Duran Duran: From excesses to restraint

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Duran Duran: From excesses to restraint
By Dan Nailen
The Salt Lake Tribune
Salt Lake Tribune

During its first rush of success in the early '80s, Duran Duran came to represent all the excesses associated with pop music of that era.

Over-produced, synthesizer-heavy tunes filled the band's albums, ridiculous wardrobe choices and incoherent plotlines filled their videos and supermodels and drugs filled the members' dressing rooms.

The band's first tour featuring all five original members since those halcyon days stopped at the Delta Center on Saturday, and the show may be most memorable for its relative restraint. Duran Duran performed on a simple circular stage backed by a few video screens, and the members took the stage in sleek black suits and ties, no sci-fi bondage gear or mullet extensions in sight.

Musically, though, the band did not hold back, delivering 22 songs spanning its career that showcased not only the memorable hits of the early years, but also how vibrant the songs on the band's new "Astronaut" album are in comparison to the golden oldies.

The five songs delivered from "Astronaut" were among the best of the night, even though the crowd clearly was not as familiar with them.

The show-opening "(Reach Up For The) Sunrise" came across with far more muscle than on the album, perhaps because keyboardist Nick Rhodes' sounds were being overwhelmed by John Taylor's bass throb and Andy Taylor's guitar riffs. The title song of the album worked well, but the real winners from the new material were the one-two, mid-show punch of "Chains" and "What Happens Tomorrow," which singer Simon LeBon launched with a falsetto croon that belied his reputation as being more showman than crooner.

Of course, thousands of people bought tickets because of the older tunes, and the chance to see the original Duran Duran line up together in Utah for the first time. Those fans did not leave disappointed, thanks to a two-hour show that managed to fit in nearly every hit in the band's canon.

"Hungry Like the Wolf" and "Union of the Snake" both came early in the set and were met with raucous applause. "Come Undone" featured a solid arrangement and the stellar backing vocals of Anna Ross, who remained on stage to provide harmonies for LeBon most of the night.

"Planet Earth" was a welcome selection from the band's 1981 debut album, but LeBon's voice was lost in the mix for most of the song.

A three-song run of ballads later on - "The Chauffeur," "Ordinary World" and "Save a Prayer" -got the lighters waving but risked killing the show's momentum before the band wisely kicked up the energy for the show's end. The new song "Nice" eased perfectly into an extended workout of the Chic-influenced "Notorious," and "The Reflex" elicited squeals from the crowd despite the band's clunky misfiring at times on that tune.

The show ended in a rush of hard rock licks, mostly courtesy of Andy Taylor's guitar, and heavy dance grooves, with the band tearing through "Careless Memories" and "Wild Boys" to end the show, then returning for an encore of the hip-hop classic "White Lines," "Girls on Film" and "Rio."

Courtesy Salt Lake Tribune