Category Archives: Concerts

THE REFLEX: NUMBER ONE THIS WEEK IN 1984

In honor of the anniversary of the Fab Five’s first number one US hit I’m reposting my recollection of attending their first show at MSG.

MY FIRST TIME (WITH DURAN DURAN)

On March 21st, 1984 I attended my very first concert. Duran Duran’s Sing Blue Silver tour arrived in New York City and sold out two nights at Madison Square. Despite my parents’ assumption that riots were guaranteed to break out at any and every rock show, I was able to score tickets and permission (in that order) to the concert. A few days before the show I found out that pop station Z-100 was going to broadcast the concert live. I immediately set up a plan that would enable me to relive this historic moment in pop history over and over again.

I was able to convince my mom to agree to tape the show for me. This was a decision she would quickly regret.

Step 1 Teach her how to record radio on my boom box:  “I’m going to leave the radio on all day in my room so all you have to do is push the play and the record buttons at the EXACT same time at EXACTLY 8:00pm. Don’t push play and then record – you HAVE to push them at the same time, ok?  Alright, then come back at about 8:50 and as soon as the band finishes whatever song they’re playing QUICKLY flip the tape to side B, rewind to the beginning if necessary, and then IMMEDIATELY hit the play and record buttons again.”

Step 2 – Trial Run (“OK – see you hit the record button too late. You have to use two fingers! No – I’m sorry, I’m not raising my voice, it’s just that …”)

Step 3 – A few hours before the show call home and make sure Mom has retained her lesson. Also remind her that the benefit of listening to the show is the added peace of mind of knowing that the state police have not been called in to halt the Duran Duran riots.

Step 4 – Get a friend to tape the show – just in case.

I attended the show with my friend Diana. At the time we were friendly, but not the best of friends, but our mutual appreciation of Duran Duran set up a solid foundation.

The exultant anticipation of walking into MSG to see a show for the first time is an experience you never forget. Getting from the street to your seat literally takes a lot of time and effort. First you have to make your way past the sketchiness of 34th street/Penn station. Then, relieved you haven’t been mugged or pick-pocketed, you walk through a cavernous under ground bunker into the lobby, through the ticket gate, and finally begin your ascent – up, up, up the escalators. And at MSG when you’ve only paid $12.00 for tickets you spend a lot of time going up the escalator.

When Diana and I arrived at our seats we realized we were in the rafters but that didn’t temper our excitement. We ignored the opening band (the cool thing to do) , chatted with a couple of other concert goers and then . . .

the lights dimmed . . . and then . . . the eruption of screams from thousands of frenzied pubescent girls. And the screaming did not stop for the next two hours. At first it was fun, but three songs in,it quickly grew tiresome.  “I get it – three of the five band members are REALLY hot (I didn’t have the nerve to say) but can we tone down the screeching and focus on the music, just a little?”

Duran Duran T

An exact replica of the t-shirt I owned. I may need to buy a new one on ebay.

The next day I proudly walked the hallways of my high school, ears ringing, wearing my Duran Duran concert tee. Girls I didn’t know came up to me to ask for details about the show. They jabbed their fingers against my chest, tracing the outlines of their favorite band member, “Oh – Nick is my favorite – how did he look? How was his hair?!?”

 

 

Most of my friends found it hard to believe how much I liked the group. They understood why so many 9th grade girls liked the band – but why was I so enthralled? I’d argue, with 100% sincerity, that these guys had every right to be compared to the Beatles.

“Rolling Stone Magazine called them the Fab Five.”

“These guys are real musicians who play their own instruments and write their own songs.”

“Their lyrics are really deep. Take Union of the Snake  for example. Of course it’s about sex – ‘the UNION of the SNAKE’. But it’s also about our inability to communicate, ‘If I listen close I can hear them singers/Voices in your body coming through on the radio.’ Think about it.”

In truth – I did like Duran Duran’s music – it was catchy and fun and danceable. And when Nile Rodgers started working with them (The Reflex single remix, Wild Boys, Notorious) their music also became interesting. But I was also drawn to the image  – the band’s look and their looks. I embraced the aforementioned Rolling Stone cover story because it a) gave the group some musical cred and b) gave me the chance to stare at those pretty, pretty faces.

duran-duran-rolling-stone-cover

They’re looking through me.

And in case you were wondering – here’s how they ranked (16 YO Sean and Sean of today have similar taste, although today I might swap Simon and Roger).

