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Duran Duran, Interpol, The Cure, Soft Cell Invade SoCal

KROQ's Inland Invasion III - Glen Helen Hyundai Pavilion, San Bernardino, CA

Before Dark:

“This is the high point of my life, getting to be here with all of these great bands. This will never happen again for any of us,” shouted Terri Nunn of Berlin as her band closed the second stage Saturday afternoon (9/20) at the third annual Inland Invasion at the Glen Helen Hyundai Pavilion in Southern California's Inland Empire. Her sentiment echoed throughout the day, as KROQ's line-up combined an impressive collection of nostalgic acts like Berlin, Duran Duran and the Cure with rising bands, many of whom were obviously inspired by the same veterans they shared the bill with. Some notable sightings throughout the day included Interpol bassist Carlos Dengler bouncing along backstage to Berlin, Kelly Osbourne hanging out with the whole of Interpol late into the night and Robert Smith of the Cure nodding enthusiastically to Hot Hot Heat.

The side stage proved a major draw early in the day with new Australian band Jet rocking the crowd followed by a recently reunited Dramarama. But it was the southern rockers Kings of Leon who won over the crowd with their blend of bluesy grit rock. The Kings tore through a serious set of songs from their debut full-length, Youth & Young Manhood (RCA) including the crowd pleasing “California Waiting,” Spiral Staircase” and “Holy Roller Novocaine.” With a drummer who looked like Jesus in long wavy hair and a full beard, the guys delivered a precise, serious set as their roadie, who dressed like they did in tight ‘70s rocker style, stood by.

Berlin was up next, closing the side stage with zeal proving their lasting influence as Terri Nunn brilliantly worked the crowd with classics “The Metro” and “No More Words.” Nunn even showed her nostalgic appreciation closing her set with a rousing cover version of Depeche Mode's “Never Let Me Down Again” that had the entire audience singing along.

It was rumored that the reason Berlin was switched to playing the side stage a couple of days before the event (which actually did pose a security threat with so many people trying to cram into such a small allotted space on the grass), is that Robert Smith refused to play on the same stage as the Los Angeles new wave band. The numerous kids dressed head to toe in black, some with frizzed out Robert Smith hair, that looked on in 90 degree weather as Berlin performed probably had no clue.

In the meantime, Bow Wow Wow was making quite an impression on the main stage as Annabella Lwin told it like it was in a commanding performance that included one onstage costume change and lots of encouraging interaction with the audience. Drummer Adrian Young from No Doubt proved that it wasn't much of a stretch to play with Bow Wow Wow as Lwin reminded us where the rocker grrrls of the ‘90s, like No Doubt's Gwen Stefani, got their moves from. It was indeed one of the most energetic, musically spot on, and best sets of the day with some of the best sound. This set, which was the band's first in years, stayed true to Bow Wow Wow's new wave/punk/ska roots in nostalgic hits like “W.O.R.K.” and “I Want Candy,” yet spoke to the future through energy, vision and exceptional musical prowess from all four musicians including guitarist Phil Gough and founding member bassist Leigh Gorman.

Surprisingly, it was Marc Almond of Soft Cell who was the dark horse of the day. Wow, what a rock star, even after all these years. The command of performance, grace and dignity of which he delivered ballad after ballad of solo material and Soft Cell hits like “Tainted Love” proved to be one of the most delightful happenings of the day. Almond delivered a superb mix of theatrics and melody. They just don't make solo performers like that any more.

Next up were newcomers Interpol who turned in an intense performance clearly taking some of their cues from ‘80s bands yet establishing their own blend of guitar and synthesizer on intense numbers like “Untitled” and “Obstacle 1.” With singer Paul Banks's voice and lyrics echoing dark, atmospheric sentiments not unlike New Order, their mid-afternoon set excitedly won over numerous new fans. The minimal yet energetic approach of the Violent Femmes stood out with their quirky over played songs like “Blister in the Sun” and “Kiss Off” bringing many in the sold-out crowd to sing along. Gordon Gano looked more like a Wisconsin farmer than a lead singer.

At least when Echo & the Bunnymen came onstage, they were appropriately fronted by charismatic singer Ian McCulloch. The quintessential British band seemed to practically came out of nowhere to remind the crowd why their influence is still felt today with a memorable and relevant set, opening with the classic “Lips Like Sugar.” McCulloch's voice was one of the most impressive on display, especially on “Nothing Lasts Forever” which segued into a stellar cover of Lou Reed's “Take A Walk on the Wild Side.”

After Dark:

Hot Hot Heat, easily the most hyper band of the newcomers, mixed synthesizers, hooks and guitars to great success. Whipping themselves and the crowd into a frenzy with “Bandages” and “Get In or Get Out,” the Canadian band took full advantage of playing to a packed amphitheater – meeting the challenge came natural to them.

Though the reunited Duran Duran suffered sound problems early in their set, the band and the eager crowd connected by the end on popular tracks “Ordinary World,” “The Wild Boys,” “Hungry Like the Wolf” and sing-alongs “Rio” and the ever-beautiful “Save a Prayer.” To many, Duran Duran represent the heart of new wave ‘80s music in their romantic, fun style that was heard on every radio station across the country, as they were one of the first MTV video bands to make a serious mark. On this night lead Simon Le Bon led Duran Duran in an exciting set (even though he appeared angered while mouthing that the sound was terrible to someone on the side of the stage on several occasions). Their performance made it easy to see why this super group has such an avid fan base even today. It was indeed magical, especially as nearly everyone sang along to almost every song.

But it was the Cure who drew the biggest and most impressive response of the night. Though the band played a chronological selection of tracks from their 25-year plus career, it was the intensity with which they played that was most striking. From early singles “10:15 Saturday Night” and “Primary,” to obscure fan-favorites “A Strange Day” and “Shake Dog Shake,” and wide-appealing hits “Just Like Heaven” and “Picture of You,” Robert Smith and company proved why they were closing the 11-hour show. Though influential the band still continue to push their music in new directions with commanding intensity.

- Jeff Partain & Kim Taylor
September 22, 2003