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Sing blue silver: Duran Duran rock the Palace.

PHOTO: Chris Shields

The Last Laugh

By Shawn Stone

Duran Duran

Palace Theatre, Nov. 6

Back in the day, the critics didn’t much care for Duran Duran. Hell, mainstream rockers weren’t impressed—Mick and Keith dissed a Duran show in a Rolling Stone interview. The hair, the clothes and the fancy videos attracted disdain. But the kids loved ’em—and, it turns out, the kids were oh-so-right. Last night at the Palace, four of the five original Durans dazzled a reasonable-sized house with the infectious hooks and funky beats that ruled the radio and MTV in the 1980s.

They threw down the gauntlet immediately with “Hungry Like the Wolf,” and kept the quality up straight through the double-whammy encore of “Girls On Film” and “Rio.” Frontman Simon Le Bon donned a cap for the slinky “Chauffeur.” (The video was missed on that one, though.) On “The Reflex,” with its great chorus, Duran reminded the crowd why it was a No. 1 hit. “A View to a Kill” not only reiterated the point that every Bond song since has stunk, but made the case that it’s one of the best Bond songs, period, right up there with “You Only Live Twice” and “Goldfinger.” A mashup of “Notorious” and Sly Stone’s “I Want to Take You Higher” didn’t quite work, but a brief run through “Some Like It Hot,” originally by Duran side project the Power Station, did. (Though many in the crowd seemed puzzled, apparently not making the connection; that, or Le Bon sounded so different from Robert Palmer that it confused people.)

The hits weren’t just from the 1980s, though: When they played their 2004 adult rock/club hit “(Reach Up for the) Sunrise,” the once-girls-now-women who make up a good part of their fan base sang along with the same fervor they brought to “Union of the Snake.” They also played their two ’90s comeback ballads, the moody “Come Undone” and anthemic “Ordinary World.” Duran Duran are very much a going concern.

Le Bon sounded great; my colleague John Brodeur suggested he sounds better than he used to. John Taylor played the hell out of that funky bass (including that nifty line in “Rio” lifted/adapted from Roxy Music’s “Out of the Blue”), while Nick Rhodes pushed the effete, white-haired-synth-geek-with-laptop thing to the hilt.

Ironically, given the rap they took for the clothes, hair, and bells and whistles in their heyday, the presentation was lean and mean. One backup singer and one sax man were the extent of the bonus musicians. The light wall behind them was effective, though it would have been nice if they could’ve afforded the high-tech version NIN toured with this summer; then we could have better seen the heavily pixilated images. The lack of pricey eye-candy, however, reinforced the fact that the music was damn good, and didn’t need the flair. Duran Duran rocked.

 
Chill Factor

Celtic Frost, Goatwhore, Disciples of Berkowitz

Revolution Hall, Nov. 4

When I think of Celtic Frost, I think of two things: high school and Arctic exploration. As suburban teens in 1985, we gladly froze to death in wooded lots at 10-below, knee-deep in snow, drinking Stroh’s from cans, slurring along to Tom G. Warrior’s incomprehensible death grunts (“Circle of the Tyrants” pronounced “Sirk-uh-of-ty-RUH!”). If and when sleep finally came, I dreamt of huge hummocks of ice, taller than mountains, created by oceanic swells that would buckle fields of it, running longer and deeper than hatred itself. Unique, primitive and complex; not unlike the Swiss threesome whose tragic serenades then became a funeral hymn as my wayward vessel was snapped into firewood. And now, after almost two decades (that’s a lot of Stroh’s), Celtic Frost are reborn. What were the odds? Could Frost deliver the goods? Heal our sick? Would they, as the ever-eloquent Warrior himself inquired on his blog, “be able again to convey the dusk of our musical processions to the masses that have been deprived of sufficient morbidity for so long?”

Eighteen seconds into the deliberately plodding Morbid Tales classic “Procreation of the Wicked,” 300 mutants had their answer. Warrior, leering under a black skullcap, corpsepaint smeared beneath the eyes, gave us his infamous, declarative “OOH!” and the metallurgists roared into action, smoking, thrumming, metastasizing into all our major organs. Older classics like “Dethroned Emperor,” “The Usurper,” and “Jewel Throne” were purposely slowed down (to chilling effect), perhaps so that the catalogue blended better with the ambient death marches of Monotheist, the band’s first original release in well over 15 years. And unlike so many survivors from metal’s salad days, they have new material that is staggering. Over-the-top. Intrinsically diabolical. Warrior’s voice has grown more textured and menacing with age, the prime example “Ain Elohim,” spewed forth with bowel-purging intensity, the cadence (“Tet . . . ra . . . gra-ma-ton/Thy wrath . . . inflame-my-passion”) conveyed as indignantly as any hallowed ultimatum, while the insidious “Ground” was dominated by ferocious growls beneath hypnotizing power chords.

