When Duran Duran launched its North American tour earlier this year, bassist John Taylor says they didn’t know what to expect. But as quickly as concert dates were announced, venues started filling up. In San Antonio, a Sept. 7 performance was added to the schedule after its Sept. 6 show set for the Tobin Center sold out. “It’s been a constant source of amazement and incredulity and real pleasure for us to see the audiences we’ve been getting this time around,” Taylor says. While the audience certainly includes dozens of longtime fans from the band’s 1980s MTV days, it also has included new fans who’ve heard the band through their web-based playlists, Taylor says. The Paper Gods tour, which supports the band’s 2015 album of the same name, will include several new tracks but also plenty of old hits, from “Hungry Like the Wolf” to “The Wild Boys.” Taylor talked with us before traveling to San Antonio.
You said the success of this tour was a surprise to you?
I did not expect it. It’s been maybe five years since we’ve toured America as extensively as we are now and it’s a massive change in the audience (in terms of diversity). I think that’s not just Duran Duran. I think that music lovers in general are changing. People are much more open-minded. Now, a guy in an AC/DC T-shirt can be at one of our shows. That never would have happened before. Music lovers today can love AC/DC, Duran Duran, Madonna, Kanye West, the Beatles and Beethoven. You can love it all. I’m not sure how that happened. I think the Internet and the way we shuffle songs has something to do with that. It’s wonderful.
Tell us about the show.
It’s quite high energy. There are a lot of surprises but we kind of feel everybody gets what they want. You’ve got a fairly broad fan base and they come with different expectations so we’ve got to try to fulfill every one of those expectations. We feel this is the best show we’ve had in many years. It covers all of the important bullet points in the band’s career with a sort of fresh 21st century veneer that brings it into the now. It’s a lot of fun.
Can you describe Duran Duran’s sound?
We were almost like an underground band when we originally came together. Our influences were not pop. We were into the punk rock scene and electronic music elements and disco music and we kind of fused all of these things and made it into a hybrid. And then we started making videos and became a teen sensation. So that influenced the songs we went onto write in the 1980s. We were thinking about writing pop songs so we kind of lost that underground sound.
How is Paper Gods different from your previous albums?
Particularly with hip-hop the last 15 years, it’s been the era of the feature—where there’s more than one voice on a track. We’d always thought we didn’t have to consider that because we’re a band and what makes bands great is that they’re self-sustaining entities. Now we kind of have an empty chair where (guitarist) Andy Taylor used to be. We do have a fifth person who’s been writing with us, but he’s not full time so we kind of have this opening. John Frusciante , who’d been with the Red Hot Chili Peppers, approached me about playing a song so we let him play a few songs. That was life expanding for us. So we started thinking about who else we could let in and throughout the album we’ve included a lot of musical and vocal features. It’s enabled us to tell a slightly bigger story and it’s certainly given Paper Gods a distinct sound.
What’s it like to play in San Antonio?
I haven’t been to San Antonio for some time but I used to spend time there. My mother-in-law, who’s now deceased, used to have a ranch outside of Goliad. I love the Tex-Mex and barbecue. I love the people in Texas. I think that’s what makes Texas great—there’s sort of just an energy and a dynamism to the people there. They ain’t really Americans are they? They’re a lot to themselves and there’s a lot of history down there.
Duran Duran, Sept. 6-7, Tobin Center for the Performing Arts, 100 Auditorium Circle, 210-223-8624, tobincenter.org