The three expansive opening songs of Duran Duran’s A Diamond in the Mind – Live 2011 concert film announce a band that really knows how to fill an arena. I don’t mean in terms of ticket sales, but rather bathing their audience in a full sound best described as prog rock or symphonic rock. But once they kick into 1985’s “A View to a Kill,” and throughout the rest of the program, we’re reminded why Duran Duran were known as synthpop dance beat specialists in the 1990s and thereafter.
Filmed live in Manchester at the MEN Arena on December 16, 2011, the show was part of a two year tour to promote Duran Duran’s 2010 studio album, All You Need Is Now. Both the album and the show featured four of the original members of the group, Simon Le Bon (vocals), John Taylor (bass), Nick Rhodes (keyboards) and Roger Taylor (drums). Since on-again, off-again guitarist Andy Taylor’s last departure in 2006, Dominic Brown has credibly filled that role as both a player and songwriter for the group. In addition, the MEN Arena show spotlighted background singer Anna Ross, who really puts the funk in the funky for a number of the numbers, especially when she shares the front of the stage with Le Bon.
Not surprisingly, we get samplings from the full band catalogue going back to their glory days of the 1980s. From 1981, we get the standout “Planet Earth” and “Careless Memories.” From 1982, we get “Rio” and the monster hit, “Hungry Like the Wolf.” 1983 is represented by “The Reflex,” 1984 “The Wild Boys,” and 1986 “Notorious.” The ‘90s are less present with only “Ordinary World” from 1991 and “White Lines (Don’t Don’t Do It),” a Grandmaster Melle Mel song Duran Duran covered on 1995’s Thank You. In addition, the group performs “(Reach Up for The) Sunrise” from Astronaut (2004), Duran Duran’s first big hit since “A View to a Kill” twenty years before.
Of course, we get many selections from the highly regarded All You Need Is Now including the title song and the beautiful “Return To Now,” “Before the Rain,” and “A Diamond In the Mind.” For me, much of the rest of the new tracks aren’t that much different from the grooves and approaches of their earlier work. You can certainly dance to “Girl Panic!,” “Blame the Machines,” and “Safe (In the Heat of the Moment).” “The Man Who Stole a Leopard” is an interesting comment on trying to domesticate wild animals with Nina Hossain reading a news report which had been performed by Kelis on the original album.
Naturally, a band who rose to prominence with MTV and pioneered the use of videos in concerts back in 1984 is all about keeping your eyes on the stage with more than their fashion statements. Considerable credit must go to film director and editor Gavin Elder who expertly blends the musicians in the foreground with the visuals behind them, such as the red and gold winged phoenix dancing-fire-women in “A View to a Kill.” Perhaps the most notable imagery comes with “Girl Panic” where the video starring Yasmin Le Bon, Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell, Eva Herzigova, and Helena Christensen playing members of Duran Duran are seen in sync with Le Bon’s singing.
Extras include the short documentary “Duran Duran 2011,” which goes behind the scenes of the tour, discusses their work with David Lynch for a L.A. online concert, examines the role of Dom Brown in the band, and reveals bits about the making of the “Girl Panic!” video. In addition they recall how Le Bon’s temporary loss of his voice affected the band. We get the bonus songs, “Come Undone,” where Le Bon catches a kiss from an audience member, and “Is There Something I Should Know?” The real bonus is the CD of 14 of the songs mixed by Andrew ‘Snake’ Newton.
Obviously, Duran Duran fans will want to add this package to their collections, especially for the performances of songs not on earlier concert DVDs. If you’re not yet in those numbers, A Diamond in the Mind – Live 2011 might not be the prime introduction to bring you into the fold. I’d go first for one of the collections of their made-for-TV videos. Still, after a very long lull, the Duran Duran of the past few years is widely regarded as being on a par with the New Wave period when they were the darlings of teenage girls. Perhaps I’m alone feeling they’re too much repeating the ‘80s, that most of the new is old all over again. If you like catchy, melodic, affirming songs, that’s not a bad thing at all.