Duran Duran Sing Blue Silver / Arena (An Absurd Notion)

The footage on both of these DVDs was shot in 1984 while the band was on their first stadium tour through North America and at the pinnacle of their Beatlemania-like popularity. Sing Blue Silver is the conventional "rockumentary": concert scenes interspersed with backstage gags, hysterical fans and witty quips. What makes it worth watching 20 years later is Duran Duran's unique position as both the first pop video group as well and the last credible boy-band. There are lots of shots of a skinny Simon Le Bon gyrating, leaping and hollering to keep the Durannies screaming, but he's never able to fully divert their attention away from the massive video screen hanging over the stage. The band credits themselves for blurring the lines between live music and music video, but then ironically struggle to prove themselves capable of actually playing their instruments. Onstage, the Taylors' rhythm section sounds tight and funky, like a new wave version of Chic, while Nick Rhodes makes today's IDM-heads envious with his all-surrounding synth-setup. The performances on Arena are taken from the same stock but recontextualised within the fictional form of a sequel to the '60s sci-fi B-movie Barbarella. It's essentially an extended version of "The Wild Boys" video and although the scale of the production is impressive for any music group, then or now, the plot is about as engaging as The Cell. On the other hand, the live footage is more electric than Sing Blue Silver. The soundtrack doesn't mute the audience and the visuals have sharper edits and layers of computer graphics that recall that other British '80s import, Max Headroom. Given that the original five members of Duran Duran have reformed, it would have been interesting to include some of their recent footage and package both of these films in a single re-release. Plus: The making of Arena, Arena video mega-mix, stickers, more. (EMI)