Duran Duran Aimed To Please

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Pop Rocks: Duran Duran Aimed To Please

Arts & Entertainment Editor/ETW
Published on 4/5/2005

Duran Duran is a band, darn it, and a good one at that — not merely a pretty, polished product of the video age.

That seemed to be what the group was out to prove at its sold-out concert Sunday night at Mohegan Sun Arena. Prove it, they did, with a sharp, stripped-down show that — dare anyone admit it? — rocked.

This Duran Duran line-up brings back together, for the first time in a decade, the group's original, hit-making line-up: singer Simon LeBon, keyboardist Nick Rhodes, bassist John Taylor, guitarist Andy Taylor and drummer Roger Taylor.

They were the only performers onstage, except for the occasional back-up singer and saxophonist. No glam outfits here; the guys were dressed with understated elan, most of them in dark, stylish suits.

Duran Duran broke onto the U.S. scene in the 1980s, just as MTV was becoming a phenomenon, and they became famed as much for their then-cutting-edge videos as for their pop/New-Wave music. What was so interesting was how little flash and visuals had to do with Sunday's show. Sure, some of that might be budget-related, but much of it seemed a conscious choice. The five vertical panels of movie screens behind the stage almost never showed the band members themselves or any elaborate videos. Instead, the screens were either dark or were lit up with often abstract concoctions. What looked like a snowstorm of fireflies accompanied “Save a Prayer,” and a close-up of a revolving disco ball spun to “Notorious.”

One-third of Sunday's concert was devoted to songs from “Astronaut,” which Duran Duran released last fall. While that CD drew glowing reviews, it didn't sell particularly well. Truth be told, that underappreciated CD pops with dance-club rave-ups. In concert, new songs like “Sunrise” and “Nice” melded seamlessly with hits from Duran Duran's heyday.

LeBon sounded in fine voice, even managing to hit those gut-straining high notes on “A View to a Kill.” As for stage movement, he didn't dance as much as he walked with a saucy strut.

Andy Taylor, with his dark glasses, omnipresent cigarette, loose-limbed movements and roiling guitar work, practically channeled Keith Richards. John Taylor was focused and fantastic on the bass. Roger Taylor thumped out plenty of driving beats on the drums, serving up a particularly irresistible, funky groove on “I Don't Want Your Love.” Nick Rhodes was typically subdued behind the keyboard, but his musical riffs were impassioned.

As for low points, the absolute lowest happened when LeBon came out in a black suit and what appeared to be a policeman's hat. It looked as if he were trying out for the road company of “The Full Monty,” but he was really just there to sing the atrocious “Chauffeur.” How bad was this moody mess? LeBon played the pan flute in it.

Duran Duran wisely followed up that with “A View to a Kill,” which, along with “Notorious,” provided the most fiery performances of the night.

LeBon spoke a little between songs — although something about the amplification or how he was speaking into the mike made him sound like a British version of Charlie Brown's schoolteacher — and he introduced the band members during the encore. Tragically, LeBon decided to wander into the audience to have a female fan introduce him. She didn't understand what she was supposed to do, so LeBon had to whisper to her suggested lines. It was hardly worth trundling through the crowd for that.

The audience — heavily populated, as you would expect, with women in their 40s and 50s — was hugely enthusiastic, and Duran Duran reveled in the adulation. After the encore, LeBon stood, with arms stretched to the side, soaking in the shrieks and cheers as if he had been waiting for them ever since the late 1980s. Which he just might have been.

Near the end of the concert, John Taylor said to the crowd, “We didn't know what to expect from this place, but ... ” and he uttered an expletive, which somehow everyone knew he meant as a compliment. You're welcome, John.

Courtesy The Day