Duran Duran as edgy as in the 80s
BY DEREK DONOVAN
Kansas City Star
KANSAS CITY, Kan. - There comes a time in every rock snob's life when he's forced to admit what he's always secretly known: Duran Duran rules.
On Saturday night in a ridiculously sweltering Midland Theatre, the original Fab Five thrilled some two thousand devoted Duranies with a 2-hour set of the band's shockingly deep catalog of hits and fan-favorite album tracks.
Ostensibly touring on behalf of the fine new album "Astronaut," Duran Duran are obviously relishing their reunion in the original ensemble that put the most popular face on the New Romantic movement of the early `80s. Keeping the energy level as high as the musicianship, D-squared reminded fans just how special their reign as the kings of MTV was.
Of course, the bubbly keyboards and buzzsaw guitar lines of New Wave are again au courant on the radio. But the lazy songwriting of the Killers can't hold a candle to the pop genius of Duran Duran in its heyday. With a range that reconciled the snappily simple melody of "Girls On Film" with the gooey romanticism of "Save a Prayer," Duran Duran put a thick layer of lip gloss and hair dye on the Roxy Music formula - to great commercial effect.
The intervening years have been incredibly kind to the Duran canon. The 20 songs the group performed Saturday came mostly from the band's first three albums, and all have aged exceptionally well. The opener "Planet Earth" crackled with as much energy as on first listen in 1981, and the Bond theme "A View to a Kill" - the band's last hurrah in its original incarnation - sounded just as edgy as it did in 1985.
The Saturday show was as notable for its hits as for how complete it felt even with a few big exceptions. No "Is There Something I Should Know," no "New Moon on Monday," no "Too Much Information." It's a testament to Duran Duran's songwriting chops that they could omit these radio staples and still have plenty of material to fill the evening.
Singer Simon LeBon's voice betrayed none of the ravages of time, sounding every bit as supple and effortless as on the band's debut - not an easy task, as the Duran songbook requires a particularly difficult range and endurance.
Bassist John Taylor, who looks eerily identical to his 1981 incarnation, provided the acrobatic Nile Rodgers-esque basslines that underpin the basis of the Duran Duran sound. Guitarist Andy Taylor and drummer Roger Taylor (none of the three Taylors any relation) were in as fine form as ever. Keyboardist and resident fashion plate Nick Rhodes coordinated analog and digital synthesizers with a Powerbook to supply the electronic chugga-chugga of the band's biggest hits.
Highlights included an amped-up version of 2004's "Sunrise" and 1982's "New Religion" (Why wasn't this a blockbuster single?). A few goofy realtime mashups, incorporating Donna Summer's "I Feel Love" and Deee-Lite's "Groove is in the Heart," allowed backup singer Anna Ross to show off her impressive vocal agility.
Duran Duran circa 2005 is essentially a nostalgia act, and surely few would complain if they'd left out a couple of the numbers from "Astronaut" on this outing. But the new album seems to have energized a group that could have easily coasted on its past glories. This time out, Duran Duran worked it like it's still 1983.
Courtesy Kansas City Star/Monterey County Herald