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Alive & Kicking

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Style never goes out fashion must have been the thought of Duran Duran when they decided to reunite their original line-up for another album and extensive world tour. On Friday night, the band played a sold-out Tabernacle in Atlanta in front of a roaring crowd.

Fans had a good reason to cheer. This Duran Duran reunion tour marks the first time in eighteen years that singer Simon LeBon, drummer Roger Taylor, keyboardist Nick Rhodes, bassist John Taylor and guitarist Andy Taylor have played together.

The ‘80s supergroup raised the bar for many other pop bands with their glamorous mix of synthetic pop-rock, chic fashion and exotic music videos. It is no wonder that there is plenty of pressure on these original fab five to prove fans they still have their sizzle more than 20 years after they topped the charts.

The group greeted the crowd when they hit the stage at 8:45pm with a funked up version of “Friend of Mine” from their 1981 self-titled debut album.

A parade of greatest hits followed including the seductive “Girls On Film,” “Wild Boys,” “Hungry Like The Wolf,” “Is There Something I Should Know” and the breezy “Save A Prayer.”

One of the evening's highpoints was a slamming performance of “Notorious,” which gave LeBon reason to compliment the audience with "You are loud!"

LeBon and pals continued to show strength in the mid-tempo ballads “Ordinary World” and “Come Undone.”

The show's no-frills set design enabled the music to take centerstage and spotlight the individual talents that make up the band. Taylor’s invigorating guitar riffs, Rhodes keyboard wizardry and LeBon’s sexual, charismatic showmanship proved that this group is still young at heart.

The band took the opportunity to try out a couple of new songs from their forthcoming album (due in 2004). The rocky “What Happens Tomorrow" and the melodic ballad "Beautiful Colors" indicate a slightly rawer musical direction emphasizing rock more than pop.

After a short break, Duran Duran hit the stage again to encore with “White Lines,” the edgy anthem from their “Thank You” album.

The group appeared to go on autopilot when performing “The Reflex,” the group’s biggest hit, which lacked some of the earlier excitement.

Duran Duran came back full force with an extended rendition of “Rio,” which included a playful snippet of Sisters Sledge’s “We Are Family” – a worthy ode to the fans of a band that has not lost its finesse to work up a party.

Full Set List:

Friends of Mine
Planet Earth
Hungry Like The Wolf
Come Undone
What Happens Tomorrow
New Religion
Is There Something I Should Know
Beautiful Colors
Waiting for the Nighboat
Ordinary World
Save A Prayer
Notorious
Girls On Film
Careless Memories
Wild Boys

White Lines
Reflex
Rio

Photograph by Vesna Pahor and duranduan.com

For more updates about Duran Duran, please subscribe to the monthly ::Arjanwrites Music Newsletter::.

November 22, 2003 in Concert Review | Permalink | Comments (3)

Dance Diva Is Back

Kristine W battles a cancer diagnosis with chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant, and emerges to find she can ‘Fly Again.’

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After a harrowing battle with cancer, club diva Kristine W is back with the release of her new album "Fly Again." The record is dedicated to three fellow patients she met in the hospital and who did not survive their fight against the disease.

“I have been to hell and back during my battle with cancer,” said the singer. “There were times I did not think I would make it, but it was the love for music and my two kids that pulled me through and put me back on my feet.”

Kristine W emerged onto the international music scene in the late 1990s. Songs such as “One More Try,” “Land of the Living,” “Some Loving” and “Stronger” all topped the Billboard dance charts and became instant circuit anthems.

The singer was first diagnosed with cancer in 2001 when she was on the road, touring clubs and singing songs from her “Stronger” album. “I felt I was getting weaker and weaker, and I just knew something was not right,” she remembers. “After a number of tests in the hospital and a bone marrow biopsy I was eventually diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia.”

The pop singer was treated with chemotherapy and received a stem cell transplant — on Sept. 11, 2001, no less.

It was music that got her through her torments. “Music reminded me of what I was fighting for. It gave me something to look forward too,” she says. “I also listened to my own albums. Songs like ‘Stronger’ and ‘Land of the Living’ took on a whole new meaning. I was really strange how that all came around.”

Now happily in remission on, she is thrilled to be back. The 12 tracks on “Fly Again” are an inspiring set of songs that feature her impressive four octave vocal range supported by uplifting, pulsating dance beats from the hands of producers the Scumfrog, Mac Quale and Erin Tabib.

“Maybe I got [cancer] for a reason,” she says. “I wish I would have had somebody that would have talked about the disease in terms I could understand. I felt so overwhelmed and freaked out about all the medical terminology that was given to me.”

Besides the album’s title hit, “Song Lives On” is one of the record’s most poignant tracks. Its autobiographical lyrics describe Kristine W’s desire to be a singer just like her mother and grandmother. “This is definitely my favorite song on the record,” she says.

The singer has built a large gay following. The pop sound of "Fly Again" may broaden her appeal to a more mainstream crowd.

Not that she’s forgotten her base of support. “Thank God for my gay fans,” says the Las Vegas resident. “They’ve supported me all along. Of course, I’d love to be a major pop star, but that is not what I was thinking about when I wrote the album. I just hope the songs appeal to as many people as possible.”

Kristine W thinks she understands why she relates so well to us. “Gays are survivors and I am a survivor as well,” she explains. “I have been pulled down so many times, but I keep getting back up. This crazy disease is just another example of that. I am doing it and I am out there for them.”

The singer emphasizes that she does not talk about her disease to solicit pity. ”I don’t want people to feel sorry for me,” she says. “Somebody told me this could help me sell more records. That was really appalling to me.”

She has just one word of advice for anybody struggling to survive: “Just focus on the day-by-day things.”

