Duran Duran is back and keeping its fans satisfied
By Joshua Klein
Special to the Tribune
March 19 2005, 4:00 AM CST
With "Astronaut," their 12th album and the first featuring the band's original lineup in more than 20 years, Duran Duran pulled off the ultimate reunion coup: the disc's about as good as any of the new wave act's previous albums.
The catch, of course, is that even the so-called classic albums in the group's catalog now sound like little more than a few sharp singles supported by forgettable filler. But, boy, how about those singles? The likes of "Rio" would have made even the most mediocre of acts a revered one-hit wonder, and Duran Duran had a dozen more where that one came from.
Anyone who hoped to finally fulfill their fantasy of catching the original, slightly fleshier but still remarkably well preserved Duran Duran lineup at the Allstate Arena on Friday will have to wait until next time. Guitarist Andy Taylor recently left the band to be with an ailing family member, and while he plans on returning, he's been temporarily replaced by Dominic Brown.
Not that it mattered much. Unlike the band's intimate 25th anniversary club tour, which laid bare every wrinkle, vocal crack and not very pin-up friendly paunch, this leg of Duran Duran's American tour comprised broad strokes aimed for the cheap seats (not all of which were filled, though the heavily female crowd made up in enthusiasm what it may have lacked in mass).
Thinking big benefited the band, too, which sounded as confident as ever. Even the new songs from "Astronaut," like the rousing opener "[Reach Up for the] Sunshine" or the likable "What Happens Tomorrow," went over well, perhaps because the band played them knowing they could always dip into their coffer of hits should the audience revolt.
What hampered the show was more a matter of pacing than material. After an energized start, with impeccably tailored singer Simon LeBon vamping it up as he glided through the ridiculous yet ridiculously catchy "Hungry Like the Wolf" and "Union of the Snake," the set bogged down with ballads like "Come Undone" and indulgences like "Chauffeur."
Even "Save a Prayer," one of the group's few slow numbers on par with its dance hits, couldn't quite resuscitate the evening's sagging middle third.
Fortunately, all it took was a jolt of "Notorious" and the disco gem "Planet Earth" to snap the band out of its funk-free funk, and if the group itself seemed to be fading ever so slightly (with the exception of indefatigable bassist John Taylor, he of the eerily Dorian Grey good looks and tight leather trousers), its fans grew more excited knowing that "Girls on Film" and "Rio" weren't far away.
And as Duran Duran returned to the stage for an encore, these proud purveyors of high-quality piffle did not let them down.
Courtesy The Chicago Tribune