❚ WHAT RUM NIGHTMARES DAVID LYNCH must have in bed at night, but then, he did direct Eraserhead after all. For the best part of two hours, today’s much vaunted Duran Duran live web concert in the Unstaged series kept making you want to hurl virtual cabbages at the screen, enraged by a director whose intent was to obscure the act from view with his relentlessly potty toy-box full of widgets. From 2am UK time till almost the dawn chorus, the band onstage in California had no idea what web audiences in 22 overseas territories (432,000 channel views by 6.30am) were enduring as they pushed on through 18 numbers where musically there was much to enjoy (though Simon Le Bon did lurch badly off-key a couple of times). Two of the guest performers Kelis and Beth Ditto added real pleasure to Duran’s output old and new, as did a medley of Bond themes arranged by Mark Ronson.
The YouTube HD media player offered viewers at their computers a choice of three image sources, but gallingly the director’s cut wasn’t simply an option — it was the main stream. A couple of handheld “fun” cams in the audience searching for alternative shots added nothing whatsoever (one vanished entirely), so you were stuck with Lynch’s hellish visions and flickering ghosts from within his own mental Plato’s cave.
The trouble with the way-over-the-top “Lynchian effects” was that by shooting the band in broodily gloomy black and white, then adding a light-storm of flashing bleached-out effects resulted in obscuring the musicians for literally 90% of the concert. This utterly defeats the founding principle for televising live events — which was always to give the viewer a privileged close-up vantage point. Not to superimpose a veil of tears. What Lynch added to the often rousing performance in the Mayan theatre, Los Angeles, was a heavy-handed montage (loosely echoing Duran’s lyrics) of old clock parts, bicycle wheels, smoking twigs, flames, sparklers, crashing airplanes, shrunken heads on sticks, BBQ hot dogs, dancing mice, gnomes and the sock fairy.
All of which prompted scrolling comments onscreen from viewers: “I wanna see the boys”, “What’s with the floating heads?”, “This guy is on freaking crack”, “Fatuous visuals”, “Giving me a headache”, “I’m going dizzy” and “Fire Lynch!”
Conclusion: arm yourself with a couple of extra-strong Nurofen Plus if you feel up to catching either the whole concert restreamed for UK audiences at 8pm tonight on Duran’s Vevo channel at YouTube, or opt right away for what look like edited highlights which were already being uploaded as the live show ended. The highlights seem likely to linger online for the next month. But if Rhodes, Le Bon, and the Taylors can brace themselves to view the whole Lynchian farrago in real time — as we had to — they’ll never, ever repeat this kind of laughable venture live. The surrealists played this card in 1930, and won hands down.
➢ Duran’s official website lists these 22 territories (based on YouTube licensing agreements) which are able to view Unstaged: Argentina, Australia, Brazil , Canada, Czech Republic , France , Hong Kong , Ireland, Israel, Italy , Japan, Korea, Republic of Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Russian Federation, South Africa , Spain , Taiwan Province of China, United Kingdom , United States.