Duran Duran are known to pretty much anyone who lived through the 80s. Even “oldies” who weren’t into pop music seemed to know of their existence because Princess Diana was reported to have them as her favourite band. They were known for the outlandish videos, good looks and phenomenal chart success. Throw in a Bond Theme and not one but two “side-projects” and you have a very busy period for the boys. Things started to go a bit awry around the turn of the decade and at one point only Nick Rhodes and Simon Le Bon remained from the classic line-up. Around the turn of the century, the classic line-up reformed and commercial/critical success returned – the band now being recognised as a decent band as opposed to pretty boys that sold many records. How would they sound in support of their new album………
Support for this tour came in the shape of The Bloom Twins, a Ukrainian-born English electronic pop group made up of twin sisters Anna and Sonia Kuprienko. The twins both play keyboards and sing and were backed by only a drummer. Whilst reminiscent of certain elements of Goldfrapp, the tunes seemed to merge into the same song and after an initial interest in them, I found my attention started to wander. Not really a band for me.
A late announcement that the special guest for this tour would be Seal had really piqued my interest. In the mid-90s, it wouldn’t have been unthinkable for the roles to be reversed and Duran would have been the special guests on his tour. Seal played it safe for his 50-minute set and opened with the dramatic one-two of “Crazy” followed by “Killer”. His voice is amazing and the band was really tight – something that stood out during his set was that all members of his band could sing. He showcased some tunes from his new album – which seemed fairly good (bought the album the next day as a result, so they must have been decent enough). He was always going to close with “Kiss From A Rose” which really got the crowd singing and in a touch that seemed to amuse even him, as he tried to finish the song, the crowd kept singing the line he was about to deliver. What a way to finish the set…….. except, he had another song, which nobody seemed to know. Despite this, his set was well received and he clearly knows how to work an arena crowd. You don’t have a twenty-odd year career without being fairly good! Kudos to Duran Duran for putting him on with a decent sound and light show.
Then it was the turn of the main act. It must be very difficult for the Durans to compose a setlist. Like any musician, you’re going to want to show off your most recent material but by the same token, the general demographic of the audience seemed to dictate that the greatest hits would be a better bet. So in their position it must be difficult to decide how to play it. Their new album has been fairly well received and the band is undergoing a bit of a renaissance since teaming up with producer Mark Ronson. Throw in that Nile Rogers, Kiesza, Janelle Monae, Mr Hudson, Jonas Bjerre and John Frusciante all appear on the album and you have some heavyweight players – plus the promotion for the album has been ratcheted up over previous releases. They opted to open with the title track Paper Gods (ought to point out that despite really like most of their output, I’m not a huge fan of the latest album). Obviously, they were checking the “we’re proud of the new stuff” box early on but followed it up with “The Wild Boys”, “Hungry Like The Wolf”, “A View To A Kill” (no terrible high note from Simon Le Bon, unlike at Live Aid!) and “Come Undone”. Crowd now eating out of their collective hands, they squeezed in a couple more off “Paper Gods” before unleashing what I would consider their only mis-step in terms of their set – their cover of Grandmaster Flash and Melle Mel’s “White Lines”. Taken from their mid-nineties “Thank You” album of covers, it’s not that great a version.
After “White Lines” the band gave us “Love Voodoo” from their 1992’s “Wedding Album” which marked their first resurgence following a fallow period. Aside from “Come Undone” and “Ordinary World” the band also treated us to that album’s opener; “Too Much Information”. As a fan of that album I really enjoyed the slightly more obscure tracks but judging from the reaction of people around me, the majority of the crowd seemed not to know the songs that weren’t singles. Following up with “Notorious” and “I Don’t Want Your Love” brought the crowd back on side and then it was time for another visit to “Paper Gods” with the Chic style funk of “Pressure Off”. Indeed the video for the song – complete with Nile Rodgers – was played on the giant screens, whilst live guitarist Dom Brown, filled the big man’s shoes in the arena. From this point to the end we were treated to “Planet Earth”, “Ordinary World”, “Reach Up For The Sunrise” (with a snippet of “New Moon On Monday” in it) before the finish of the set with new album’s “Danceophobia”, the aforementioned “Too Much Information” all topped off with “Girls On Film”.
A short delay and the band returned for the encore, with Simon Le Bon strapping on an acoustic guitar and mentioning the current movement for bands to cover their single “Save A Prayer” in memory of victims of the terrorist attack in Paris. He mentioned that The Eagles Of Death Metal – the band playing at the Bataclan Theatre at the time of the shootings - had done a version of “Save A Prayer” and the two bands, after consulting about it, had agreed to set up a foundation, to “do some good” with the monies raised from sales of the single. A nice touch by both bands. Following an emotional version of the song, Duran Duran finished with possibly their most famous song – there could be no other – the mighty “Rio”. With that they took their bows and left the stage to rapturous applause.
From a personal point of view, the band ticked all the right boxes with their mix of latest and older material but for me, the set was slightly disappointing – compared to when I have seen them before. This is possibly down to me not being such a fan of the latest album but I admire them for having the bloodymindedness not to tread the easy “heritage band” path. That said, drummer Roger Taylor and namesake bass player John, must have been able to phone in their performances for the new album. Roger seemed to spend most of his time during the new songs bashing away at an electronic kit and for two songs John Taylor wasn’t even wearing a bass. He played a keyboard on one but only did backing vocals on the other. I suspect I wouldn’t have been so critical had they been touring the previous album (All You Need Is Now) as I much preferred it. That said, I admire them for sticking to their guns and would only criticise the inclusion of “White Lines” when you’re leaving out such classics as “The Reflex”, “The Union Of The Snake” and “Is There Something I Should Know”. That all said – Mrs G, who attended the gig with me absolutely loves the new album and thought the gig was great rather than my assertion that it was merely good. It won’t stop me buying their next album or seeing them on the next tour – consider me a “Duranie”.
I got a little bit star-struck on spotting another 80s hero, Howard Jones - stood not 10 feet from me in the audience. Should have got the obligatory selfie, but it was his night off. Must have thrown off his mental chains, as he wasn’t wearing them that evening!
Words by Adrian Grainger