5. Nick

4. Andy

3. Roger (arguably the most underrated member of the group)

2. Simon

1. John

 

Alas, mom did a great job taping the show (the second tape ran out during the final song – but who could have predicted Duran Duran would do a 12 minute encore version of Girls on Film!!??)

Last year while working at Fuse I met John Taylor –  backstage at Madison Square Garden. It was a nice ‘full circle’ moment. I made a point to tell him that 29 years earlier he and his band mates had the honor of providing me with my first concert experience. I think I expected him to be a little surprised (there weren’t many boys at the show and the only other black people in the arena were the two back-up singers and Nile Rogers). But without a pause he thanked me for being a fan and remarked how quickly the time had passed. I guess when you were at one point the biggest band in the world you assume everyone was a fan.

John Tayor and SDJ

Apologies to the colleagues who I cut out of this shot – but this is a two man band.

John Taylor was gracious and funny and his well aged cheekbones were still on point! Later that night I sent a little psychic message to my 16-year-old self. “Duran Duran may not be your favorite band forever (or even later this year) but for now – your love of the Fab Five is completely justified.”

 

 

 

 

 

 Duran Duran at MSG – March 21st – The Set List

1. Tiger Tiger

2. Is There Something I Should Know

3. Hungry Like the Wolf

4. The Reflex

5. New Moon on Monday

6. Union of the Snake

7. New Religion

8. Cracks in the Pavement

9. Of Crime and Passion

10. Rio

11. Friends of Mine

12. The Seventh Stranger

13. The Chauffeur

14. Save a Prayer

15. Planet Earth

16. My Own Way

17. Careless Memories

18. Girls on Film

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STOP MAKING SENSE REVISITED

sms albumAbout one month ago I saw David Byrne perform an inspired show at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in tribute to the Nigerian musician William Onyeabor. Byrne was lithe and charismatic and he was in great voice. I raved about that performance and described how it reminded me of the 1984 concert film Stop Making Sense. You can read that post here.

Last night I returned to BAM to see a screening of Stop Making Sense. The screening was hosted by the great radio journalist Brian Lehrer who decided to honor the 30th anniversary of the film with the screening and a Q&A with the film’s director Jonathan Demme. Seems like I’m not the only person who has decided to celebrate the musical accomplishments of the great (greatest) year of pop music.

The screening was much more powerful and much more emotional than I could have imagined. In fact I welled up with emotions three times during the screening. I was actually caught off guard by a lump in my throat and additional moisture in my eyes. Three times. Trust me – it’s a rare experience for this to happen once – but it happened.

The first time: The audience broke into sincere, enthusiastic applause after the 5th song in the film (“Slippery People”). Usually I’d be very judgmental and accuse the audience of forcing a display of emotion they wanted others to believe they were feeling. But I was caught up in the brilliance of the film as well and found myself tapping my foot, bobbing my head and applauding after every song. And in the dimmed theater I could hear and feel 100’s of others joining me. It was Pauline Kael’s description of the film as, “an austere orgy,” come to fruition.

tmbtp2The Second Time: During every single second of “This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)”. This might be the most beautiful love song ( it is a love song, isn’t it?) written by a rock band. And the song is elevated by the performance in the film. The image of the male/female, black/white band on stage, in literal harmony, brought on a surprising burst of joy. And who doesn’t love a lamp dance?

Third Time: Somewhere in the middle of “Girlfriend is Better”.  At some point I just thought how lucky everyone in that theater was. This ecstatic performance of an amazing song played by a great band at their peak was captured on film. And here we were 3 decades later, sharing the experience with friends and strangers.

If you’ve never seen this film or haven’t seen it in a while – check to see if any theaters in your area are playing it. And if not – rent the DVD and invite some friends over and have a party. Have a disco. Fool around!

Interesting facts shared by Demme and his producing partner during the Q&A:

80% of the film comes from one night’s performance. Pick-ups and coverage were pulled from two other nights of performance.

Contrary to other stories, Demme says that he observed all members of The Talking Heads getting along.

The film premiered at the Castro theater in San Francisco. An earthquake occurred earlier that day. When the film played audience members got up and started dancing and caused the theater to literally shake for the second time that day.

