I feel the urge to extrapolate upon a topic I dared to barely touch upon during the opening of our episode “Star Wars Unearthed w/ Brian Volk-Weiss,” that being a topic which has nothing to do with Star Wars, but everything to do with how amazing the Duran Duran concert at Madison Square Garden in NYC on August 25th was. Having just seen them perform slightly more than a month prior in Hyde Park, London, I found myself in the fortunate position of being able to compare and contrast these peak experiences.
My companion for both recent concerts was the same, that being a childhood buddy with whom I shared a love for the Fab Five. In fact, this was not our first time experiencing a D2 concert together, as our admiration for the band led our 16-year-old selves to finagle our way to Madison Square Garden for their 1987 “Notorious” tour. My memories of this concert are not strong– in my head I have a squinty image of the stage from a great distance– and while I no doubt enjoyed myself, I am very sure that I did not fully immerse myself in the experience. In spite of mostly having no clue what Simon LeBon was singing about, I knew every word of every song, and yet singing and dancing freely in public– even in nose-bleeding seats with fellow Duranies!– was terrifying to me at that age.
My friend was in charge of ticket acquisition for both recent concerts, and her goals in that arena were as different as the venues. Hyde Park was an open-air festival structure with mainly standing room, and she wished simply for us to be as close as possible to the stage. (Best guess: I was 75 feet from Simon!) Madison Square Garden, on the other hand, is an indoor stadium with a seat for every ticket, and as my friend was purchasing them from a reseller the morning of the concert, it was highly unlikely we’d find ourselves anywhere near the stage; unobstructed view became the achieved goal.
As exciting and exhilarating as the Hyde Park concert was (and it really was!), I have to say that the Madison Square Garden performance was even better. While it certainly helps that we didn’t have drunk people constantly squeezing past us and using us as physical support, we had the unexpected bonus of ending up in a handicapped section, and we actually had space to dance. But it was more than that. Perhaps it was the energizing effect of air conditioning, instead of the unusually-sweltering mid-July climate in London. Or perhaps it was because Simon made a big deal out of explaining how Madison Square Garden was a special place for them, because it had been their biggest venue goal, back in the 80s. Or perhaps it was because they included the song “Anniversary” from their most recent album into the setlist.
For all of those reasons and likely more, the cavernous MSG arena felt so incredibly intimate. The cheers that filled the hall at the opening of each song, especially for the 80s favorites, were thunderous. Everyone (or at least it sounded like everyone) knew the words that we were prompted by Simon to sing. The synchrony in the room, the connection, was palpable. The effect it had on me was what I’ll call “psychic time travel”: I was very much present in the moment in the stadium, but as this bolder version of myself danced and belted out inscrutable yet un-forgotten lyrics along with my childhood friend and with the rest of the room, I was simultaneously transported back to, and transcending, the feelings of my adolescence.
At the end, after the encores, Simon lingered on the stage waving and “crowd bathing” long past the others, longer than any of them had stayed out at Hyde Park, seemingly reluctant to break the connection. Peak experience!