Duran Duran: Unstaged
by M. Faust
The bad news about this theatrical release of a 2011 concert teaming the veteran British band with filmmaker David Lynch is, sad to say, David Lynch. Having apparently given up trying to get funding for his unique but uncommercial cinematic visions, Lynch has settled into a genial career as avant garde artiste/spiritual activist/all-purpose goofball.
Lynch was teamed with the Durans as part of a series sponsored by American Express to pair musicians with filmmakers. (I haven’t seen any of the other results, but would love to see Werner Herzog and the Killers.) He appears at the beginning of the film, giddy with excitement, announcing “This is not your normal concert! I’m hoping for some happy accidents! It’s very good and I’m very happy to be working for Duran Duran! I had great dreams listening to the music of Duran Duran!” But his contributions range from silly to distracting, mostly consisting of shaky images projected over the band. Lynchologists may be able to discern a connection between hot dogs cooking on a grill and a chorus of puppet mice to the band’s 1993 “Come Undone,” but it was lost on me.
The good news is that underneath the Lynchian murk is a pretty good concert movie. Initially written off in the US as a teenybopper band, Duran Duran has aged well. The set features a large number of tracks from their most recent album “All You Need is Now” (many accompanied on guitar by Mark Ronson, who produced the album) which stand up with the best of the band’s work. A particular highlight is the eerie, insinuating “The Man Who Stole A Leopard,” a duet between vocalist Simon le Bon and guest singer Kelis. (Other “special guests” include My Chemical Romance singer Gerard Way and Beth Ditto from Gossip.)
As for the oldies, drummer Roger Taylor and bassist John Taylor can still deliver the muscular rhythms that made classics out of like “Rio,” “Hungry Like the Wolf,” and “Planet Earth.” (Only guitarist Andy Taylor is missing from the original lineup.) A string quartet deepens the sound for moodier songs like “Ordinary World.” Despite playing for a hair under two hours they don’t get around to every hit (I would have liked to hear “New Moon on Monday” or “Save a Prayer”), but overall Duran Duran: Unstaged is evidence that after 35 years the band has outlasted its critics. It will be screened on Wednesday at the Amherst Theater.
Watch the trailer for Duran Duran: Unstaged
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