Thursday, September 6, 2012

Duran Duran: The Wild Boys Still Know How To Make The Girls Scream

My first Duran Duran concert was in 1984 when the band was riding a huge wave of success here in the US. The boys were touring on their third album, 7 and the Ragged Tiger, and the arena that night was packed full of thousands of screaming teenage girls. I was definitely in the minority that night being a teenage boy caught up in all that hysteria. The guys put on a great show and even back then, they proved that they were a bunch of talented guys, but they were always dismissed as being a sort of “boy band” for that era.

Fast forward to 2012 and to the Durham Performing Arts Center in Durham, NC. There was a sense of déjà vu in the air as the majority of the crowd on this particular night was female. It seems those teenage girls have all grown up and ventured out on this evening to recapture their youth. Would Simon LeBon sing to them? Would a droplet of sweat from John Taylor make its way to their shirt? I say all of this jokingly, but there is some truth there. Yes, there were plenty of guys there also; actually more than I expected!

The show started with a ten minute film. It was an artsy type of film that did not include the band at all and was scored with classical music. It was actually quite funny listening to the crowd try to clap along to it. For me, it was an odd way to start the show. The film ended and the boys went straight into “Before the Rain” from their latest studio album All You Need Is Now. After that, they started to crank out the hits as “Planet Earth” and “A View to a Kill” followed.

The band did feature several songs off of their latest studio album, four of them actually. They included the opener, plus “Girl Panic”, “Blame the Machines” and the title track. I’m not sure if it was just the section that I was in, but these newer songs gave most of those people the opportunity to sit down. It seemed to be a crowd more interested in the classic songs than the new ones. I must say in defense of the new songs that they sounded pretty amazing.

There were a couple of serious and emotional moments amongst all this hysteria. “Save a Prayer” was dedicated to Sandy Ahrens, a longtime Duranie from that area who had passed away earlier in the year. Also, Simon’s introduction of “Ordinary World” spoke of how the song had taken on a life of its own and meant so many things to so many people.

Yes, there were still plenty more hits throughout the night including “Union of the Snake”, “Wild Boys” and of course, “Hungry Like the Wolf”. I was really surprised at how amazing their version of “White Lines”, made famous by Grandmaster Flash, was. It’s been in their set for years, but it was as if it was on steroids on this night. The encore saw the boys come back out to perform “Girls on Film” and “Rio”.

I have seen many Duran Duran shows throughout the years, but I have never heard the boys sound tighter than they did on this evening. Keyboardist Nick Rhodes and John’s Taylor’s thumping, and highly underrated, bass playing are a huge part of the band’s signature sound and they were spot on. Drummer Roger Taylor’s drumming didn’t miss a beat, no pun intended and Simon’s vocals were stellar and showed no signs of his ailment that caused them to cancel many shows last year. Lastly, guitarist Dom Brown has been an un-official member of the band since Andy Taylor’s second departure in 2006 and has proven himself to be a very important member of the family and sounded great.

What I saw up on that stage during their two hour performance was a band who did not look or act as if they had been doing this for 30 years. Yes, I know not all members have been a part of this for 30 years, but you know what I mean. These guys were not “going through the motions”, they were having genuine fun up there. Plus, on that stage were very skilled musicians. John Taylor is one of the most underrated bass players ever. Duran Duran have been proving on this tour that they were much more than just a bunch of cute guys who dressed nice and had cool hair. They are the real deal and deserving of respect from an industry that dismissed them many years ago.

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