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THE FINANCIAL TIMES LIMITED UK:

A night of startling sights began with Duran Duran's support act Goldfrapp, who began life as dreamy trip-hoppers but now play stomping electro-rock: more Giorgio Moroder than Portishead. Singer Alison Goldfrapp sashayed around in an outlandish outfit involving a skunk's tail and did suggestive things to an electric theremin. As a pulverising rendition of "Strict Machine" showed, the band's transformation into de Sadean disco-rockers is eccentric - but impressive.

Something even more remarkable happened when Duran Duran began their set: Simon Le Bon being screamed at by thousands of female fans. An echo of their heyday when fervent Duranies did a convincing impression of Beatlemania, it was a powerful blast of nostalgia; proof that, having frittered themselves away as quintessential rock aristocrats in the late-1980s they're back in favour.
They looked like a mix of hearty fops (Le Bon, Nick Rhodes) and 1980s rockers (the rest). Like David Bowie, one of the main influences on the New Romantics, they've increasingly embraced rock music, and the concert was punctuated with squealing solos from Andy Taylor's guitar. Rhodes, on synthesiser, was muted in contrast.

It can be poignant seeing an old band play a comeback: often they want to prove they're still current while the fans simply want to hear the hits. Duran Duran played all their old classics but gave many, such as "Hungry Like the Wolf" and "Planet Earth", a turbo-charged makeover. Full of energy and purpose, it also made them seem like vintage chassis fitted with unnecessarily powerful motors.

Tellingly one of their new songs, "What Happens Tomorrow", swapped the funk and synth-pop they played in the 1980s for a basic Oasis-style anthem, which was much lumpier than the funk of "Notorious" that followed. Having once combined singalong pop with glamour and escapism - think of "Rio" and "Girls on Film" - now they're heavier on their feet but still worth the odd scream. Tel 0870 739 0739 Tour continues until May 1

IC BIRMINGHAM:

Like a Rolling Stone Apr 16 2004, By Adrian Caffery

A reunited Duran Duran have set their sights on becoming the new Rolling Stones.

Birmingham's fab five - Simon LeBon, Nick Rhodes, John Taylor, Roger Taylor and Andy Taylor - are gigging together for the first time in 20 years.

But the New Romantic legends are quick to refute claims they are cashing in on past triumphs and that their tour amounts to their pension plan.

"We're in this for the long haul," says drummer Roger Taylor. "We are taking inspiration from bands like U2 and the Rolling Stones who are still going strong."

To prove his point, the five-piece have been stockpiling new material for the past three years and an album should hit shops in late summer.

Duran Duran took the world by storm in the early Eighties with their opulent videos for a string of hits including Girls On Film, Rio, Wild Boys and Hungry Like The Wolf. Scenes reminiscent of Beatlemania greeted them wherever they toured and, almost inevitably, the pandemonium took its toll on the band.

They agreed a time-out with guitarist Andy and bass player John forming Power Station with Robert Palmer while Roger, singer Simon and synth-man Nick released an album as Arcadia.

Andy never returned to the fold and although Roger played on the next Duran Duran album, Notorious in 1986, he too had decided to step out of the limelight.

Roger said: "Andy and I had got to the point where we'd had enough of touring. It had been a very intense few years and I needed to chill out so I bought a farm in the Cotswolds."

The band recruited Warren Cuccurullo on guitar and a succession of drummers but suffered dwindling sales for the albums Big Thing (1988) and Liberty (1990).

Their fortunes improved in 1993 when The Wedding Album spawned Duran Duran's biggest worldwide hit, Ordinary World.

Thankyou, a covers album was released in 1995 and John left to pursue a solo career during the recording of Medazzaland in 1997. The last Duran Duran album was Pop Trash in 2000.

Roger said the five reunited because there was some "unfinished business".

"We'd always felt we had more to give and it was a case of now or never," he says. "It felt very normal getting back together. The chemistry was still there."

Over the last 12 months, they have toured the United States, Japan and Australia, where they played headliner Robbie Williams off stage in front of 15,000 fans.

They also performed a brief set at this year's Brits where they picked up the Outstanding Contribution Award.

"All the concerts have been sell-outs and it's mayhem everywhere we go," says Roger, adding that the band wanted to wait until the "engine was up and running" before they toured Britain again.

"The Birmingham shows will be very special. It's going to be a proud moment for the five of us when we walk back on stage at the NEC after so long away.

"Birmingham is where we cut our musical teeth and it's still home for the band. I have a lot of family and friends in the area so my guest list will be pretty long."

And Roger's just as excited about the new album.

"We think it's great. It's got the old groove back. Time will tell whether it stands up to comparison with the early albums but it's melodic and has a lot of energy."

