Duran Duran comes to Pittsburgh, 2005
This review was originally published on the duranduran.com message board in August of 2005, just after I saw Duran Duran at the Chevy Amphitheatre in PIttsburgh, PA. Enjoy!
My sister Sue and I left from Toledo about 11 a.m. on Monday, car full of water, granola bars and CDs full of 80s songs. One of her co-workers had given her directions into Pittsburgh that promised a gorgeous view of the downtown, via the Ft. Pitt Tunnel. Fine, I say; I've never been to Pittsburgh and anyone who can give me directions is welcome to try. On we go.
Five hours pass uneventfully, including a lunch break at the Turnpike Burger King. I remarked that there's a segment in Sing Blue Silver that shows the band riding in limos down what sure looks like the Ohio Turnpike in very crummy Ohio winter weather. Unfortunately the turnpike rest area that the band stops in (where they're all on the phone and Nick comments that it's snowing) has long since been torn down and replaced with shiny new rest stops that have sunglass huts and Starbucks in them. We sort of chuckle that wouldn't it be funny if the band walked through the door like they did in SBS. I realize that I have on my travel clothes (read: comfortable and definitely unsexy) and sort of desperately hope they DON'T walk in. It's unlikely anyway since a. the concert isn't until the following evening and b. they're coming from the east coast, not from Cleveland to Pittburgh as in 1984, so a jaunt through northeast Ohio would be one heck of a detour. We get back on the road and I wonder why Duran Duran was driving in a blizzard, anyway.
So we reach Pittsburgh and Sue guides me to the Ft. Pitt tunnel, the promise of beautiful skyscraper vistas on the other side. She has her camera at the ready and as we emerge, snaps away. As she's snapping I suddenly realize that there are three EXIT ONLY signs looming about five feet in front of our fast-moving car, going in three different directions, and I have no idea which one to take. I guess, wrong, and we end up driving about halfway out of town before we find our way back to the right bridge, and our hotel. I'm sure the pictures are gorgeous.
We check into our home for the next two days, the Sheraton on Station Square, a very nice and posh hotel located only a few hundred yards from the Chevy Amphitheatre. While I am no stalker, the thought that the band might be staying at that very hotel has crossed my mind and as we stroll through the lobby I glance around. No sexy rockers, however many middle-aged men with name tags hanging around their necks. Turns out there is a conference going on that week of electrical systems processing companies. I can't remember all that of course and spend our entire stay calling them the Byrnemouth Gynecologists.
Sue and I get a bellman with a cart and get all of our stuff hauled upstairs - two suitcases, two bags of hairstyling/makeup stuff, a couple of bags of snacks and my iBook that will be my link to the Internet world of Duraniedom during my weeklong odyssey. The hotel's corriders are cream-colored and windowless with burgundy carpeting, and remind me a little too much of the first-class hallways of the Titanic. I curse myself for not counting the lifeboats in case the hotel strikes an iceberg.
Speaking of ice, we've brought a cooler for pop and water for the concert and find out that our floor has the laziest ice machine in Pittsburgh. While most ice machines will crank out a robust bucket o' ice in a few seconds flat, our machine can only manage to spit out six miserable chips every thirty seconds or so, and that only after creaking and bellowing like Simon the morning after too many Stolis and a pair of twins whose names he can't remember. Not only that, but the commode in our bathroom has a handle that is totally disconnected from the rest of the inner workings. Must be a European thing?
While Sue is ringing the front desk to see about getting the toilet fixed I check our view and find out that we overlook Station Square, which is now shimmering in the afternoon heat. Heat? 'Heat' seems a little mild for the weather in Pittburgh - inferno might be closer, or possibly 'volcano'. Someone on this board used a term I'd never heard before by saying that a venue was "balls hot". I kept saying it over and over Monday and Tuesday, because boy, Pittsburgh was BALLS HOT. About 93 Monday and 95 Tuesday, humid, and too warm to sit in Station Square for most of the day, as we found out when we tried to do it later in the afternoon.
So - the toilet is fixed, the maintenance guy promises to look at Simon the Cranky Ice Machine, and we're given two coupons for the breakfast buffet the following morning. Yay! We decide to head over to the Station to get some dinner and look around, and prepare for a fun evening.
