Concert Review: Duran Duran Heats Up Agua Caliente Casino

Two days after selling out the 17,000 seat Hollywood Bowl, Duran Duran sold out the 2,000 seat Agua Caliente Casino on Saturday in Rancho Mirage, CA.

Yes, casino.

You know the type of place most “has-been” bands recycle on their endless tours.

But this place is different. Much different. And well worth the extra long drive into 100 degree desert heat past Palm Springs.

Sure there’s something to be said about the “iconic” Hollywood Bowl nestled in the Hollywood hills just a few blocks from the Walk of Fame and that famous Chinese Theater. But there is also something to be said about this venue anchoring one side of a slightly smoky casino just a stone’s throw from the 10 freeway.

Built in 2009 with architects brought in from Las Vegas, whoever devised the blueprints for this place left no details behind. The Show, as it’s called, is not immense and in some respects looks like a high-end lecture hall at some prestigious university. It’s got three levels and even box seats, practically layered in carpet. It’s intimate yet hardly claustrophobic. The sound – fantastic.

So perhaps it was fitting then for Duran Duran to close out the United States leg of the tour in support of their new album Paper Gods in such a personal fashion to those fans who made the trek into the hot, dusty alcove.

The setlist did not deviate from past shows, (though the order changed a bit including “The Wild Boys” moving from the main set to the encore) it was exactly the same as the one at the Washington State Fair. (The concert at the Hollywood Bowl dropped “Wild Boys” in the Main set and “Save a Prayer” from the encore because they ran out of time, only playing “Rio.”)

The performance, however, unmatched.

It was indeed a special evening from the first song, which happened to be the first song and title track off the new album which hit #10 in its first week of release stateside last month, all the way through the final song, the first song and title track off their iconic Rio.

This hits, so many of them came fast and furious. Singer Simon LeBon asked the crowd if they were hungry, and of course they were because they knew what came next. Then came one of their biggest smash hits and the best James Bond theme song ever recorded with “A View to a Kill.” Past tours featured this song as an acoustic but this time around it was ripped straight off the recording tapes.

Duran Duran played five off their new album, four of them the best songs on Paper Gods including “What Are the Chances” what should, overtime, become a definitive Duran Duran cut. LeBon takes his singing to new heights and was in fine form here. His soaring vocals through the lyrics – “So, what are the chances?/We’ll never know/If we take it for granted/A diamond explodes/What are the chances?” is something to experience live.

It was a flawless evening. They played tight, enjoyed each other and held up the same professionalism and production you’d expect from these veteran musicians to give regardless of the number in attendance. And, you know what? John Taylor is a really good bassist.

Of course, you can’t forget those awesome chords he plays on “Planet Earth” and “Rio” but through all of Duran Duran songs, his bass guitar is a showcase. He’s not simply a two-chord puncher who stands overshadowed in the background because the bass cleft helps keep the rhythm. He brings great melody, a lot more than just mindless thumping and in many respects is the glue for the arrangement of so many of Duran Duran’s songs.

When the evening ended after an hour and 45 minutes, maybe it was this venue, just a mirage, unless experienced. Or maybe it was Duran Duran performing at such a high level. Perhaps it was a little bit of both. It was an encounter.

Regardless, The Show does exist and it should be no surprise the level of talent this venue attracts. While casinos historically have been caricatures for bands in their twilight wringing out what little they have left before hanging it up, more and more artists seem to find their place there in spots around the country.

But The Show has upped the ante. It has featured such acts as Heart, Social Distortion, Chris Isaak, the Moody Blues and now Duran Duran. So maybe this little oasis in the desert will soon become a regular stomping ground for those on tour looking to rekindle their past and relive how it all first started.

Duran Duran Agua Caliente Casino Setlist

  1. Paper Gods
  2. Hungry Like the Wolf
  3. A View to a Kill
  4. The Reflex
  5. Come Undone
  6. Last Night in the City
  7. What Are the Chances
  8. Notorious
  9. Pressure Off
  10. Planet Earth
  11. Ordinary World
  12. White Lines
  13. (Reach Up for the) Sunrise
  14. Discoaphobia
  15. Too Much Information
  16. Girls on Film
  17. Save a Prayer
  18. The Wild Boys
  19. Rio




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