Anticipation is creeping around the venue like a slow slithering snake. The fans in attendance are growing antsy for the show to start. When the lights go down and a blurry black & white vision appears on the screen behind the drums, you can feel the relief. But the vision grows sharper and an opera-esque mini-film begins, lasting longer than some fans can handle. They want the real deal. One fan taps me on the shoulder, raising her hands and shoulders in a confused non-verbal “When?” Several times cheers arose when the screen seemed to fade to black, only to reappear with silent movie gothic gusto. The sighs of impatience grow louder. When did a fashion-conscious new wave pop band out of the 80’s become Les Troyens?
Actually, Duran Duran has always been a bit voyeuristic in their musical style. Rising to gigantic heights with 1982’s Rio, they were the musical equivalent of Miami Vice without the more cutting edge of Eurythmics. Young girls loved them. Young boys loved them. Rocker kids didn’t. But thirty years down the fashion runway of music, Duran Duran is still selling out major venues with most of their original line-up still intact.
A month after playing in front of a mammoth Olympics crowd in London, the band simmered down for a shimmering set on the US gulf coast. With Nick Rhodes’s delectable synth introduction and the cat crawl entrance of Simon Le Bon, a room full of admirers let out some shouts to rattle the eardrums. To those who were in high school when the band first exploded on the scene, it was a fountain of youth encounter with the band that made the prom worth attending. To those younger who came in with “Come Undone” and “Ordinary World,” it was a surreal embodiment of what rock on the other side of the music scale can be like, pre-Katy Perry and Lady Gaga.
Duran Duran has always made visuals an equal part to their music. From the summery giddiness of “Rio” and “Hungry Like The Wolf”, to the apocalyptically “Wild Boys” and “Union Of The Snake”, to the fashionista dance vibe of “Notorious”, their videos were always about catching viewers attention. Their live sets have also tried to do the same. Hence the film that bled perfectly into the opening number “Before The Rain,” both on a level of theatrical melodrama.
Bass player John Taylor seemed the most at ease on the stage, walking around smiling and playing a coterie of beautiful basses while Le Bon chewed the scenery in super Sunset Boulevard poses before finally unleashing his party boy with “Girl Panic.” From then on, the band was humming with a new spring in their step that continued through “Save A Prayer,” “Notorious,” “Hungry Like The Wolf” and “Wild Boys/Relax.” The latter was certainly the best song of the night with its vitality alone, while “Rio” caused absolute chaos as an encore.
Amidst the flower pop, the rabid rock & roll & rap, there is still a place for a band like Duran Duran. Take a moment to read the actual lyrics and listen to the melodies – still some of the best in music. They may have started out as teeny-bopper sex symbols but they aged well and their music is still fun … and with some great bass lines thrown in.
SETLIST: Before The Rain, Planet Earth, A View To A Kill, All You Need To Know, The Reflex, Come Undone, Union Of The Snake, Girl Panic, Save A Prayer, Notorious, White Lines, Ordinary World, Hungry Like A Wolf, Sunrise, Wild Boys/Relax Encore: Rio