Duran Duran Reflexes its Video Muscle

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Oct. 21, 2004, 10:59AM
Duran Duran reflexes its video muscle
By Bruce Westbrook
Copyright 2004 Houston Chronicle

It was bound to happen. When DVDs first emerged looking like CDs, you knew it would become tough to tell them apart.

Now the problem has been compounded by musicians who are issuing products geared to both markets.

Do you place Fleetwood Mac's Live in Boston on a shelf with CDs or with DVDs? Probably the latter, since two of its three discs are DVDs of a full-length show, while the single CD has only some songs from it. Yet Live in Boston tends to appear in music bins in stores.

The same goes for Duran Duran's new Astronaut album, which is sold in two configurations. One is a 12-song audio CD; the other pairs that CD with a DVD.

Each runs just under 50 minutes, so there's no tilt there. But since they come in a DVD-style box, Astronaut makes a better fit on your music-video shelf.

Besides, Duran Duran has been a video-smart band from the start.

If DVD had been around in the early '80s, they'd have been doing it. As it was, even then they won the first Grammy award for best long-form music video.

Such early clips recently joined later ones on Duran Duran: Greatest -- The DVD. Live shows from the '80s have also hit DVD. But what the band needed was a fresh concert disc, and Astronaut's DVD provides it.

Titled Live at Wembley, it chronicles the recent reunion tour of the band's original lineup, as first seen at London's Wembley Arena.

Mixing stage performances with backstage banter and other intimacies, the DVD can be played in two ways: as a full-length program intercutting stage songs with backstage looks, or as a music-only miniconcert.

Five complete concert songs include two from the new album: debut single (Reach Up for the) Sunrise and What Happens Tomorrow. Chestnuts are Hungry Like the Wolf, Wild Boys and New Religion. The last is performed in the band's hometown of Birmingham, England, which makes the disc's title inaccurate.

Speaking of inaccuracies, since sunrise occurs at the horizon, perhaps "reach out" would have worked better lyrically than "reach up." But we digress.

Looking almost as spry and certainly as dapper as in their MTV heyday, the lads joke and play backstage, where families briefly appear. (Singer Simon LeBon's model-wife, Yasmin, arrives with their kids.)

Drummer Roger Taylor, always the most grounded, reflects that Duran's core audience "used to be 12-year-old girls. Now they're 30-somethings. The screams just got a little deeper."

Yet the concert shots show that while most of the fans are female, their ages range widely.

"It's a joy to see younger people getting it," guitarist Andy Taylor says.

"I think we're back, perhaps for quite a while."

The proof lies in the performance, which is tight, focused and energized.

The DVD ends with Sunrise's music video, a widescreen clip that's vintage Duran Duran, cutting quickly between music performance and slick, sexy imagery.

Just don't blame Duran Duran for confusing music and video. They've had their dual priorities straight since 1981's debut album, whose 10 songs yielded five music videos. Then, it was the wave of the future. Today, with DVD-geared albums such as Astronaut, it's becoming the way of the world.

Courtesy Houston Chronicle