The worlds of rock and roll and art collided when British band Duran Duran made a special appearance at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City Monday evening.
To the unfamiliar, it might have seemed a bit out of the ordinary, but to fans familiar with the band's history, it totally made sense. After all, Duran Duran defined cutting-edge style from the '80s through today -- from album covers, including "Rio" to pioneering music videos and fashion attire. So it seemed very appropriate that the band was at an institution whose art works influenced both its music and visual presentation.
The reason for the band's appearance was a screening of the concert movie, "Duran Duran: Unstaged," which was directed by legendary filmmaker David Lynch. It kicked off the museum's annual series "The Contenders," which showcases outstanding films of this year and runs through Jan. 16. "Unstaged," which was originally shown live on YouTube, captured Duran Duran in performance in Los Angeles in 2011 during the "All You Need Is Now tour -- its uniqueness is the fact it was it started out as a Web project.
Duran Duran is no stranger when it comes to having its shows documented -- the hysteria of Duranmania during the '80s was captured in the film "Arena." But what made "Unstaged" stand out was how Lynch combined a straightforward mostly black-and-white rock concert with surrealistic visuals that resulted in something that was artistic, sort of noir-ish. It's not often in concert movies where such ordinary images as a model helicopter, flames, Barbie-looking dolls, leopard figurines, and a barbecue grill are superimposed over the members of Duran Duran playing their songs. Yet, it somehow works rather than being distracting, a credit to the always interesting vision of Lynch.
As for the band's music in the film, the setlist was a perfect balance between the familiar hits -- such as "Rio," "Hungry Like the Wolf," "A View to a Kill," "Girls on Film" and "Ordinary World" -- and songs from the then-new album "All You Need Is Now," certainly one of the band's strongest efforts since "Rio." There were guest stars who graced the stage that night with them, including Gossip's Beth Ditto on "Notorious"; Mark Ronson on "Girl Panic"; Kelis on "The Man Who Stole a Leopard"; and My Chemicial Romance's Gerard Way on "Planet Earth." Duran Duran also unearthed a few early underrated gems including the punk-ish "Carless Memories and "Friends of Mine," both off of the band's 1981 debut self-titled album.
What was unusual, however, was the spirited -- by museum standards -- audience who attended the event. It was quite a lively and excited crowd that applauded and cheered throughout the screening. A good portion of the film-goers even stood up and started to wave their arms and danced through the aisles to the music (Remember, this was only a screening, but it might as well been an actual rock concert).
Of course, the main highlight of the evening was the actual presence of the band members -- Simon Le Bon, Nick Rhodes, John Taylor and Roger Taylor -- who walked onto the stage for a question-and-answer session after the screening. Rhodes recalled a time as a teenager when he and John Taylor saw Lynch's 1977 debut film "Eraserhead." "It was extraordinary," he said. "It really stuck with me that somebody made this film a labor of love. It had nothing to do with commercial impact. It had to do with what the guy really wanted to do and his love for it. When we started making music videos -- they were hand-made, they were not super expensive, from 'Planet Earth' and 'Hungry Like the Wolf.' A lot people feel they cost a lot of money. But they didn't. They were really trying to do things with very little money. And often that's where you get great ideas. And working with David Lynch...we saw how handmade it was and David had done a lot of it himself and came up with all these great simple ideas."
Another subject during the talk was Duran Duran's music videos, particularly 1981's "Girls on Film," which is famous for its sexual suggestiveness. "It was the American video scene that inspired "Girls on Film," said John Taylor. "At that time, there were clubs like the Ritz here in New York. They had a video screen above the dance floor. It was this trend for long-form video. So that's how I remember "Girls on Film" -- it was this idea that we would make this long-form groovy video."
There were moments of laughter, cheers, and a few offbeat questions from audience members throughout the nearly 30-minute session. The guys also mentioned the news that they are currently working on a new album in the studio. "We're all very excited about it," said Rhodes. "After this amount of time of working together to be that excited about the album, that's what's special."
Towards the end of the evening, Rhodes offered a special acknowledgement of musician Lou Reed, had performed with Reed onstage in the late '80s. "It's the first time we've been here since Lou Reed died," Rhodes said. "He came and did a couple of songs with us in New york city. That's one of the greatest nights of our lives. We all know what music does for us. God bless Lou."-- Duran Duran once covered his song "Perfect Day" on its "Thank You" album and