Whatever wine Nick Rhodes is drinking these days it has probably not aged as well as the four gents from Britain known as Duran Duran.
These mega pop stars from the 80s who used to sell out stadiums are now reduced to more intimate venues like Wednesday’s show at The Mountain Winery in Saratoga, CA. That certainly doesn’t mean the Fab 4 don’t perform like the olden days. In fact, one could argue that Duran Duran is better than ever and if not for the 15-minute of fame music cycle that has infected today’s recording industry, Duran Duran should be as germane as ever.
Yes, gone are the screaming 15 and 16-year-old girls who used to push their way through fencing and fight their way to the stage. Today’s fan base consists, of course, of those same girls albeit far fewer and a bit older much like the men they would have given anything to marry 30 years ago. What’s difficult to ascertain is why a band that consists of four of five original members (the fifth Andy was not always the most popular anyway, ask any Duranie) is unable to return to the large sellout crowds it once commanded. (Journey still tours arenas and large shacks with a different singer!) Too many helicopter parents afraid to leave their little ones for just an evening, I guess.
To them I can only say you missed out.
Simon Le Bon, John Taylor, Roger Taylor and the aforementioned Rhodes put together an entertaining 18-song set that featured all the old hits and a number from their latest album All You Need is Now. Wednesday’s show (the first of two in Saratoga) was the start of the final leg of their tour which began last year and has taken the band all over the world.
Though age and perhaps a long flight from Britain which Le Bon and guitarist Dom Brown (Andy’s replacement) apparently took the day of the show may have sucked some energy out of Le Bon (his “The Reflex” karate kick and center stage run and leap during “Hungry Like the Wolf” were suspiciously absent) his voice has never, yes never, sounded better. In a recent interview John Taylor said the band has recognized this which apparently is a result of Le Bon taking certain precautions after his bought with vocal cord paralysis last year.
Maturity is always a good thing and Duran Duran has indeed matured. At times, the band, along with a couple of additional musicians, played so tight and pristine it sounded as if someone simply popped in a CD. What separates Duran Duran from today’s pop trash is how timeless the songs that made them huge are and how well their current offering stands up against them. Red Carpet Massacre aside (2007’s not so well received album despite having a couple of gems) 2004’s Astronaut (the “reunion” album) and All You Need is Now are strong efforts with the latter a purposeful reflection of 1980s Duran Duran.
Five songs from the new album (six if you count the 46 second “A Diamond in the Mind”) made the set list including the emotive “Before the Rain,” the title track, “Being Followed,” the melodic “Girl Panic!” and the enigmatic “The Man Who Stole a Leopard.” Of course the usual favorites were already well-rehearsed by the sold out crowd of 2,200 – “Wild Boys,” “Planet Earth,” “Rio,” the crowd pleasing “Save a Prayer” and one of their best and the best Bond theme song “A View to a Kill.”
Rhodes, who along with Le Bon, stuck with Duran Duran during the departure of the Taylor’s (no relation) in the 1980s, is always enjoyable to watch behind his stockade of keyboards. The variety of sounds and beats he creates is probably the driving force of the band. And, while Roger Taylor (drums) and John Taylor (bass) may never be seen in the higher echelon of their perspective career paths both are much more than a 1-2 puncher and three note bassist seen in much of today’s popular music. Neither have really been given the platform to shine but perhaps that’s what makes them happy – being in a band.
Duran Duran may no longer be relevant to the mainstream but for their fans the mainstream has never really been relevant to them. It’s always about the music and it will always be about Duran Duran.
Duran Duran Mountain Winery Setlist:
1. A Diamond in the Mind
2. Before the Rain
3. Planet Earth
4. A View to a Kill
5. All You Need is Now
6. Being Followed/Blame the Machines*
7. The Reflex
8. Come Undone
9. Is There Something I Should Know/Safe*
10. Girl Panic!/Union of the Snake*
11. The Man Who Stole a Leopard/Girl Panic!*
13. White Lines/Notorious*
14, Ordinary World/Careless Memories*
15. Hungry Like the Wolf/Ordinary World*
16. Reach Up for the Sunrise/Hungry Like the Wolf*
17. Wild Boys/Reach Up for the Sunrise*
18. Save a Prayer/Wild Boys*
19. Rio/Save a Prayer*
20. Girls on Film*
* denotes set list change on night two