Bluesfest has been an annual Ottawa thing for more than 20 years, and I’ve never had any interest in going. There’s just never been a performer I’ve felt strongly about seeing. So when I found out Duran Duran was coming this year, I got excited. This would not only be the first time I got to see a fantastic band that I’ve liked for years… it would also be my first Bluesfest!
It was also nearly my last.
Duran Duran was headlining at 9:30, but with my day pass, I decided to go early and join my friend Reena, who came specifically to see the rapper Nelly. I agreed I would join her for a few songs before heading to the other stage to snag a spot to watch Duran Duran.
I don’t know why I bothered. I don’t like (let alone KNOW) any of Nelly’s music. And standing there watching the overcrowded audience (mostly in their teens and early 20s) did nothing more than make me feel old.
The audience was too tightly packed. They were mostly either high or drunk. Many of them were angry and shouting at each other, picking fights and shoving. It was claustrophobic, and given that the performance was basically a heavy beat with a guy screaming words I couldn’t comprehend, it was not enjoyable.
I suppose had I known the songs in advance I might have had a clue, but I was clueless.
I know. I’m old. You can say it, I don’t mind. But honestly, as I excused myself and pushed my way to the back and out of the crowd, I was never more relieved to be out of a space. It ws hard to get out too, and by the time I escaped that scene, I was ready to say “never again” to Buesfest. It was a horrible experience.
It made me a bit nervous about the Duran Duran concert. Would it be the same crush of people?!
I met up with a couple of other friends, and as we took our spots, I was dreading the crowd getting thicker around me. When would they start to push? But I think the fact that it was an older audience meant people were happy just to take a bit more space and to focus on the music rather than rush the stage.
The concert was outstanding from start to finish. A few extra lines on faces, a few more grey hairs, but really they’ve kept themselves in good shape – and without any evident plastic surgery. Duran Duran looked great, and they sounded better. Simon’s voice is still in top form.
They performed a nice mix of classics along with some uptempo tracks from their latest album – something I really enjoyed. I know most people wanted the 80s classics, but they’ve been pretty consistently active for 35 years and I would have been happy if they had drawn a few more songs from more of their recent albums.
Of course, they were limited for time. Bluesfest performances are kept short to squeeze in more acts. They only had about 90 minutes to perform and so I’m sure they had to pare down their playlist. That time limit definitely made the concert feel truncated. I would happily pay to see them again at a stadium venue where they can put on a full show. I might have to watch their website for future tour dates.
I have to say they kept it classy. No raunch, no foul language. At one point, while performing Planet Earth, the song morphed into David Bowie’s Space Oddity – a short and poignant tribute to a great artist done in a way that was neither maudlin nor ostentatious. It got the point across without making a big deal out of it.
The same is true for their choice to dedicate their first encore, Save a Prayer, to the victims of Nice and all those suffering from the needless violence and hatred around the world. Simon’s intro touched on the fact that music should be a force to bring people together in celebration.
That was certainly the case at this concert. While there were certainly screams, the audience seemed more relaxed. There was no shoving. We made friends with the people around us, and most everyone seemed focused on enjoying the music.
Ultimately, the Duran Duran concert was a MUCH better experience for me than the Nelly concert. Clearly if I ever do go back to Bluesfest, I will need to be very selective in the acts I choose to see…nothing that will be attended by aggressive young people.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go shake my fist at some young people and tell them to get off my dang lawn.