Duran Duran flashes substance

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Duran Duran flashes substance
By GREG HAYMES, Staff writer

ALBANY -- During Duran Duran's early-1980s heyday, they were on top of the pop world. A bunch of good-looking guys leading the new romantic movement into the pop
mainstream with a succession of high-fashion music videos that helped make MTV the power that it was. The band redefined rock stars for a new generation. The young girls loved them, although most critics offhandedly dismissed the band as a textbook case of style over substance.

But judging by the exciting, upbeat concert that Duran Duran delivered at the Palace Theatre on Monday evening, I'd have to say that the critics -- myself included -- got it wrong.

On Monday, singer Simon Le Bon uncorked "Hungry Like the Wolf" to open the show, and the band kept charging forward for the next hour and a half. The hits kept coming -- the slinky dance-floor funk of "Union of the Snake," the pensive drone of "Come Undone," the sweeping ballad "Ordinary World" -- and there was nary a weak link. The songs had staying power, and it wasn't merely the power of nostalgia, although there was plenty of that in the air, too.

No, the songs are full of catchy pop hooks, driven with a thumping dance beat or arena-rock power chords. While Roger Taylor certainly isn't a particularly flashy or fancy drummer, he packed a mean wallop on the rave-like "(Reach Up for the) Sunrise" and "The Reflex." Bassist John Taylor fueled the funk on nuggets like the Power Station's "Some Like It Hot" and the churning disco of "Notorious." Looking particularly cool and collected, keyboardist Nick Rhodes added plenty of spice to the proceedings, especially during "Hold Back the Rain" and the sprawling "A View to a Kill."

New guitarist Dom Brown acquitted himself nicely, too, considering that he just took over the guitar slot in the band two weeks ago when original guitarist Andy Taylor and the band unceremoniously parted ways. He packed plenty of arena-rock wallop on "Wild Boys" and aced the Chic-like dance rhythms on the "Serious/Nice" medley.

But of course it was frontman Le Bon who drew the loudest cheers, and rightfully so. He still possesses a winning, boyish grin and his voice was in great shape all night long, even during the falsetto sections of "What Happens Tomorrow."

Sure, there were a few missteps along the way. They probably didn't need to tack a lackluster rendition of Sly and the Family Stone's "I Wanna Take You Higher" onto the end of "Notorious." And the saxophonist sideman blew a little too long during the final encore of "Rio." But those are relatively minor quibbles.

There's more music in those old Duran Duran records than you might think. And the band can still play them with a enough genuine urgency that they haven't fallen into the only-in-it-for-the-money syndrome just yet.

And while I certainly don't long to relive the '80s, I've got to admit that it was a real kick to hear those pinging synth-drums once again on "Hungry Like the Wolf."

Courtesy Albany Times Union