Duran Duran returns to the stage

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Duran Duran returns to the stage, minus one member but ready to rock

By Donna Isbell Walker

When Duran Duran hit the scene in the early 1980s, the band's impact was as much visual as audio.

The then-new MTV network put out the welcome mat for the five photogenic Brits, whose slick and stylish music videos helped define the look of the era. The handsome young men cavorted through exotic locales in Rio and Hungry Like the Wolf, fashionably dressed, perfectly tousled and sporting cheekbones that could slice a tomato.

Twenty years later, Duran Duran bassist John Taylor acknowledges that aesthetics played a big part in the band's success.

"It's easier if you're cute. It is, but that's only gonna get you so far," Taylor said recently, chatting over the phone from New Orleans. "It was important, just like (it is for) anybody who's in the charts today. I remember when Duran were really hitting it, and everybody was saying, 'It's just because of the way they look.' It's like, 'Hello, what (bleeping) business are we in' And everybody else in the charts, it doesn't have something to do with the way they look? I don't see too many Elephant Men in the top 20."

Duran Duran spent much of the 80s in the upper reaches of the music charts, but the departures of three original members splintered the band in the early 90s. Five years ago, they reunited, putting out an album called Astronaut in 2004.

But when Duran Duran comes to town Thursday, one of the original five will be missing; longtime guitarist Andy Taylor left the band last week. The statement on the band's Web site called the problems between Andy Taylor and his bandmates 'an unworkable gulf,' but John Taylor said it was a matter of irreconcilable differences.

"We've not been on the same page for some time," he said. "Since the reunion, there have been several occasions when Andy had not been able to play, and we'd had to bring in a second man. ... I think we were just pulling in different ways, and the way we were all choosing to spend our energies was different."

Guitarist Dominic Brown, who has subbed for the departing Taylor in the past, will fill in for the remainder of the tour.
The decision was difficult, but less painful by the time it was finalized, the remaining Taylor said, likening it to the divorce process.

"By the time you actually get the divorce papers, it's all done. You're all worn out; the emotions were spent on this issue 12 months ago. ... When you can come to that point, where you can actually make that decision, you're past the crying point. It's all about logic and reason."

The band is working on a new album, its first since Astronaut. The disc will have a slightly different flavor than classic Duran Duran, thanks to a couple of young collaborators, singer Justin Timberlake and hip-hop producer Timbaland, but Taylor said he doesn't know exactly how the final product will sound.

It makes for an interesting balancing act, updating a classic sound while staying true to the band?s core self, Taylor said.

"You have to hold on to who you are," he said. "You adjust to fashion but you have to remain true to something, something that you were before you started. ... It's just one of those dances that you have to do when you're an artist and you want to be relevant in more than one moment."

Fans come out to Duran Duran's shows to relive all kinds of musical moments, and much of the audience consists of loyal fans who made songs like Hungry Like the Wolf and The Reflex the soundtrack of their teen years.

They're "crazily enthusiastic," Taylor said.

The fans, many of them now in their early 40s, are "getting back on the ride with us," he said. "It's like the Magic Bus. It's like a lot of people who had a great time with the band in their teens and then just let it go. And now they're hooked again. ... I guess everybody's gotta have a hobby."

Courtesy Greenville News