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Review: Original-lineup Duran Duran shines at Majestic

02:50 AM CST on Tuesday, November 25, 2003

By MARIO TARRADELL / The Dallas Morning News

Simon LeBon may never get the recognition he deserves, but he is truly one of the best frontmen in rock. The Duran Duran lead singer grows more captivating each time he's onstage. With nary a prop around him or barely an instrument on him, he works himself into an electrifying frenzy – singing, dancing, gyrating and slinking. His energy is palpable.

And yet he needs his bandmates – mainstays John Taylor and Nick Rhodes as well as returnees Andy Taylor and Roger Taylor. The band's sold-out concert Monday night at the Majestic Theatre was part of the first tour of all five original members since 1985. That was the year of the side projects, Arcadia and the Power Station, which ultimately shrunk Duran Duran into the trio of Mr. LeBon, Mr. Rhodes and John Taylor.

A long 18 years later seems like just a matter of days. The reunited Duran Duran is in cohesive, propulsive form. The group's performance had force and style, power and grace. They played like a quintet of friends happy to be back together and eager to crank out the classic tunes.

But instead of a nostalgia act coasting on past laurels, Duran Duran refashioned itself as a viable entity with a large, well-known body of work and a handful of new material strong enough to showcase. A couple of fresh tracks, particularly the rock 'n' funk number "What Happens Tomorrow," sounded like a more muscular, perhaps darker version of the vintage hits.

The gig offered the singles, of course, but also a smattering of cool album cuts. "Night Boat," from the 1981 self-titled debut, featured Mr. LeBon in a trench- coatlike black shirt and a spotlight in his hand. With each moody, atmospheric note, he stealthily illuminated the crowd.

"New Religion" was a full-on rocker. Mr. LeBon slammed the tambourine as he cut loose on the microphone and the platform floor. His voice has lost none of its fortitude, and he can still work the high notes, as he did during "Ordinary World." Dreamy and beautiful, the song has anthem written all over it.

Even on the ballads, Duran Duran's rhythm section provides sturdy beats. The band always relied heavily – and smartly – on bass and drums just as much as on the keyboards and synthesizers from Mr. Rhodes. So the return of Roger Taylor is heaven sent. He diligently pounded his kit with vigor and finesse.

In fact, for "Notorious," the most R&B the group has ever been, Mr. Taylor and bassist John Taylor owned the stage. The cut remains a jam. And about midway through it, the band seamlessly segued into a cover of Sister Sledge's "We Are Family" before working its way back to "Notorious." How fitting, the Duran Duran family is complete again.