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SDSU Open Air Theater San Diego, CA

91x Sunfest '95

Saturday, June 10th, 1995

Bands Performed:

  • Duran Duran
  • Mike Watt
  • Chris Isaak
  • Belly
  • Matthew Sweet
  • Lucy's Fur Coat


  • In an interview, Bud said that Simon Le Bon of Duran Duran was wearing tight pink pants at this show. Brad went up behind him and smacked him on the ass.

Article from the San Diego Union Tribune

"I believe in a beautiful day," Chris Isaak was singing blissfully from the 91X Sunfest stage on Saturday afternoon. And so long as the fresh music and the bottled water flowed freely, the sun- drenched fans at San Diego State's Open Air Theatre were eager to believe, too.

After all, they soon would be asked to place their faith in far stranger notions:

Simon Le Bon playing harmonica in pink leather pants. Simon Le Bon leading Duran Duran in a glam-rap version of Public Enemy's "911 is a Joke." Simon Le Bon prancing naughtily in someone else's underthings.

Duran Duran's 45-minute set Saturday evening would have been the topper of the seven-act, 6 1/2 -hour concert -- except that it was so over the top.

For the other Sunfest bands, Duran Duran at least provided a running theme for the first day of the two-day festival. The playful Isaak, a kind of country-western court jester, promised he would cover a few of the techno-heavy band's tunes. " `Girls on Film' -- I got that one down!" he enthused.

Two sets later, Belly bassist Gail Greenwood urged fans to dance. "If you don't start moving now, you're gonna pull a muscle when Duran Duran comes on," she counseled.

The next act, Long Beach funksters Sublime, was a bit less circumspect, ad-libbing some lyrics about the rigors of "sitting through Duran Duran."

But if the boys from Birmingham, England, provided Sunfest's froth, the other acts brought along the soul food, enough to sustain the crowd when the snack-bar pizza ran out and dinner time had come and gone.

No one did it with more panache than Isaak, whose abundant talent is matched only by his refusal to take himself too seriously. Or anything, for that matter. He hit ringing falsettos on his latest single, the wistful "Somebody's Crying," then got into a fake fracas with a fan over a beach ball tossed at his head.

A mariachi-style tune, sung in Spanish with the horn parts provided by ace saxophonist Johnny Reno, somehow fit perfectly into the set's irresistible blend of aching love songs and onstage antics.

A gorgeous rendition of his sex-smoked ballad "Wicked Games" earned the highest tribute: a nearly silent crowd, save for the occasional female scream.

Despite having to kick off the show before a still-sparse crowd, opening act Matthew Sweet showed a disposition to match his name. He jokingly hand-counted spectators; "That's enough," he announced when he reached eight, before launching into the perversely yet perfectly catchy single "Sick of Myself."

Sweet's set was, as the title of his latest album advertises, "100% Fun." The new "Walk Out" was about as moody as it got, and that wasn't very. Sweet's wry, jangling pop was the perfect confection for a midsummer soak in the sun.

The biggest surprise of the day was Belly. It's a rare band that sounds far better on stage than it does on record. Stripped of slick production and too-glossy harmonies, Tanya Donelly and her band made a big and glorious noise.

Donelly, a tiny figure in dark shades and denim overalls, all but growled some verses of "Seal My Fate," from this year's "King" album, over a heavy guitar wash. "Now They'll Sleep" took on a sort of surf-rock tone, while Donelly's voice resonated alongside the powerful bass on the current single, "Super-Connected."

It wasn't a perfect performance -- the signature guitar riff of 1993's hit "Feed the Tree" got lost in the mix -- but Donelly managed to smash her reputation as a girlish-voiced curiosity.

Sounding far more rested and relaxed than in his show on the same campus last month, bass ace Mike Watt turned in a punchy, satisfying set. It also helped that he didn't have the distraction of Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder, who had played backup guitar on Watt's solo tour. Instead, the band was almost one big rhythm section -- two drummers, one bass and one guitar.

Watt's song "Big Train" was the best of the set, with some fine slide-guitar work and Watt's inspired bass lines. He plays so hard that when he snapped a string, he tested its replacement as if it were a bridge cable. (Maybe that's what he should use.)

Sublime was easily the most unpredictable of the day's bands, unless you were already familiar with their great chaos of reggae, funk and metal-head rhythms. Most songs started as laid-back reggae and ended as triple-tempo thrash from the self-proclaimed "hardest- working band in Long Beach."

Judging by his acrobatics, Charlie Ware is surely the hardest- sweating singer in San Diego. As he led local favorites Lucy's Fur Coat through a workmanlike set of old and new tunes, Ware once again amazed with his lunatic flailings, which were sometimes more riveting than the songs.

But how to explain the leap from Lucy's Fur Coat to Simon's Lace Bra? Duran Duran turned in a performance that was either brilliant rock theater or stupendously self-indulgent twaddle. From the moment he unveiled his apparent Freddy Mercury impersonation on the first song, a grunged-up version of 1982's smash "Hungry Like the Wolf," it was obvious Le Bon was going to shake his pink-clad rear in the face of anyone who'd dare call his band a New Wave relic.

The band blasted through a credible version of David Bowie's "Rebel Rebel" and later brought out rapper Melle Mel to help with "911" and Grandmaster Flash's "White Lines." But the focus was on Le Bon's posturing, amid the screams of his still-formidable fans and the requisite throwing of frilly undergarments (he even donned one of the bras.)

The defining moment was a twangy, dirge-like version of Duran Duran's first hit, "Girls on Film." It opened with Le Bon's soliloquy on the subject of, "I don't feel guilty about the '80s," along with his harmonica intro. It climaxed with Le Bon running, amid a phalanx of guards, through the crowd to a platform at the theater's center. Waving his arms like some messianic figure, Le Bon evoked, depending on one's perspective, either delirium or queasiness. Maybe both.

At the end, even the glamorously aloof keyboardist Nick Rhodes came down to wave and exhibit his finely etched cheekbones.

Le Bon's last words were, "We'll be back." Or was that "We be bad"? Either way, words to ponder