Tom G. is none-more-black, his features pale and pointy, but when viewed straight-on, the eyes and lips become mere slits, like a reptile or a sloth, through which some of the most inquisitive and imposing epithets roar. A minimalist to the extreme, the singer-soothsayer spoke only when inquiring as to whether we were rendered sufficiently “mor-beed,” my answer in particular being something like, “Well, yes, in fact, especially since I have been watching a tubby biker dry-hump his warehouse girlfriend over these iron railings for an hour, I’m actually quite doggedly morbid, thank you!” But it didn’t matter, because not only was I morbid, I was simply transfixed. Even the breakneck thrasher “Into the Crypts of Rays,” couldn’t break the hex as bassist Martin Eric Ain (who looked more like King Diamond than the widow-peaked phantom I remember in my ice dreams) mocked our primitive belief systems between the mighty “Return to the Eve” and the unexpected “Mesmerized.” And before the over-the-top finale “Synagoga Satanae,” he reminded us that there were, in fact, no gods and no monsters, and having cleared that up, our Helvetic dignitaries offered up the brooding, crunching epic even slower than on Monotheist, which I didn’t think was humanly possible. There was no encore, and suddenly it was cold again.

Earlier, New Orleans storm troopers Goatwhore heartlessly flagellated the mutants with some old-school black metal, spraying down the crowd mob-hit style with belligerent blast beats, guitars like jailhouse shivs fashioned out of old commissary lice combs, and frightening beards that blasted from the chins of their ranks like propane torch flames. Our own Disciples of Berkowitz kicked off the evening with a dastardly display of stopping power; fans of these imposing lads expected no less. With Wasteform’s Greg Kennedy now at the helm, the band remain just as markedly vicious, sadistic, immoral, misanthropic and blissfully arrogant as ever, which makes me very happy indeed. Mor-beed, even.

—Bill Ketzer


Ice Queen

AFI

Washington Avenue Armory, Nov. 4

Everything felt like it was in fast-forward Saturday night at the Armory. That could be because I showed up just in time to see the bright lights flash and AFI’s Davey Havok launch himself onto the stage like a pristine, goth-punk ballerina. It could have been the number of young children and teens who ran around the hall in fits, as if they were taking advantage of a substitute teacher. Or it could just be that AFI are always in a hurry. Their songs never last more than two or three minutes. They accentuate their rapid-fire drumming with synthetic industrial beats, and each of their past two albums has been crafted with a sense of urgency that should already have launched them into the stratosphere of pop-punk success.

In fact, only a few songs into their set, Davey Havok was lamenting their “brief” time with the crowd. What was uttered as an apology seemed to affect the crowd more like a threat, sending them into overdrive during the band’s call-and-response choruses. Not since my last Gary Numan concert have I heard a crowd chant along with so many “Whoa oh, whoa oh!” choruses.

Despite what seemed like a hurry, AFI, dressed in their perfectly white outfits (Havok with suspenders), were nothing short of perfection. Havok hit high notes one second and screamed like a banshee the next, then whispered into his microphone, missing notes only to let the audience fill in familiar choruses, of which their were many. Just as Havok performed a myriad of vocal feats the band mashed up their ever-evolving styles, from hardcore to goth to punk, industrial, glam, and even their most recent flirtation with new wave.

But along with the band’s insanely tight performance and Havok’s goth-diva theatrics (his pirouettes and arms thrust to the sky) came a sense of coldness, a disconnection with the crowd—like that beautiful but inaccessible girl you never talked to in high school. And yet, that seems to be what AFI are about these days.

Their 2004 pop masterpiece, Sing the Sorrow, produced by Butch Vig and Jerry Finn, was heralded as the album that would create a Nirvana-like sensation around the band. And although it had AFI loyalists screaming sellout foul, the album was simply one of the best rock albums of the year. But though they gave their all on that album, they were not canonized, not inducted into the ranks of pop-punk’s greatest. Instead, they sold a million albums (which ain’t too shabby). Their recent follow-up, Decemberunderground, features a more distant AFI, still grandiose, still in love with rock & roll, but not giving themselves away as they did on Sing the Sorrow.

When Havok sang the opening lyrics to “Love Like Winter” with the whole of the audience lifting their hands in their air and clapping the beat behind him, it all made sense: “Warn your warmth to turn away/Here it’s December every day/Press your lips to the sculptures and surely you’ll stay/For of sugar and ice, I am made.”

AFI are playing hard-to-get. But for punk-rock kids living in upstate New York, it’s hard not to get lines like, “Here it’s December every day.” And instead of being turned back by Havok’s distance, they began tossing shirts, hats, and even a cell phone on to the stage. He put on the hat, sang into the cell phone and then returned them to the crowd. As it turns out, AFI might just be onto something with this Queen Bitch thing.

—David King


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