David Byrne: Now & Then

Byrne 84

When pop music stars find themselves establishing relatively long careers (’10 years and I still have a record contract!’) they have to make decisions about how they’ll continue their time in the spotlight. Some fight tooth and nail to maintain their relevancy – working hard to remain on top of the charts and in the hearts and minds of young music fans by any means necessary. And then there are the musicians who – decade after decade – keep their foothold in the zeitgeist without any air of desperation. They’re cool, not pandering. They create music for themselves and it’s up to us whether we decide to come along for the ride.

Why a big hat?

Why a big hat?

David Byrne is decidedly in the latter category – a fact confirmed for me by his performance at the William Onyeabor tribute this past weekend at BAM. David Byrne shared the stage with more than a dozen other musicians but all eyes in the mostly 20/30-something crowd seemed fixed on him. I know I was focused on him  – happy to have a chance to see him perform live, yet again.

 

 

During the show I flash-backed to 1984 (something I’ve been doing a lot of since I began this blog), the year Talking Heads released the seminal concert film Stop Making Sense (if you love music and/or film and haven’t seen this movie – PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE rent/stream/purchase it. It’s absolutely perfect! Director Jonathan Demme captures Talking Heads at their peak. The camera knows exactly when to push in, pull back or just sit still and let the band do its work.)

Comparing Byrne’s performances in Stop Making Sense and at BAM reveal to me 1) his remarkable consistency in style and interests 2) how he is just as entertaining but has grown even more fascinating over the past 30 years.

See what I mean? I love the idea that all of the people in the audience thought they were going to a rock show – but instead Reverend Byrne took them to CHURCH! Is this the sound of secular gospel music channeled through RISD and CBGB? Is this the moment when the New Testament of world music begins to replace the Old Testament of rock and roll? Is the pastor in the big suit possessed by the holy spirit? Is he Speaking in Tongues?

Ok – so I’m no Jonathan Demme, but I hope this clip conveys both the joy the audience and Byrne is experiencing. In Stop Making Sense – I feel like I’m watching DAVID BYRNE –  a persona created for the concert. It’s an ecstatic performance but I have no idea what’s going on under the slicked back hair and the big suit? Is he enjoying himself? Does he like his bandmates? What does he think of the audience? All of that mystery is intriguing but 30 years of it would have probably grown tiresome. Today – I think we get a pretty good glimpse of the actual man. Look at him – he’s SMILING. He seems sincerely happy to be on this stage, performing music he loves, to a crowd of 2,000 fans.

Over the years, Byrne (like David Bowie and Annie Lennox) – dropped the character. He’s less overtly odd – but has become more interesting. He’s openly pursued his musical passions and followed his creative impulses. I’m sure the ego is there and he wants to succeed, but I think the music comes first. If only other artists from the 80’s felt the same way. David Byrne collaborating with St. Vincent seems inspired. Madonna performing with Miley Cyrus seems really sad.

I haven’t followed all of Byrne’s efforts over the past 3 decades but it’s a pleasure to know that even when the masses may not be paying attention – he continues creating, innovating, writing – and doing what he does best – being David Byrne.

 

My First Time (with Duran Duran)

On March 21st, 1984 I attended my very first concert. Duran Duran’s Sing Blue Silver tour arrived in New York City and sold out two nights at Madison Square. Despite my parents’ assumption that riots were guaranteed to break out at any and every rock show, I was able to score tickets and permission (in that order) to the concert. A few days before the show I found out that pop station Z-100 was going to broadcast the concert live. I immediately set up a plan that would enable me to relive this historic moment in pop history over and over again.

I was able to convince my mom to agree to tape the show for me. This was a decision she would quickly regret.

Step 1 Teach her how to record radio on my boom box:  “I’m going to leave the radio on all day in my room so all you have to do is push the play and the record buttons at the EXACT same time at EXACTLY 8:00pm. Don’t push play and then record – you HAVE to push them at the same time, ok?  Alright, then come back at about 8:50 and as soon as the band finishes whatever song they’re playing QUICKLY flip the tape to side B, rewind to the beginning if necessary, and then IMMEDIATELY hit the play and record buttons again.”

Step 2 – Trial Run (“OK – see you hit the record button too late. You have to use two fingers! No – I’m sorry, I’m not raising my voice, it’s just that …”)

Step 3 – A few hours before the show call home and make sure Mom has retained her lesson. Also remind her that the benefit of listening to the show is the added peace of mind of knowing that the state police have not been called in to halt the Duran Duran riots.

Step 4 – Get a friend to tape the show – just in case.