Unfortunately, the shops at Station Square aren't terribly plentiful and we manage to run through all of them in about an hour, including a stop at a steak sandwich place for dinner. There's a plaza with a fountain that dances to programmed music, and I notice that one of the programs is '80s Hair Bands'. While calling DD a hair band would not be the highest of compliments, I mention that I'd like to have a beer and watch that show and see if any of their music shows up and my sister says OK. We watch the show, which does not include DD but does include Motley Crue, Bon Jovi, and Guns n Roses, and look at the Pittsburgh skyline light up. It's pretty cool.
The next day dawns - is the band here??? No sign of them, although the Byrnemouth Gynecologists are all over the place, and they're all very nice guys. Sue and I invade the breakfast buffet, which is pretty good. Since we didn't see menus we had to guess at how much the spread would cost so we could tip our excellent hostess, a very nice woman named Carol. We figure it can't be more than $10 and tip accordingly.
Our fellow Duran friends will be arriving around noon, so we have some time to kill. We walk back over to Station Square, but it's already about 85 degrees and the heat is radiating off the pavement. There is a floral truck parked in the street and workers are setting up huge vases of potted plants which were NOT there yesterday; they're also powerwashing the pavement. This seems a little odd until I notice the radio station signs being set up around the Hard Rock Cafe and remember that Duran Duran will be appearing there that afternoon. I'd clean my house too. :-)
We then walk over to the Chevy Amphitheater to take a look around. No tour busses, but lots of equipment being set up, and no one hassles us as we walk right next to the venue to look at our seats: Section 6, row E, seats 9-12. About a third of the way back, but I'm surprised at how small the venue is - our seats are pretty close!! The crew has the light walls set up and are testing them, and Sue takes a few pictures. We find out there will be no cameras permitted at the concert. Bummer!
Our friends show up, Carla and Vickie, and Vickie has brought her pet chihuahua Bandit. Bandit's a cutie, very well behaved, and has to go walkies since she's been sitting in a car way too long. We take her over to some trees but she's too busy sniffing the dirt, so to encourage her I say, "Look, Bandit, it's a tree!" and lean toward the tree, not seeing the branch that's jutting just out of my eyeline. The tree attacks, giving me a nice livid cut right next to my eye that quickly swells up and looks like a duelling scar. I'm told several times that I was lucky it didn't jab me in the eye. You'll poke your eye out, kid...
Vickie and I take Bandit to where our friends are signing in, where we meet a very nice fellow Duranie named westvirginiaduranie. We get checked in and settled, go have lunch at the Hard Rock, have a quick swim, and then - concert time!!!
We walk over to the venue about 7 and are approached by a couple of young interns who are doing a fan survey for Belkin productions - would we like to participate? I'm pegged as the biggest fan in the group, but we all end up agreeing, giving the kids our names and having our pictures taken for the website. It's still very much daylight, the hot setting sun shining into the covered outdoor venue and I begin to regret not wearing sunscreen. Dragonette takes the stage and I feel kinda sorry for them - the place is only about a quarter full and only the folks right in the front are paying attention to them at all. They're not bad.
Carla and I go check out the Tshirts and things, and we run into westvirginiaduranie again. The shirts are very cool but I can't swing the $40 price and we head back to our seats to watch some more Dragonette who sing a song called, I think, "Your Worst Enemy". We're all Star Wars fans, so we quickly dub it the Anakin Skywalker song.
Dragonette leaves, and the venue starts filling up. Two fans take the seats ahead of us and we recognize them as fellow survey-takers for the Belking thing and we strike up a conversation. They're very nice too, and as a group we marvel at the costumes, the atmosphere, and how the Amphitheater does its seating: rows and rows of folding chairs jammed as close as possible next to each other with no numbers on them and no space in between. The ticket takers make everyone enter from the right, even if your ticket is at the opposite end of the row. This makes for some bumper-car type problems, and I feel esp. sorry for one girl who had to walk the entire length of the row behind us on crutches. Some policies I don't get.
Time passes, the place fills up, the sun goes down. The excitement is growing, but of course five minutes before the start the shortest member of our party gets the hugest audience member seated two rows ahead of her - she can't see the stage at all. I offer to switch, since I can see, and she says maybe later.