* Duran Duran play the NEC on Sunday and Monday then return on April 25. They've just released their films Arena and Sing Blue Silver on DVD and the Arena live album on CD with bonus tracks.

IC COVENTRY:

Wild boys never lose it Apr 16 2004,By Alan Poole, Evening Telegraph

Duran Duran – probably the best, certainly the biggest of the New Romantics brigade – never did anything by halves, and breaking up after their triumphant appearance at Live Aid seemed a suitably grandiose gesture.

Splinter bands The Power Station and Arcadia, both intriguing projects in their own right, never threatened to repeat that phenomenal early-80s success.

And although various versions of Duran Duran subsequently surfaced, most notably when Ordinary World gave them one of their biggest hits in 1993, even their most dedicated fans had given up hope of seeing the original line-up reunited.

But the famous five – Simon Le Bon, Nick Rhodes and Roger, John and Andy, the trio of unrelated Taylors – are indeed back together. And, having drawn huge crowds to their comeback shows in America, Australia and Japan, the British leg of their Homecoming tour lives up to its name on Sunday with the first of three shows at Birmingham’s NEC.

The Outstanding Contribution to Music award that they picked up from Justin Timberlake at the BRITS Awards in February might smack of a showbiz stunt but reviews of their UK shows to date have been highly complimentary, reflecting their reassessment as a band with bags of talent lurking behind the notorious hairstyles and fashion statements.

Simon Le Bon, who came up with the idea of the reunion, explains: “The general feeling was that if we were ever going to do it, now was the time – we wanted to get out there and do something.

“We fell out with the business but not with each other – we broke up because of power.

“It was about who was running the ship; was it us, or was it the manager and the record company?

“We’d lost creative control or any control of our lives; there was internal stress from the dissatisfaction and unhappiness in the group. We weren’t looking after each other; we weren’t seeing how it was affecting each other and we took each other for granted. The joy was sucked right out of it like the air in an explosion.”

“I don’t think the five of us would be together now if we hadn’t done what we did in 1985 – we might not all be alive if we’d carried on!”

• Duran Duran play the NEC Arena on Sunday, April 18, Monday 19 and Sunday 25, ticket details from ww.necgroup.co.uk or 0870 909 4133.

MANCHESTER ONLINE:

Duran Duran not in this just for the money/Kevin Bourke

NOT a week seems to go by without yet another improbable reformation of an eighties band. Few have been more improbable, though, than that of Duran Duran - Simon Le Bon, Nick Rhodes and the unrelated Taylors Andy, John and Roger - who've spent the better part of the last couple of decades sniping at each other in print.

Nor, it should be said, have many been as wildly successful.

A string of sold-out arena dates, including this weekend's show at the Manchester Evening News Arena: a Brit Award for "Outstanding Contribution to Music"; and an MTV Lifetime Achievement Award.

It must feel quite like the old days when they ruled the pop world with hits such as Wild Boys, Planet Earth, Hungry Like the Wolf and Rio. Or maybe not.

"It's already very different," says Roger Taylor who, back in the day, was the first to quit the band, citing nervous exhaustion.

"The landscape is different, the fans are different. When I left, the mainstay of the audience was 13-year old girls. Now those girls are 30-year-old women. More guys come to the shows, too."

Taylor, at least, seems not to have been over-enamoured with the days of pop stardom.

"I'd certainly lost a part of myself after a few years of being in the band," he recalls. "We got together when we were very young and didn't have time to form as individuals.

"If someone had said `You'll hate doing this in five years, Rog', you'd have said `How could I ever hate making music with you guys?' "

"But that's what happened," adds Andy, who decamped from the Durannies to form Power Station with John and the late Robert Palmer. That ultimate eighties event, Live Aid, gave the kiss of life to more than a few pop careers that already looked frayed around the edges. But not, it seems, Duran Duran.

"Live Aid crystallised the disquiet of the original band. We were on the same stage but in different places," observes Roger Taylor.

Such gloomy musings beg the question of what finally did bring them back together? Surely not just the promise of big bags of cash?

"You have to look at different scenarios, don't you?" says a not-at-all abashed Simon Le Bon.

"The scenario would be if there was no money in music any more, or if we were prepared to play Butlins and little club shows. And neither scenario works, because part of it for us is getting up in front of a big audience and getting our point across.

"I don't feel embarrassed about being paid for what I do. People say 'are you doing it for the money or the art?' and the answer is 'a bit of both actually'!"

"We want to be doing this for a number of years," concludes Roger. "The bands we look to are the bands who've had long careers but still manage to make an impact, bands like U2, the Chili Peppers, the Stones."

Duran Duran play at the Manchester Evening News Arena on Saturday, April 17 and on Wednesday, April 21.

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