As the instrumental “Return to Now” plays over the black-and-white opening sequence to Duran Duran’s first live release in nearly ten years, it’s already obvious that the show to follow will be a high-gloss, high-caliber affair. The band are shown perfecting the look of their shimmering attire and priming their instruments. Bassist John Taylor earnestly assesses his hair as keyboardist Nick Rhodes gracefully makes his way down a corridor while being photographed with an iPad. It’s a prologue that clearly establishes Duran Duran are seasoned, self-assured, and still looking the part of iconic figureheads of popular music.
When the performance, shot in high-definition at Manchester’s MEN Arena last December, opens with “Before the Rain”—perhaps the band’s most ambitious ballad to date—the presumptions about quality become fact. It isn’t simply that Simon Le Bon strikes an admirable Bowie pose or that Nick looks as mysterious as ever peering into the audience from behind his Korg. The production, including a dynamic sound mix, is top-notch and successfully sucks the viewer into fifth row, center, of the arena.
The forefathers of blockbuster music video-making don’t scrimp in the way of imagery, either. Although the sound quality maintains enough authenticity to mimic the actual concert experience, the camera work and special effects create the feel of a Duran concert broadcast in a virtual forum. Graphics that resemble an LED VU meter flicker in the corner of the screen; the frames go a bit fuzzy, as if interrupted by satellite dysfunction; and over the stage the band members’ countenances (along with a variety of other images) are projected onto white masks, creating an effect somewhere in between the projections in the Talking Heads’ “Burning Down the House” video and the singing busts in Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion ride. Director Gavin Elder also made good use of the host of visuals created and utilized throughout the band’s 2011 tour, from the fan-contributed hand and face art David Lynch inserted into their Unstaged performance to party footage clips from the Duran Duran Universe on Second Life.
Standout tracks among the 19-song collection are many. “Before the Rain” and “The Man Who Stole a Leopard” showcase Simon Le Bon’s enduring writing chops, as well as his underrated vocal range, while “Planet Earth” and “The Reflex” get the crowd going and demonstrate that Duran Duran still own synth-driven pop, no matter what other bands who didn’t write “Rio” have to say. You’d think the band had written “White Lines,” which they included on Thank You, their 1995 album of covers. Then there is “Careless Memories,” the band’s second single, which is freshened up with visuals portraying the band as anime action heroes on an epic space adventure, but still sounds as raw and underground as it did in 1981. And if you were concerned about the guitar parts, Dom Brown leaves little to be desired with licks that rival Andy Taylor’s contributions.
The standard version of the 116-minute Blu-ray includes the documentary Duran Duran 2011, as well as two bonus tracks, “Come Undone” and “Is There Something I Should Know?” In the documentary, the band members detail the ups and downs of the 2011 tour, from their festival highlights to the cancellation of their European and U.K. dates due to the loss of Simon’s voice. If you follow Simon, John, or even Dom Brown and backup singer Anna Ross on social media, you might feel shortchanged by the brief rundown of their comeback year. But what you will have a sense of when you power down your LCD is that this band is hardworking, professional, and completely deserving of another go in the limelight.
A Diamond in the Mind is available Tuesday, July 10, on standard DVD, Blu-ray, CD, and a triple-pack Deluxe Edition containing all three formats.
Blu-ray Track Listing
1. Return To Now
2. Before The Rain
3. Planet Earth
4. View To A Kill
5. All You Need Is Now
6. Blame The Machines
7. Safe (In The Heat Of The Moment)
8. The Reflex
9. Man Who Stole A Leopard
10. Girl Panic!
11. White Lines
12. Careless Memories
13. Ordinary World
15. Hungry Like The Wolf
16. (Reach Up For The) Sunrise
17. Wild Boys/Relax
19. A Diamond In The Mind
Duran Duran 2011 (Behind-the-scenes documentary)
Is There Something I Should Know?