The ‘80s pop pinups – Paper Gods, if you will, to borrow the title of their 14th LP – shook their ageless moneymakers like sexy old pros in a hit-filled set at Tampa’s MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre on Saturday.
“You guys look fantastic!” said the ever-charming Simon Le Bon, making all 10,000 fans blush. “You dressed up, didn’t you?”
Hey, Duran Duran still have that effect on people, particularly those old enough to remember their New Romantic heyday.
But judging from the ubiquitous sound of synth-pop in 2016, just about every artist and producer with an eye on the Hot 100 might’ve had a poster of Le Bon, John Taylor, Nick Rhodes or Roger Taylor on their wall at some point. The way Duran Duran skated through the snaky discotheque pop of I Don’t Want Your Love, you practically expected them to unzip their skins and watch a young band like Walk the Moon or the 1975 pop out.
After emerging in swirls of smoke to Paper Gods’ slinky title track, Duran Duran hit us with a hit parade: Tribal glitterball The Wild Boys; clicking, clattering Hungry Like the Wolf; and A View to a Kill.
It was right about then, as those familiar horns signaled their 1985 Bond theme, that you started to think: Yeah, in another time, another era, Le Bon maybe could’ve played 007. He is, at 57, as charismatic as ever, despite a teeny lil’ potbelly that poked out from beneath his shirt anytime he waved his arms in full-on cheerleader mode. (Hey, none of us are the same shape we were in 1985.)
Le Bon’s finest, most feverish vocals came during a mash-up of (Reach Up For the) Sunrise and New Moon On Monday, a megamix jam he punctuated by flinging his tambourine way up into the air. But he also shone on a shimmering Planet Earth, which drifted into a groovy cover of David Bowie’s Space Oddity, complete with a giant pic of Bowie on the backdrop. And his powerful croon gained raw, punkish edge on their cover of the hip-hop classic White Lines, which was spliced with hints of Bowie’s Let’s Dance.
Duran Duran’s Paper Gods material was, like the album itself, hit and miss. What Are the Chances? was a bit of a slog; Last Night in the City was a feisty, naughty invitation to the dancefloor. The campy deep-house ditty Danceophobia was just silly, particularly when a backup singer donned a lab coat, stethoscope and clipboard to “diagnose” the audience via spoken-word interlude (an interlude delivered, on the album, by Lindsay Lohan).
You never had to wait too long for a classic, though – palms waved in the air during ballad Ordinary World; hips swiveled on the thundering conga of Girls On Film; and Le Bon couldn't help slapping his own tush while dancing to sax-stacked closer Rio.
The band even got a little serious in the encore with an appropriately reverent Save a Prayer – a 1982 single that became an unlikely anthem of peace after they performed it last fall with Eagles of Death Metal. In the wake of the Paris Bataclan attacks, an Eagles of Death Metal cover version entered the charts, raising hopes and funds for victims.
“It was a real shock to everybody who loves music, and everybody who believes in enjoying themselves,” Le Bon said, adding that he hoped the song’s resurgence would prove to the world that “music is a force for good,” and “we will not be afraid.”
Even amid all those glistening hit singles, the highlight of the set might’ve been a cameo by disco-funk legend Nile Rodgers, whose production work with the band includes The Wild Boys and The Reflex.
Another assignment forced me to miss the opening band by Rodgers’ band Chic – I walked in right as they were wrapping up Good Times – so it was a blast to see the guitarist come back out for a couple of songs with his old Duranie mates: The perfectly angular boogie of Notorious, performed with a backdrop of spinning disco balls; and Paper Gods single Pressure Off, with Rodgers’ familiar jingle and jangle chopping a groove through the track, with twin geysers of confetti at the end.
I don’t care who you are – convincing Nile Rodgers to join you on the road is one cool-as-hell co-sign. If he’s having a blast hanging with you, you can hang with just about anyone, at any age. And your poster can hang anywhere.
-- Jay Cradling
Courtesy Tampabay.com. Click for Photo Gallery