, clambering to catch a glimpse of the guys making their way to take their respective positions in front of us. We didn’t have to try too hard as the distance between the audience and stage was just a few feet.
Forever the pioneers, Duran Duran kicked off with Before the Rain, a slow burner that really tested Simon Le Bon’s vocal. Any doubts about Simon’s ability after the previously cancelled tour due to losing his voice were quickly put to bed as he powered through, showcasing why he is the front man of one of the most inspirational bands to stand the test of time.
So the tone was set, the band had only just began and they had the crowd pumped up into a frenzy, dancing, singing and taking part in proceedings. They made their voices heard, conversing with each other. People were smiling, laughing and really having a blast. Simon mentioned he could feel the vibe in the room. “It’s a lot of fun in here and we all need a bit of that every now and again” he expressed before Nick Rhodes introduced us to the unmistakeable intro of Come Undone.
This was no ordinary Duran performance though. The usual suspects were missing from their repertoire. Instead we were treated to some real gems, not heard live since the heady days of the eighties. I can honestly say we were spoilt. Tiger Tiger, Secret Oktober and just the greatest live version of Shadows on Your Side I’ve ever heard from Seven and The Ragged Tiger. Then if that wasn’t enough we got Simon right on key with Hold Back the Rain. During the chorus he demanded that everyone lift their arms aloft, “And if the fires burn out there’s only fire to blame (hold back the rain)”. The whole venue duly obliged. It was a togetherness that I had never seen before. A unity, an experience that I shall never ever forget.
The night was a very personal one. This was a show for the true fans and we all had our parts to play. Simon had his audience engaged with stories of how the songs from the new album transpired. Joking about how Mark Ronson fell asleep in the studio while the band thrashed out ideas for lyrics and so forth. John also gave his congratulations to Mark on his recent marriage to Josephine De La Baume.
It was apparent that Duran Duran were in their element, a band very much on top of their game. It was plain to see that their wealth of experience of what works was paying off in dividends. In fact, as they kept their adoring followers entertained it would have been easy to forget this was meant to be a rehearsal show, a warm up. It was anything but, no matter that the evening was leaning heavy on new songs. They played ten new songs leaving only seven to choose from their massive back catalogue. However, the obscure ones made up for that. We forgave the band as they had given us their all on a night that will go down as one of the best Duran Duran live performances that I’ve ever attended.
Review & Photos by John Archbell © Duran Duran Rocks