On the comeback trail, Duran Duran to play at Wachovia

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On the comeback trail, Duran Duran to play at Wachovia
This time, the British pop stars are going for credibility
By JONATHAN TAKIFF
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THE RECENT surge in 1980s-influenced dance-rock groups has certainly given belated "props" to style originators Duran Duran - the British pop stars now on the comeback trail in original, "fab five" fighting form and playing the Wachovia Spectrum Saturday (Apr. 2).

But the group doesn't just want cool-by-association comparisons with contemporary groups like Franz Fredinand and The Killers. They want hip-appeal unto themselves.

"We're all trying to get something back that we never really had, a credibility that we never had," said Duran Duran bassist John Taylor in a call from Cleveland. "We were always criticized as this disposable pop thing. So when we go out on stage now, we're really attacking the music, digging into our musical chops, representing the older material [about four-fifths of the show] with dignity and taking pride in the technique we've mastered.

"There's not a song that I don't play - from 'Planet Earth' to 'Ordinary World' - that doesn't sound better today than it did 10 or 20 years ago. We're treating each show as the most important and potentially the last we'll ever do."

Five years in the planning and executing, including about nine months in the studio to make the new album, "Astronaut," Duran Duran's comeback with all original personnel on board has been quite the "wake-up call" for the musicians.

They were "shocked," said Taylor, how much the music business had changed, how out of touch they were made to feel. "We thought a comeback tour and new record deal was worth, oh, $50 million. When our new manager for 10 minutes Miles Copeland [of Sting and the Police fame] told us it would be 'more like ten million,' we foolishly dismissed him and are now regretting it."

Eventually the group signed a multidisc deal with the Sony imprint Epic, "but the truth is, it's just for one disc," which the group financed itself, "with options for more, if the first one succeeds," Taylor shared. "As our old manager once told me, 'A recording contract is made to be broken.' "

Originally, the group got together with the idea of doing a one-off tour. "But if you just go the reunion tour route, you start out at the L.A. Forum and end up in the House of Blues," said Taylor with an audible wince. "We've seen other bands do that. Nick [Rhodes, the group's keyboardist] said, 'No, we've got to do a new album, too, make it current. If we get that right, we're back for good.' "

So far, their familiarly frothy new music set has made some inroads in adult contemporary radio and with the core female audience that was 16 when the lads were big-hair poster boys, chart toppers and music-video pioneers with "Girls On Film," "Rio" and "Hungry Like the Wolf."

"Now they're in their mid-thirties, and many with families in tow, as we are," noted the L.A.-based, forty-something Taylor.

"At least our niche audience still buys discs," he added. "They're not your typical downloaders. But call us crazy, we want to expand beyond that base, want to bring this record to a lot more people. I'd like to hear us on alternative and Top 40 radio. If you're into the contemporary mix of angular beats, synths, rock guitar, dance pop and techno, you should be into us."

Duran Duran, 8 p.m. Saturday, Apr. 2, Wachovia Spectrum, Broad Street and Pattison Avenue, $95, $74.50, $59.50, $42.50, 215-336-2000, www.comcast-spectacor.com).

Courtesy Philadelphia News