Duran Duran in Las Vegas

Concert Review: Duran Duran is Alive and Well

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It’s been a few years since Duran Duran last made some ripples in the music world and even longer since their last studio album which was released in 2015.

They toured that album, Paper Gods, seemingly forever and have since held concerts here and there. Rumors of studio work persist but the small “tours” continue with their most recent a short West Coast swing of the United States that included two sold out shows at The Chelsea inside the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas.

Though no new music unveiled, despite a tease by singer Simon Le Bon, Duran Duran brought the goods for both nights to a sold-out 2,200 strong crowd with a strong 90 minute-plus, 17 song set on Saturday then an even boisterous 18-song set that went more than an hour and 45 minutes on Sunday. Both nights were different in their own right bringing out some rarities and others forgotten but of course included their best work that pretty much made them the undeniable music stars of the 1980s.

No tricks on this photo taken of (from left to right) John Taylor, Dom Brown and Nick Rhodes on Sunday

Night 1 at The Chelsea

On Saturday, Duran Duran got things started with the killer “Hungry Like the Wolf,” 007’s best theme song in “A View to a Kill” as John Taylor rocked that bass, and the classic “The Reflex.” They hit the Wedding Album for “Come Undone” then opened up the vault for a string of rarities, tackling their debut record, nearly 40 years old, with the grooving “Is There Anyone Out There,” which Le Bon introduced by asking the crowd if they wanted some “new romantic music.” Well, he didn’t mean “new” music.

They followed with “I Don’t Want Your Love” off 1988’s Big Thing (anybody not a “durany” even remember that album?) and then the dance track “Tempted” from Red Carpet Massacre (wow, where did that come from?).

Simon Le Bon (L) gets Nick Rhodes (R) to say a little something

The “Fab 5” (I suppose “Fab 4” now, though Dom Brown really adds some excellent rock chords on guitar) kept the dance tunes going for “Last Night in the City” then Le Bon carefully and respectfully waded into some politics on both sides of the pond for the thought-provoking “Ordinary World.” It’s a great song, highly emotional depending on your circumstances and one, I recently was told, played at funerals. Makes sense.

Another debut album rarity with “Friends of Mine” and Duran Duran closed out the evening with a string of audience favorites via outstanding versions of “Pressure Off,” “Wild Boys,” and a really cool intro for “Girls on Film.” Duran Duran encored with the sexy “Save a Prayer” which they mixed in “Universe Alone” off Paper Gods and finished with a bang on “White Lines” a cover which they pretty much own now and of course “Rio” ended the night with Taylor again ripping on bass.

John Taylor of Duran Duran

The guys pretty much nailed it. Brought new video backdrops and kept it fresh with some new additions to a setlist chock full of singles and radio hits. Le Bon needed a few songs to get warm on Saturday, at first sounding like he needed a day off, but powered through well, drummer Roger Taylor’s kit seems to get bigger and bigger, and I am convinced John Taylor gets sorely overlooked as a fine bass guitar player. He carries superb rhythms and brings a number of songs to their full potential on the live stage like “A View to a Kill,” “Is There Anyone Out There” and their classic “Wild Boys.”

Singer Simon Le Bon of Duran Duran

Night 2 at The Chelsea

There was something in the air on Sunday (no not that) perhaps a different crowd, the adrenaline still coursing through from Saturday, the anticipation of what was to come or maybe just a new day but Duran Duran managed to out-do themselves on Sunday with another raucous night of songs that kept most everybody on their feet for nearly two hours.

Though it was nearly the same setlist with three dropped from Saturday and four new songs brought in for Sunday, in some ways it felt like a completely different evening. What will they play next?! And, despite three straight nights of singing, Le Bon’s vocals were in prime form smoothing out the early roughness from the night before.

Songs dropped from Night 1:

  • Tempted
  • Friends of Mine
  • Wild Boys

Songs Added to Night 2:

  • Astronaut
  • The Chauffeur
  • (Reach Up for the) Sunrise
  • Planet Earth

“Astronaut” off the 2004 album of the same name which also marked the return to the band’s original line-up (and last as guitarist Andy Taylor left probably for the last time), came out of hiding and the audience simply ate up “The Chauffeur,” (Le Bon played the ocarina!) the final track on their second album Rio, which mostly got overlooked by those outside the Duran Duran skin trade thanks to the other hits that exploded off that album.  Astronaut again got tapped (makes sense as they performed at the Kennedy Space Center for the 50 year anniversary of the moon landing) with Duran’s signature sound in “Reach Up for the (Sunrise)” (blended  a bit with “New Moon on Monday”) and “Planet Earth” (which included their rendition of David Bowie’s “Space Odddity” mixed in) which more or less introduced the world to five guys from Birmingham, England way back in 1981 showed strong legs nearly 40 years later.

Eh, probably too much information for the casual reader but they could have played that song too.

Simon Le Bon plays the ocarina on “The Chauffeur”

Anyway, if it was possible to play the repeat songs from the previous night even better, they did. The evening felt like a big rave hosted by Duran Duran and those lucky enough to get an invite were there.  And honestly, most Duran Duran shows feel that way, perhaps one explanation of their resiliency and the joy you can see on everyone attending the party.

Clearly, the Duran Duran fan base remains as fervent as ever. The band loves a crowd and clearly performing live. John Taylor and Brown often sidle each other like old-school rockers, Le Bon has natural talent as a frontman, and the quiet and reserved Nick Rhodes keeps everyone in check behind his panel of synthesizers.

Not once in those two nights did Duran Duran feel like an 80s band chugging along and finding their way in the new millennium wringing out a few more shows for a paycheck. If they played a third night, they could have bumped around another handful of songs and sounded as fresh and relatable as they were 35 years ago.

Now put an end to the rumors and keep it going.

Duran Duran Saturday Setlist at The Chelsea:

  1. Hungry Like the Wolf
  2. A View to a Kill
  3. The Reflex
  4. Come Undone
  5. Is There Anyone Out There
  6. I Don’t Want Your Love
  7. Tempted
  8. Last Night in the City
  9. Ordinary World
  10. Friends of Mine
  11. Notorious
  12. Pressure Off
  13. Wild Boys
  14. Girls on Film
  15. Save a Prayer with Unifverse Alone intro
  16. White Lines
  17. Rio

Duran Duran Sunday Setlist at The Chelsea:

  1. Hungry Like the Wolf
  2. I Don’t Want Your Love
  3. A View to a Kill
  4. Come Undone
  5. Is There Anyone Out There
  6. Astronaut
  7. The Reflex
  8. Last Night in the City
  9. The Chauffeur
  10. Ordinary World
  11. (Reach Up for the) Sunrise (with New Moon on Monday mix)
  12. Notorious
  13. Pressure Off
  14. Planet Earth
  15. Girls on Film
  16. Save a Prayer with Universe Alone intro
  17. White Lines
  18. Rio

 

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4 comments

  1. Double Header Rock Show! Looks like some fantastic music was played!
    Good to see them mix it up a bit in the songs as well.
    Taylor is a phenomenal bass player. Check out his stuff in the Neurotic Outsiders and of course the Powerstation!
    Great stuff Sir!

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