This Duran Duran article was written by Ian Bourne, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Natalie Whitehouse.
Duran Duran still attract fans who used to hang around outside Simon Le Bon’s house in Pinner, North London, when they were 13 – hoping for a word, a glance, or a priceless souvenir from the ransacked rubbish bins. They are older now, but no wiser. Some of them follow the band from city to city, spending thousands of pounds on front-row seats. Even the less fanatic fans are full of unconditional love for the lads-now-men from Duran Duran.
The funky ‘Paper Gods’, the new album’s title track, starts up while many in the largely middle-aged crowd are still queuing at the food and drink outlets. It’s long enough to ensure that they are all inside by the time it ends, but no-one is sitting. It’s time to dance at your seat. Crown pleasers ‘The Wild Boys’ and ‘Hungry Like The Wolf’ keep everyone on their feet, whooping as images of the band are shown on the big screen above the stage. Duran Duran are in the mood to play fast and tight tonight.
“This is a great room to play in, it really is,” says Le Bon, in defiance of the horrible echoing acoustics, after classic James Bond screen imagery illustrates ‘A View To A Kill’. The first of four tracks in the set from the so-called Wedding Album (1993) is a nicely fat-sounding ‘Come Undone’, followed by three more from ‘Paper Gods’, including ‘What Are the Chances’, a rock ballad that Le Bon looks far more comfortable singing than he does when attempting to move to the funkier stuff such as ‘Last Night In The City’ and the classic early ‘80s tunes. He never could dance. The less said about Duran Duran’s cover of ‘White Lines’ the better. What would Grandmaster Flash and Melle Mel make of it?
Gratifyingly, most of the new album’s fillers – ‘Face For Today’, ‘Change The Skyline’, ‘The Universe Alone’, ‘Sunset Garage’ and ‘Butterfly Girl’ – are missing. But they play one of them – ‘Only In Dreams’ – and a lot of the crowd gets back in their seats for a rest half-way through the set. Le Bon relaxes, chatting to bassist John Taylor mid-song. ‘Love Voodoo’ from 1993 is another odd choice, although Dom Brown adds as much flange to the guitar as he can get away with.
The set takes off again with a funked-up ‘Notorious’ and the only track from 1988’s ‘Big Thing’, ‘I Don’t Want Your Love’, which is an attempt to do pop like The Cure do pop. Moving up another gear, ‘Pressure Off’, produced with Mark Ronson on the new album, features a guest appearance on stage from Mr Hudson, who Le Bon says is responsible for the album’s sound. Mr Hudson stays on for ‘Planet Earth’, still Duran Duran’s best ever track. If you were playing live with Duran Duran and had the chance to join in with this song, you would, wouldn’t you?
From highs to lows. Le Bon explains how ‘Ordinary World’ brought the band back from the depths of despair in 1993, and the fans bring it to life by shining their phone lights. A rocking-out segue of ‘(Reach Up For The) Sunrise’ and ‘New Moon on Monday’ gets the crowd dancing and clapping. Le Bon seems to be having genuine fun, chucking his tambourine up in the air like a kid.
‘Danceophobia’ starts a three-song climax, played straight through without pause. And it’s a brilliant opportunity to assert some Hollywood class, with Lindsay Lohan strutting onto the stage in a shiny blue one-piece trouser suit. Fans unfamiliar with the new album are all asking each other why LiLo is performing with their favourite band from the ‘80s and ‘90s. Those in the know are delighted to see her giving the track so much personality, first reproducing her doctor act from the album, and then joining in with the increasingly supercharged performance as a third backing singer. She’s soon off, but Duran Duran steam through a surprisingly good ‘Too Much Information’ from 1993 and ‘Girls On Film’ from 1981, heavily cut up and resounding with big bass and choppy guitar.
They come back for an encore of ‘Save A Prayer’ – cue more twinkling phone lights – and ‘Rio’ from 1982. Lindsay Lohan is back, in a golden mini dress and thigh-high boots, turning the stage into a party. Drummer Roger Taylor and never-changing synth maestro Nick Rhodes come down from the podium onto the front of the stage to join the party and take the warm applause. And still, after more than 20 songs, they leave the audience wanting more. “They didn’t play ‘Reflex’,” says a fan on the way out.