You wait 18 months for live shows and then two come along at once. Dee Cooke reports for Cherry Lipstick.
Tuesday 14th September, O2 Institute, Birmingham
The lead-up to the release of Future Past has been one big sea of excitement, to be honest, but the short-notice announcement of two intimate hometown gigs could well have been the most exciting, um, ship on the sea… not sure about this metaphor. Let’s move on because Duran gigs are back!
The excitement in Birmingham was palpable in the queue – we had all been waiting a VERY long time for this! – and remained high for the whole 45 minutes between the advertised stage time and the actual stage time (Durantime strikes again). The O2 Institute is a great little venue, and to this first-time-Duran-concert-goer it felt absolutely the right size.
‘Invisible’ was the opener, which might have been expected, and it was at that point I realised how much I’ve been living in the fan bubble for the last few months… because I was singing along loudly and soon realised nobody else around me was! Perhaps it was different right at the front, but it was clear that most people didn’t know the song. This was a surprise to me, but maybe it shouldn’t have been. Second song was ‘The Reflex’, and everyone broke into the intro immediately, which felt more like the Duran-going experience I’d heard so much about.
The setlist was a generally expected balance of nine ‘80s hits (including ‘Skin Trade’, which was a treat), one ‘80s non-hit (‘Friends Of Mine’, the performance of which seems to be a continuing trend from what I remember of gig reviews pre-pandemic and I am thrilled about that), three new tracks (including ‘Tonight United’, [video here] which was an immediate earworm – I am really looking forward to hearing the studio version as I loved it), and five post-‘80s hits. I personally really appreciated this balance, but I’m hoping for slightly more of an emphasis on the Future Past tracks once they start touring the album properly.
A real highlight for me, just before the encore, was the mashup of ‘Girls On Film’ with a cover of Calvin Harris’ ‘Acceptable in the ‘80s’. I am a Duranie who was sadly too young to experience the first golden age and was one of the few in the audience ‘born in the ‘80s, the ‘80s’! Thankfully the fan next to me was the same and we both went mental dancing while everyone around us stood in silence and one bloke behind us muttered ‘well, I was born in the ‘60s, actually’.
I’m SO glad they are back gigging, and I already can’t wait for the outdoor shows next summer and the eventual album tour.
Wednesday 15th September, Wylam Brewery, Newcastle
Back in the long-ago pre-COVID world of November 2019, I had a lovely night out in London with a few of the Cherry Lipstick crowd to see Andy Taylor’s first solo gig for many years. This was soon followed by the announcement of a mini UK tour scheduled for May 2020, including a show in Cullercoats which was set to be Andy’s big hometown return. Of course, like everything else at that time, it did not come to pass – which was very disappointing for the fans but seemingly even more so for Andy, who promised the gigs would be rescheduled as soon as possible.
As of autumn 2021, that has not yet happened – but I was thrilled when Andy announced a new hometown gig to tide us over, this time right in the middle of Newcastle! (I was slightly worried when Duran later announced their own hometown gigs for the same week, but I was lucky enough to get a ticket for Duran night 1 on the Tuesday so was able to make it back to Newcastle in time for Andy…)
This was a charity gig, so in many ways it couldn’t have been more different to the 100 Club show. There were lots of support acts with links to the local area (Spike from the Quireboys, Lorraine Crosby of Meat Loaf female vocal fame, and I think Luke Morley of Thunder may have also done an acoustic set but I didn’t catch that one… he did join Andy for most of the main set though). There also wasn’t a Reef member in sight! The onstage band were largely assembled in the North East, and I was really pleased to see that it included guitarist Craig Elliott from local ‘80s tribute act (and huge Duran fans) The Breakfast Club, who have entertained me often in the past.
Another big difference from the 100 Club gig was that there were no tracks off his new album. I was expecting that Andy would at least play ‘Love Or Liberation’, but it was all Duran, Power Station, the Thunder album and Andy-adjacent stuff such as Robert Palmer and Rod Stewart tracks. I am actually not disappointed about this because it felt absolutely right for the type of gig it was. We can hopefully gorge on the new stuff when that mini-tour is eventually rescheduled (and the album released!).
The Duran tracks included the brilliant surprise double of ‘What Happens Tomorrow’ (a favourite of mine and described by Andy as "the Duran song that got away") and ‘Careless Memories’ (I never realised before how special it would be to hear Andy play his guitar part for that live – it’s heavy and powerful and sounds incredible). ‘Planet Earth’ was also played, which was great given that it hadn’t made the set for the Duran gig the night before! Andy was in incredible voice and sang all but two of the songs (‘Johnny And Mary’ and ‘Wild Boys’) himself.
Andy at one point stated that he had never done a gig like this before, and it did feel really unique. The encore was a bit mad and comedic in a great way, with a tongue-in-cheek cover of Tom Jones’ ‘Delilah’ (with all the instances of ‘Delilah’ changed to ‘Graham Wylie’, the founder of the charity that organised the show) and then everyone on stage for ‘Rio’, including Lorraine Crosby joining in on the vocals and Si King from the Hairy Bikers on the bongos. It was so mental and fun that I actually preferred Andy’s ‘Rio’ closer to Duran’s ‘Rio’ closer the night before!
I can’t wait to see Andy play again. I’ll be over here waiting impatiently for the new date for that Cullercoats gig…
Here is a video I put together of snippets from the show, which includes Planet Earth and the other Duran songs he played
And here is his stunning set list!