Duran Duran at G.M. Place on Tuesday, April 29
Their days as MTV’s most shaggable pretty boys may be a quarter-century behind them, but on Tuesday night that didn’t stop Duran Duran from having more fun than they did on that yacht in Rio.
In the G.M. Place kickoff to the band’s North American tour, showman Simon Le Bon gyrated and howled through “Hungry Like the Wolf” like parachute pants and pirate shirts were still the height of style. To his right, bass god John Taylor grinned as if he’d just received word that the world’s last remaining album by the Power Station had been located and destroyed.
Under the stage’s huge “Girls on Film”–style walls of flashbulbs, the still-hot men of Duran Duran all looked preternaturally preserved in their matching screen-printed black suits. About the only signs that it was 2008 were the iBook on Nick Rhodes’s keyboard and a noticeable lack of hormonally strung-out teens in the audience. Instead, the hockey rink was packed with sleep-deprived soccer moms, hell-bent on shaking their middle-aged asses. By the time the designer-dudded dandies ripped into their fourth song, a turbocharged version of “Planet Earth”, the cougarlicious crowd’s long-dormant inner Duranies were unleashed.
You could have forgiven Duran Duran—the original lineup minus guitarist Andy Taylor—for coming out just as pissed off as they’ve been during the various yachting accidents, coke addictions, and doomed solo projects that have dogged the band’s members since their mid-’80s heyday. Today’s charts are littered with acts that have ripped off their glammed-up, new-romanticized sound, including Franz Ferdinand, Panic at the Disco, and the Killers.
Although that’s helped make Duran Duran cool again, it didn’t necessarily translate into ticket sales. The Garage was only a third full, with only a handful of under-30 hipsters in their ironic ’80s leg warmers and Flashdance shirts.
Duran Duran was determined to prove it’s still relevant, diving right into tracks from its latest album, the underperforming Red Carpet Massacre, which features contributions from Timbaland and Justin Timberlake. Still, enthusiastically played but forgettable numbers like the show opener “The Valley” and “Red Carpet Massacre” got a lukewarm response from the audience. Luckily, the two-hours-plus show meant there was ample opportunity for new-wave nostalgia trips.
You have to give the Birmingham boys credit for pushing themselves artistically. As easy as it would have been to trot out paint-by-numbers versions of their classics, they made a noble attempt to revamp their best-loved material. This was most successful at the midway point of the show, when all four members appeared in matching black-satin suits to take centre stage. With John Taylor and Nick Rhodes on duelling keyboards and Roger Taylor on electric drums, they cranked out deep, chunky house beats for an extended medley that started with “All She Wants Is” and built to a killer cover of “Warm Leatherette”.
Duran Duran’s lasting appeal is that it never seems to take itself too seriously. Back in the ’80s, how else could the band have gotten away with wearing pouffy shirts, headbands, and lipstick without getting beaten up by England’s Motí¶rhead fans?
It was obvious on this night that their sense of humour remains intact. Maybe it was the way Le Bon hammily hissed the words “wild booooyyyyyz” repeatedly in “Wild Boys”, or the expression he made when a white-lace bra that looked big enough to batten down the Queen’s fun bags was flung on-stage, or the comical way he rolled his eyes and mouthed the words “Rio” when he asked the audience what it wanted to hear for the encore.
The fans got their wish. For four glorious minutes, you could almost believe Maggie Thatcher was still in power, JoiGel was the world’s hottest hair product, and the pretty boys in Duran Duran were still the most shaggable guys on Planet Earth.