Coachella 2011: Duran Duran turns the cool kids into a bunch of giggling grade schoolers
April 18, 2011 | 3:48 pm
Duran Duran didn't need to save its hits for last at Coachella on Sunday night. They were all hits, and the crowd couldn't get enough. After all, the New Wave superstars practically wrote the book on mainstream '80s nostalgia.
Not only did Duran Duran break new ground when it came to video technology for its sold-out stadium shows, but the band was among the pioneers of MTV, with professionally directed videos shot on 35 mm film. Anybody who grew up in the '80s -- when MTV was a new phenomenon as powerful as Facebook would be a generation later -- remembers the Sri Lankan odyssey in pre-ironic rock 'n' roll Cheez Whiz that was the 1982 video "Hungry Like a Wolf."
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And those who remember harbor deep affection for the British Romantics. For them, Duran Duran occupies the same cozy corner of pre-9/11 pop culture as John Hughes films, "The Price Is Right" and "Family Ties."
During the band's Sunday night mainstage set, singer Simon Le Bon was full of large gestures: strutting, preening, opening arms wide to the massive field as if soaking up the love that wafted toward him from the crowd.
The set was like a party that snowballed into a spirited group celebration of simpler times.
"We have been looking forward to this moment for weeks and weeks and now we're here and it's going to go off!" Le Bon said before launching into the megahit "Rio," which lifted the audience into a breezy pastel reverie similar in tone to the mood captured in the 1988 Tom Cruise film "Cocktail."
But the most spectacular moment of the lengthy set came when the band played the 1985 synth-pop classic "A View to a Kill," which served as the title song to the James Bond movie of the same name.
Much has been written about the indie spirit of Duran Duran's latest revival, and while that may be the case with its most recent recording, there was nothing indie about its over-the-top performance of this paean to dangerous sex.
Silhouettes of undulating naked women -- a la Bond girls -- appeared on the jumbotrons, and Le Bon re-emerged onstage in a white tux with his hair perfectly coiffed. It was almost too much, but it was Duran Duran, and this kind of overblown performance wasn't ironic or retro for them (although it could have been animated and used as a scene in "The Simpsons," and no one would have blinked).
It was like a Vegas performance at Coachella, and for a moment it was easy to forget that the country was waging two wars and in the throes of a suffocating recession. By the time the band plunged down the wormhole of weirdness that was its Lady Gaga cover of "Poker Face," the audience had been transformed into a bunch of giggling kids at a slumber party, harboring painful crushes on Molly Ringwald and Andrew McCarthy.
As the set reached its end, so did the sentimental journey, in a flurried mash-up of instruments and environment. Rototoms! Saxophone! Moon! Then it was over.
"Oh my God, amazing," said a girl staring rhapsodically at the band as it bowed and bowed and bowed again. "We love you."