Then - !!! A heartbeat starts, the stage goes dark! The VIPs start screaming, then go quiet, then scream again. This goes on for a few minutes and THEN! Nick's blond head can be seen at the keyboards, and there's Roger! The whole place is on its feets screaming as John appears, and Andy and Simon! The stage lights up in a blaze of glory and THERE THEY ARE!
The rest is a happy blur.
The concert was fantastic, even better than I dreamed it would be. The crowd was so totally into every song, even after it became obvious that it was Duran Duran vs. the heat and humidity of a Pittsburgh evening. If the band ever wore out I never saw it; they rocked and jumped and jammed all night, and the audience jammed with them. Well, all except for the big guy two rows in front of us; for some reason he never moved, just stood there and stared at them like they were a slab of meat in the grocery store. Finally he sat down, but even then it was just to look at them motionlessly. At least my friend could see then...
There are too many moments to count, but for me "Notorious" and "Wild Boys" were the best, the latter a primal scream of defiance not just for the band but I think for all of us. Wild boys always shine, even if it's with perspiration.
Simon does mess up the lyrics a couple of times, but he just laughs it off and goes on, no big deal. He hocks many loogies, asks for water a few times, and runs off in the middle of a song to change his shirt. He humps John during "Hungry Like the Wolf" and pats his butt on another song. The light wall is beautiful, it's humid as heck, and I'm in heaven because I'm in a place where every single person around me is singing "Save a Prayer" in unison and we all know the words. When it's over the last thing we hear is John saying "Take care", and I think, aw, that's sweet. It's probably the best concert I've ever been to.
Getting out is another problem, and a worrisome thing. We're all herded toward the same narrow entrance we came in at, and there are many jam-ups. It bugs me because I recently read a book about the Harford Circus fire of 1944, where 167 people died after a circus tent caught fire, and one of the reasons so many perished was that there were few exits, and everyone ran for the place they'd come in at - over lots of folding chairs that were jammed too close together. People got caught and pulled down and trampled, and although I doubt that the Chevy Amphitheater would catch fire, if a lot of people had to get out quickly I'm not sure how they'd do it. Despite the venue being open at the back, mob mentality is to go for the familiar, which means everyone would run for the narrow entrance. Hm.
But I digress!! The four of us stumble happily out of the venue, sore and deaf and hungry, and decide to towel off and go to the Hard Rock for something to eat. But - surprise! The Hard Rock stopped serving food before we got there. Only a little bummed we go to the Red Star Tavern and had four of their delicious $1 burgers. While we're eating a very drunk fellow wearing a shirt from the BP Oil company asks if he can join us. He can't.
About 1 a.m. we're fed and decide to call it a night. In the lobby of the hotel we encounter a determined group of young women with cell phones and, coming down the hallway, westvirginiadurannie. We wave to her and ask if she enjoyed the concert, at which point one of the other young women ask if we're trying to find the band too. We're not, but I wish them the best of luck and we stagger blearily upstairs.
The next morning we all get up and head for the breakfast buffet, which I'm a little surprised to learn is a hefty $16 per person. I just order eggs.
About noon we check out and go our separate ways, Carla and Vickie back home and Sue and I to do some sightseeing in Gettysburg. That's the end of my first DD concert adventure, and it was fantastic! I met some great people, saw an awesome concert, and I hope to experience it again the next time the Fab Five go on tour.
I hope you enjoyed my little travelogue and I can't wait to do it all again! Woo hoo!
Photos from Pittsburgh
Cool Duran Duran links!
- Beyond Thunder :: Andy Taylor - Index
Andy Taylor's website, for those who would like to keep up with what Duran Duran's former guitarist is up to.
- Duranduran.com The official Duran Duran website
Pretty much what the title says - the official Duran Duran site. Includes news, photos, and a webstore.
- DuranDuranMusic.com - The Official Duran Duran Fan Community
Duran Duran's Official Fan Community providing Tour Info, Presale Tickets, VIP Packages, chances to Meet the Band, contests, exclusive content and more.
- Duran Duran Message Board - Home
An unofficial message board dedicated to Duran Duran. Includes a general board for non-duran stuff.
- Lizard King Duran Duran discussion board
The message board for the Lizard King Duran Duran website. Lots of lively discussions!