Duran Duran: Old new-wavers rock

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Duran Duran: Old new-wavers rock


April 15, 2005

Duran Duran's bid for respect is a quiet one, one that could easily float by unnoticed in the seductive swirl of '80s nostalgia and - once again - all the screaming females.

It's in the lush new-wave instrumental "Tiger Tiger" and the haunting, minimalist synth pop of "The Chauffeur," songs that survived the band's heyday two decades ago as well as any of the hits in its impressive two-hour reunion show. It's in the slowed-down, rocked-out version of "I Don't Want Your Love" and the fiery cover of Grandmaster Flash and Melle Mel's hip-hop classic "White Lines (Don't Do It)." It's even in the extended encore of "Girls on Film," in which guitarist Andy Taylor busts out the power chords of Free's "All Right Now" and bassist John Taylor riffs on Spencer Davis Group's "Gimme Some Lovin'."

Behind Duran Duran's flashy videos, its pin-up good looks and all that great hair lurked a great band with deceptively simple, yet ambitious, songs. Wednesday night, 21 years after the original band - singer Simon LeBon, keyboardist Nick Rhodes and the unrelated Taylors, guitarist Andy, bassist John and drummer Roger - last played Madison Square Garden, it was time for that secret to come out.

After all, the current new wave of new wavers, from buzz bands The Bravery and The Killers to retro rockers VHS or Beta, took more from Duran Duran than eyeliner tips and concepts for extravagant videos. LeBon and the boys deserve some credit for welding rock guitars and funky bass to synthesizer-based dance pop and wrapping it all up in a video-ready package.

Sure, the Duran faithful would be satisfied hearing "Hungry Like the Wolf" and "The Reflex" lovingly restored to their Reagan-era luster, which, for the most part, they were - complete with LeBon's hip-swiveling and John Taylor's running-in-place dance.

However, the band offered much more than that. The revved-up "Careless Memories," with Andy Taylor's roaring guitar riffs and LeBon's strong vocals, could be a hit on alternative rock radio today, and the accompanying stylish cartoon, starring the band as James Bondish crime fighters, could fit nicely on MTV and VH1 next to the new one from the Gorillaz. The sly "Notorious," which now includes a snippet of Sister Sledge's "We Are Family," is as funky as ever. And "Rio" still gloriously conjures up dances on the sand and giddy sing-alongs.

The band's reunion album "Astronaut" (Epic) doesn't match that energy, though the anthemic "(Reach Up for the) Sunrise" and the Prince-esque "Bedroom Toys" come close. By surrounding the new songs with upbeat favorites, Duran Duran managed to introduce its new material without completely losing the show's momentum.

The current success of new new-wavers is validation for those who championed the much-maligned futuristic sound back in the day. With its reunion tour, Duran Duran has exacted the best revenge. It hasn't simply survived, it is thriving once again.

DURAN DURAN. Reuniting for respect, as well as careless memories. With energetic, yet misguided, opener Juliet at Madison Square Garden, Wednesday.

Courtesy New York Newsday