Concert Review: Duran Duran
Sun Feb 27, 2005 10:40 PM ET
By Erik Pedersen
LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Nattily attired in all black, with a couple of white shirts, MTV's first gods of video reached way back to last year for their opening number.
The layered, techno-lit and frustratingly catchy "(Reach Up for the) Sunrise" played like a warm-up act, preparing the adoring crowd for two hours of muted funk, synth pop, retro disco and Reagan-era memories.
Together as one for the first time in 20 years, the equally deified and despised Duran Duran eschewed the soft-cheese videos and grotesque fashion of their heyday, putting the focus squarely on their club-friendly music. They presented those mostly midtempo dance tunes with surprisingly little flash, though plucky frontman Simon LeBon has retained his cocky struts and swivels. No, this time the reunited quintet seemed bent on proving that they were more than pretty boys who played funk-lite. Whether it worked as attempted is strictly a matter of personal taste. Nothing more.
The sound was superb inside cavernous Staples Center, which was either sold out or close to it, and the throng of friends and lovers stood, hugged, swayed, sang and reminisced during the biggest hits. The band visited most of its albums, with cuts from "Rio" and last year's reunion disc "Astronaut" combining for 10 of the night's 22 songs. From the teasing giggle that opens "Hungry Like the Wolf" through the pining chorus of final encore "Rio" -- which sticks in the mind, or the craw, as much as any hit of the era -- Duran Duran deftly seized the opportunity to once again bring its opiate to the masses.
The years have been entirely kind to LeBon, who seemed to gain confidence as the show progressed. His echo-aided voice never faltered -- even if he has rarely had to stretch on record or onstage. Instead, he deployed that trademark lilting whimper-whine to full effect on such period pieces as "Hold Back the Rain" and "Save a Prayer" and then rocked it up for the new, Chic-inspired "Nice," which provided some welcome beats per minute. Less chatty and less goofy than during some of the band's recent pre-reunion gigs, LeBon still proved to be a likable, genuine frontman -- light years from his smarmy early days.
Meanwhile, quintessential '80s dreamboat John Taylor sported leather pants, which inspired panting from many in the crowd; serviceable guitarist Andy Taylor played the "Notorious" lead right out of the Neal Schon songbook and purposely channeled Pete Townshend's ax shtick during "The Wild Boys"; Nick Rhodes mostly kept his synthesizing in check, setting the keyboards to steel drum for "The Chauffeur," which landed somewhere between sultry and porn flick; and Roger Taylor kept a low profile buried behind his drum kit.
The post-glory days material ranged from forgettable to formidable: 1988's "I Don't Want Your Love" came off like Foreigner plays funk, and "Come Undone" was atmospheric and sensual but ultimately meandering. Easily the most entertaining number of the night was the band's infectious cover of "White Lines," whose meaty licks and impassioned performance hinted at a versatility that went otherwise unexplored. It's a killer track that has to make even the band members question "Union of the Snake," et al.
Courtesy Reuters/Hollywood Reporter