Duran Duran delivers electric
By Jim Harrington
TWO women in the crowd squared off right as the band took the stage.
"Sorry," the brunette told the redhead, "John is marrying me because we have the same favorite color.
"Fine," the redhead said in reply. "Well, Simon is marrying me because we have the same birthday.
Twenty-five years after first coming together in Birmingham, England, Duran Duran can still inspire Beatlemania-style enthusiasm among fans.
And there was a lot to be enthusiastic about.
The original Duran Duran, featuring bassist John Taylor, vocalist Simon LeBon, guitarist Andy Taylor, drummer Roger Taylor and incomparable keyboardist Nick Rhodes, is finally back in action. This current tour marks the first time this lineup has played together since 1985's historic Live Aid.
The band guided fans through an electrifying run down Memory Lane, reliving such staples as "Planet Earth," Save a Prayer" and "Rio," on Sunday at Golden Gate Park's Sharon Meadow in San Francisco.
The band headlined the sold-out Now & Zen Fest presented by Alice@97.3 (KLLC FM). Blessed with gloriously sunny weather, the festival also featured the newly remade Liz Phair, hot newcomers Maroon 5 and the slick-voiced Seal.
But, in this case, the opening acts served as mere distractions. For the thousands that packed the meadow to capacity, it was all about getting to see the Fab Five in action.
Duran Duran did not disappoint in the slightest. Opening in appropriate fashion with "Friends of Mine," Duran Duran managed to create and sustain a rare synergy with the crowd.
This was not just another concert for these fans. This was a chance to flip through the sonic scrapbook of the mind and relive the sounds of the 1980s.
Musically, Duran Duran played like the last 20 years never happened. They sounded as fresh and urgent as they did in the MTV daze, moving confidently through the classics "Hungry Like the Wolf," "Planet Earth" and "New Religion" early in the roughly 90-minute set.
Each of the band members took a turn in the spotlight. John Taylor thumped out a booming bass line on "Notorious" and Roger Taylor delivered a delirious Latin groove with "Rio."
The band also took the opportunity on Sunday to introduce Bay Area fans to a pair of new songs. In particular, "What Happens Tomorrow," which featured one of the afternoon's many delicious Andy Taylor guitar leads, sounded like it has a chance to be a radio hit.
Andy Taylor is, in many ways, the secret weapon that separates Duran Duran from many of its new wave cohorts. A closet rocker, he can snake through a tune like a young Jeff Beck. His high-flying guitar work plays perfectly with LeBon's passionate vocals. The two intertwined seamlessly, propelling one another with each new twist and turn of the music, on the sweet "Ordinary World" and the melancholy "Save a Prayer."
It would be difficult to pick out a single highlight of Rhodes' performance since his keyboard work so dominates Duran Duran's sound. Rhodes, one of the most underrated keyboardists of all time, was absolutely stellar whether he was pumping out the disco grooves on "Notorious" or bursting through the slap-happy new wave of "Wild Boys."
The biggest complaint was the show was too short. Fans missed hearing such big hits as "The Reflex," "New Moon on Monday" and the great James Bond-theme "A View to a Kill."
Still, it was hard to quibble about song selection as the band ended the main set with the tropical "Rio" and then came back for a two-song encore.
The day closed with Duran Duran delivering a funky cover of Grandmaster Flash's "White Lines" and a dead-on recreation of the band's own "Girls on Film."
It was a simply fab return to form for the Fab Five.