I grew up in the MTV era when music videos were the latest, greatest things. I was swept in with the music of the era having grown up on Long Island listening to alternative radio station WLIR (later WDRE) which played many less mainstream bands. I heard bands like U2 before they hit it big, as well as Duran Duran, so I was a fan from early on.
That said, their metamorphosis into one of the biggest-selling acts of the early to mid-1980s was propelled by the music video genre. To capitalize on that popularity, an experimental type of concert film was created that is now packaged as a DVD by the name of Arena.
As much of a fan as I was, I did not know what I was getting when I ordered this DVD. I was expecting a concert DVD or perhaps a collection of videos. Instead, what I got was a science fiction story merged with a concert. The story here builds on the story from Barbarella which is where the band got their name. It helps to know that story before viewing this DVD, that’s for sure.
Dr. Duran, the fictional character, is lured to California by hearing his name being shouted. There are clips from various Duran Duran videos and concert clips shown in a monochrome bluetone to open the story. Dr. Duran lands under the arena where the concert is about to take place and finds a television playing clips from Barabrella.
The rest of the story seems to take place during the concert. The imagery away from the concert has a decidedly “Mad Max” feel to it. The only footage that fit into it nearly flawlessly was the Wild Boys video. Anyone who’s seen that video will know what to expect from this DVD. Otherwise, I wasn’t all that impressed with the sci-fi movie footage, and anyone who doesn’t know the story of Barbarella and how the band got its name will be totally lost.
The concert footage is from an Oakland, California concert. The date on the disc is 2004 but don’t be fooled, this was from when they were in their heyday twenty years earlier. I enjoyed most of the concert, but the sound seemed off a bit to me; as if it were synched rather than a live recording. In today’s world that might not sound like a big deal, but back when this was filmed, it was a pretty bad thing to be caught lip-synching your concert. What I think happened was the recorded audio was substituted in the film and the live concert audio was removed.
That said, I think the concert itself was decent. The set list is a terrific representation of some of the best of Duran Duran. They have a good stage presence as well and aren’t drowned out by their screaming fans (probably due to the afore-mentioned audio substitution). They have good energy and I found myself more disappointed when it switched off to the sci-fi story.
The extras on this disc make it worth watching as well. The featurette on the making of the film is fantastic. The short interview with Simon LeBon is interesting if only because I’ve seen better interviews with him more recently. He’s grown since these days and that’s something nice to say about someone who was catapulted to the astronomical fame he had as Duran Duran’s front-man.
So is Arena worth buying? I think for people who remember the years first hand, it’s worth a look. I was a pretty big fan and although I liked watching it, Arena is not something I feel the need to have in my collection.
Is There Something I Should Know
Hungry Like the Wolf
Union of the Snake
Save a Prayer
Girls on Film
· The Making of Arena
· Arena TV Ad
· Arena Trailer
· Arena Video Mix
· Save a Prayer Live
• Simon Le Bon Interview