I attended the show with my friend Diana. At the time we were friendly, but not the best of friends, but our mutual appreciation of Duran Duran set up a solid foundation.

The exultant anticipation of walking into MSG to see a show for the first time is an experience you never forget. Getting from the street to your seat literally takes a lot of time and effort. First you have to make your way past the sketchiness of 34th street/Penn station. Then, relieved you haven’t been mugged or pick-pocketed, you walk through a cavernous under ground bunker into the lobby, through the ticket gate, and finally begin your ascent – up, up, up the escalators. And at MSG when you’ve only paid $12.00 for tickets you spend a lot of time going up the escalator.

When Diana and I arrived at our seats we realized we were in the rafters but that didn’t temper our excitement. We ignored the opening band (the cool thing to do) , chatted with a couple of other concert goers and then . . .

the lights dimmed . . . and then . . . the eruption of screams from thousands of frenzied pubescent girls. And the screaming did not stop for the next two hours. At first it was fun, but three songs in,it quickly grew tiresome.  “I get it – three of the five band members are REALLY hot (I didn’t have the nerve to say) but can we tone down the screeching and focus on the music, just a little?”

Duran Duran T

An exact replica of the t-shirt I owned. I may need to buy a new one on ebay.

The next day I proudly walked the hallways of my high school, ears ringing, wearing my Duran Duran concert tee. Girls I didn’t know came up to me to ask for details about the show. They jabbed their fingers against my chest, tracing the outlines of their favorite band member, “Oh – Nick is my favorite – how did he look? How was his hair?!?”

 

 

Most of my friends found it hard to believe how much I liked the group. They understood why so many 9th grade girls liked the band – but why was I so enthralled? I’d argue, with 100% sincerity, that these guys had every right to be compared to the Beatles.

“Rolling Stone Magazine called them the Fab Five.”

“These guys are real musicians who play their own instruments and write their own songs.”

“Their lyrics are really deep. Take Union of the Snake  for example. Of course it’s about sex – ‘the UNION of the SNAKE’. But it’s also about our inability to communicate, ‘If I listen close I can hear them singers/Voices in your body coming through on the radio.’ Think about it.”

In truth – I did like Duran Duran’s music – it was catchy and fun and danceable. And when Nile Rodgers started working with them (The Reflex single remix, Wild Boys, Notorious) their music also became interesting. But I was also drawn to the image  – the band’s look and their looks. I embraced the aforementioned Rolling Stone cover story because it a) gave the group some musical cred and b) gave me the chance to stare at those pretty, pretty faces.

duran-duran-rolling-stone-cover

They’re looking through me.

And in case you were wondering – here’s how they ranked (16 YO Sean and Sean of today have similar taste, although today I might swap Simon and Roger).

5. Nick

4. Andy

3. Roger (arguably the most underrated member of the group)

2. Simon

1. John

 

Alas, mom did a great job taping the show (the second tape ran out during the final song – but who could have predicted Duran Duran would do a 12 minute encore version of Girls on Film!!??)

Last year while working at Fuse I met John Taylor –  backstage at Madison Square Garden. It was a nice ‘full circle’ moment. I made a point to tell him that 29 years earlier he and his band mates had the honor of providing me with my first concert experience. I think I expected him to be a little surprised (there weren’t many boys at the show and the only other black people in the arena were the two back-up singers and Nile Rogers). But without a pause he thanked me for being a fan and remarked how quickly the time had passed. I guess when you were at one point the biggest band in the world you assume everyone was a fan.

John Tayor and SDJ

Apologies to the colleagues who I cut out of this shot – but this is a two man band.

John Taylor was gracious and funny and his well aged cheekbones were still on point! Later that night I sent a little psychic message to my 16-year-old self. “Duran Duran may not be your favorite band forever (or even later this year) but for now – your love of the Fab Five is completely justified.”

 

 

 

 

 

 Duran Duran at MSG – March 21st – The Set List

1. Tiger Tiger

2. Is There Something I Should Know

3. Hungry Like the Wolf

4. The Reflex

5. New Moon on Monday

6. Union of the Snake

7. New Religion

8. Cracks in the Pavement

9. Of Crime and Passion

10. Rio

11. Friends of Mine

12. The Seventh Stranger

13. The Chauffeur

14. Save a Prayer

15. Planet Earth

16. My Own Way

17. Careless Memories

18. Girls on Film