Daily Telegraph: Brazen Brummies Bounce Back

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(Filed: 13/04/2004)

Lynsey Hanley reviews Duran Duran at Nottingham Arena

At the beginning of their inaugural British tour as a re-formed five-piece band, Duran Duran rocked as hard as a bunch of slightly wonky-looking men in their mid-forties had any right to do.

They were ace. These five brazen Brummie show-offs with full heads of hair and a thing for wearing Armani suits with trainers played a canon of brilliant pop songs and failed utterly to disguise their Cheshire cat grins.

It shouldn't have turned out this way for a band who took the 1980s high life to stratospheric extremes and spent most of the following decade in recovery. The original line-up of Simon Le Bon, Nick Rhodes and the three unrelated Taylors - John, Andy and Roger, who gradually dropped out of the band as its star faded - seemed consigned to a distant past of platinum record sales and questionable fashion decisions until links between the five members were re-established in 2001.

They've played a lot of shows in the three years since their reunion, mostly in Japan and the US, but you'd never have known it from the puppyish vigour with which Le Bon - 46 this year - attacked Hungry Like the Wolf, the first of a dozen old hits to roll out of the DD jukebox in an impressive two-hour set. He is one of those performers whose brash over-confidence ensures that he walks a fine line between Mick Jagger and wally, but tonight he was never less than engaging, if not half as sexy as he still seems to think he is.

At times it felt as though the band were starting over and were desperate for the approval of the fans who bought their records 20 years ago. This had its benefits, though: they performed their early-1980s classics without a trace of tiredness or contempt for their audience. During The Reflex, we were treated to the sight of gangly John Taylor - who, for much of the night, resembled an arthritic giraffe as he bent over his bass - and Andy Taylor pogoing gleefully across the stage like teenage punks at a provincial hop.

The quality of Duran Duran's songwriting has varied wildly over the years, but when they get it right, it's magic. Notorious, their funky collaboration with Chic's Nile Rodgers and one of their best singles, lifted the roof off, and new song Beautiful Colours has comeback single written all over it.

It's rarely a cause for celebration when middle-aged rockers hit the road after years in the wilderness, but tonight was one glorious exception.