November 20, 2003 in Interviews | Permalink | Comments (5)

Loving Shelby Lynne

Country Crooner Shelby Lynne doesn’t like to discuss her music. She’d much rather just perform while wearing her heart on her sleeve.

“I am not afraid to open myself up in front of an audience and sing about personal things,” Lynne says during a recent interview with arjanwrites. “I just have to sing. It is something that I love to do.”

Last month, Lynne released her new album "Identity Crisis," an emotional tour de force that has her sharing some her most personal emotions. Songs such as “I’m Alive” (about an ex-lover), “If I Were Smart” (about a friend with cancer) and “Telephone” (a song about regret) expose the singer’s finer feelings with her raspy vocals and acoustic guitar.

The album departs from her previous “Love, Shelby,” which failed to find commercial success. Produced by rock producer Glen Ballard, Lynne sounded more mainstream than before, much to the dismay of her loyal fans. “I hate it when people compare records,” Lynne says. “I am very proud of ‘Love, Shelby.’ I have no regrets. It was a product of the moment and at that moment it felt right.”

“Identity Crisis” will touch a cord with many for its earnest songwriting and heartfelt emotion. Lynne has been through the high and lows to understand life’s complexity. At the age of 17, she witnessed her father shoot her mother and then turn the gun on himself. Lynne took charge of the household, taking care of her younger sister Allison Moorer (who has built a successful music career of her own).

Lynne eventually moved to Nashville to pursue a career in country music. A lofty record deal with Epic and a 1991 coveted CMA Award for Best Emerging Artist was not enough to please the young artist. She wanted more artistic control of her career and moved to several other record companies in the years to follow.

In 2000, she received a big break when she signed with Island Records to work on “I Am Shelby Lynne” with Bill Botrell, mostly know for his work with Sheryl Crowe.

The record was both a commercial and artistic success, winning Lynne a coveted Grammy Award for Best New Artist in 2001.

“That was such a humble experience,” Lynne says. “You put your heart out there and if people show appreciation for what you do, it is a great feeling.”

Some have argued that Lynne’s Grammy win forced her to create a follow-up record that would fit the taste of a mainstream audience. But she denies any such pressure. “People can think whatever. The fact that ‘Love, Shelby’ was not a big success did not mean I sold out,” Lynne says. “That record is very dear to me. Artists should be able to change, progress and evolve.”

Lynne chose a different approach when working on "Identity Crisis," released on Capitol Records. She spent a lot of time alone in her house in Palm Springs, Calif., close to relatives. Her appreciation for life, love and family compelled her to write songs and keep things very pure and simple, she says.

“Ideas started to flow by just being alone and being able to be really creative,” Lynne says. “I played most of the instruments and we recorded most of the songs in one take with just me, a bassist and a sound engineer in the room.”

The finished product fulfilled Lynne’s expectations, she says.

Over the years, the Alabama-born Lynne has built a strong gay fan base that appreciates her in-your-face lyrics and authentic appearance. Lynne says she is thankful to anybody who listens to her music and comes out to see her perform, including gays.

“I appreciate all fans for their support,” she says. “I am just doing my thing because I love music and it is great others are feeling it as well.”

November 15, 2003 in Music Reviews | Permalink | Comments (3)

Elton John Is Ready For More

Elton John returns to the dance scene with the re-release of "Are You Ready For Love". This 1979 Philly-soul inspired track from the legendary Thom Bell sessions is already a number one smash in the UK and will likely become a dance club favorite stateside soon.

A limited edition CD single features house mixes by Linus Loves Strobelight, Nylo and Freeform.

The single is a welcome departure from the sappy Disney tunes John has been putting out to please the masses. This vintage, feel-good song with sweeping strings, pumping horns and a painfully infectious chorus reminds you why Elton John was a musical genius in the first place.

Move over Britney. This guy might have a future.

Arjan is giving away copies of the limited edition single to subscribers of the arjanwrites newsletter. Sign up today to have a chance to win!

November 12, 2003 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Jem Collaborates with Madonna on "Nothing Fails"

As the Welsh singer/songwriter/producer Jem gears up for the release of her debut album Finally Woken (ATO Records), she is celebrating the release of Madonna's new single "Nothing Fails,"' which Jem co-wrote with acclaimed producer Guy Sigsworth (Bjork, Frou Frou) and Madonna. "Nothing Fails" was recently serviced to radio as Madonna's third single off "American Life."

For an artist on the rise, having co-written a song with Madonna who has topped charts across two decades, sold hundreds of millions of albums, created an enormously influential body of work and stood at the forefront of socially conscious artists worldwide was an amazing experience to say the least.

"When I finally heard the finished song it was the strangest experience," said Jem. "It's not everyday you hear Madonna singing words and melodies you sang into your dictaphone at two in the morning! I really admire her for being so involved in everything she does. The song sounds beautiful."

Guy Sigsworth had just written Madonna's last single 'What It Feels Like For A Girl' when he asked Jem to collaborate with him. Two days into their first writing session together the song "Silly Thing' later to become 'Nothing Fails' was born. This collaboration between Guy, Jem and subsequently Madonna, appears as track six on Madonna's American Life and has been consistently name checked as one of the standout tracks on the album.

Jem is currently enjoying success of her own with her EP "It All Starts Here." It has become the most listener requested CD at the influential Los Angeles-based radio station KCRW with the word spreading and new stations playlisting it daily. Since discovering Jem's enchanting voice in March 2002, KCRW Music Director Nic Harcourt has been spinning Jem's EP on his critically acclaimed show "Morning Becomes Eclectic."

Jem's full-length album Finally Woken is set for release on ATO Records in March 2004.

November 9, 2003 | Permalink | Comments (1)