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Duran Duran, fans go retro from the get-go
Copyright 2003 Houston Chronicle

On Sunday, the original lineup of Duran Duran played its first Texas concert since Ronald Reagan's first presidential term. And with the exception of the occasional cell-phone sighting and a very modern ticket price of $65, the 1,500-plus gathering on the University of Houston campus could have appeared in Adam Sandler's "Me Decade" film tribute, The Wedding Singer.

The original lineup of Duran Duran -- includeing Simon LeBon, right, and John Taylor -- played the University of Houston campus Sunday. A few women wore sweaters with bulky shoulder pads, silver hoop earrings, rubber friendship bracelets and acid-washed jeans. Their dates wore skinny ties and parachute pants. I got in the spirit with a pair of black leather boots, black pants -- pegged -- and a polka-dot Perry Ellis dress shirt buttoned to the top under a heavy black trench coat. It all went smashingly with black fingernail polish and heavy eyeliner. Looking in the mirror I realized I looked like ... me as a teenager, only with less hair.

It was all a big tongue-in-cheek nostalgia party for thirtysomethings.

Then Duran Duran took the tiny stage. Something about the silhouettes of Simon LeBon, Nick Rhodes, John Taylor, Andy Taylor and Roger Taylor standing stage-front together for the first time in 18 years turned young professionals into uncontrollable, screaming teens.

Duran Duran's ability to incite a crowd to hysteria originally drew comparisons to the Beatles. This "Fab Five" never reached those lofty expectations, but the band, singer LeBon in particular, have certainly rediscovered their glorious youth.

Beginning with Friends of Mine, a fan favorite from the group's debut album Planet Earth, LeBon was again the tall, loose-limbed figure whose pouty lips made him an original MTV superstar. On stage he was part Elvis Presley, part George Michael -- and all hip swivel.

LeBon and Rhodes have toured in different configurations as Duran Duran for years. But seeing them pop and dash with new energy while surrounded by their old mates makes other recent performances feel like karaoke.

LeBon's voice was back to its quivering, octave-spanning form while re-creating the group's early hits. The 17-song set included over half of Planet Earth, including the naughty Girls on Film, Careless Memories and a monumental retelling of the moody The Night Boat.

Hits like Is There Something I Should Know? and Hungry Like the Wolf were dependent on Rhodes' bubble-machine synthesizers from Duran Duran's early years. They were embellished with strong harmonies by John and Andy Taylor and often slashed with buzzing guitar improvisations. These "poster boys" deserve more credit for their ability to create melody.

Selections from the years following the breakup were kept to the biggest radio-pleasers, Notorious and the lush balladry of Come Undone and Ordinary World.

New songs What Happens Tomorrow and Beautiful Colours place more emphasis on Andy Taylor's fret board. They're scheduled for a new studio album next spring; neither has the instant appeal of past hits. But they prove that the original Duran Duran still has something to offer to a generation of fans beyond aging Gen X-ers in dated duds.