Ahead of the Future Past album release date, Duran Duran felt that it was only appropriate to celebrate the first album’s 40th anniversary in Birmingham, the very place where they started their career. For this occasion, ahead of the likely tour, the band decided to treat their home town fans with two intimate gigs at O2 Institute Birmingham on 14th and 15th September.
It was obvious that it was not only the locals who queued in the seemingly endless line around the block. Fans from all over the UK gathered to enjoy the night of their lives. The venue could accommodate only 1500 people; that’s how special this event was, and we felt truly privileged to be there. And the privilege was even greater knowing that we’d hear some of the new material live.
The band appeared on the stage a bit after 9 pm. The crowd's cheering was intense when John Taylor appeared on stage, followed by the rest of the band. Dim lights soon revealed the silhouettes, and we could see all five members ready to take us higher. They didn’t hesitate to indulge our curiosity about the new songs; they opened up with “Invisible”, the first single from Future Past. Although the song talks about a relationship in which one side feels unheard and unseen, the song took another meaning in the light of the events that affected the world in the past 2 years.
The song is equal to the new and the old Duran Duran, which speaks to even the most nostalgic fans. The next was "The Reflex". Maybe it was the video, but I always thought that the song was a perfect number for a huge venue. However, we were just as ecstatic, and so were the guys; Simon showed us that he still had the moves. While it seemed that Simon was warming up, John Taylor was radiating happiness and entertaining fans with his moves and smiles; that man really loves his bass and his fans.
The next one was the famous "Notorious". By then, we noticed that a new backing vocal accompanied Anna Ross; you cannot but pay attention to backing vocals with "Notorious". And, when in the homeland of James Bond, you better make sure to play "A View to a Kill", and so they did. Duran Duran wouldn’t be what they are without any of the members who were in front of us this evening, but there’s a special thanks to one of the most brilliant keyboardists of modern music, Nick Rhodes, who we had the pleasure hearing doing his synth magic for us.
Simon took the opportunity to say a few words to the loving audience; he became sentimental while telling us how much he missed us and how much he missed playing those songs, so he invited us to celebrate with the band with their new song "Anniversary". For me, this song encapsulates everything that Duran Duran is about; it celebrates their long and rich history and the fact that they have kept making great music for 40 years. And that’s something to appreciate and celebrate indeed.
We noticed that the audience has already accepted this song, which shows how devoted their fans truly are. To everyone’s delight, the next song was "Skin Trade". They decided to keep it slow with "Come Undone". Simon invited wonderful Anna to join him. They changed the pace with "Pressure Off", which proved to be equally popular among the crowd as some of the older material. And speaking of the older material, we really didn’t expect to hear "Friends of Mine", which warmed everyone’s little nostalgic hearts. When Simon grabbed the acoustic guitar, and they started playing "Save A Prayer", the whole venue became a sea of waving hands; the setlist was evidently to everyone’s liking.
Simon announced a new song, "Tonight United", and jokingly added, “nothing to do with football”. This was the first time they played the song live, and we felt privileged again because we’d be the first to hear it. They continued with "(Reach Up For The) Sunrise" before they played an all-time hit, "Hungry Like The Wolf", which was another perfect opportunity to test our singing abilities. By now, our favourite boys were well warmed up. It was a true joy to see them working that little stage around. Their dynamic and energy on stage was no less impressive than 40 years ago; while Simon was showing off his dance moves, John was literally all over the place, running around with his bass like a happy kid, joining Simon, playing side by side with Dom, or trying to chat up Roger and Nick. After the joyful sing-along, Simon jokingly said that Nick would take a picture of us, and I was a fool enough to believe that he actually would. Next, we could hear the recognizable camera shutter sound that introduced "Girls on Film", combined with their version of Calvin Harris’s "Acceptable in the 80s".
After this impressive setlist, Simon took the opportunity to introduce everyone on stage, and the short break followed. The band soon returned for the encore. "Perfect Day" soon turned into "Hungry Like The Wolf", after which "Ordinary World" followed; it gave Simon another opportunity to mesmerise us all by hitting those high notes with his ever so emotional and clear voice, the voice that carries.
They rounded it up with "Rio"; I just loved Roger playing those drums, and there was the great sax solo performed by the saxophonist Simon Willescroft. A very long farewell to the frenzied crowd followed. The lights were on as they said their goodbyes, especially Simon, who greeted us for a little longer. This kind of show from the ever spectacular Duran Duran is truly something you have dreamed about, at least since the 80s. Welcome home guys, we hope to see more of you soon!