(Ethel Barrymore Theater; 1,100 capacity; $150 top) Opened Nov. 1, 2007. Reviewed Nov. 2. Closing Nov. 13.
Band: Simon LeBon, Nick Rhodes, John Taylor, Roger Taylor, Dominic Brown.
By DAVID SPRAGUE
Timing, it would seem, isn't really everything. If it were, there'd be no way a band two decades past its commercial peak could successfully stage a nine-night Broadway run to promote an album that won't hit stores until the last day of said stint. But having sold out its Barrymore run in advance, Duran Duran decided to press its luck even further -- sequencing the perf so that fans wouldn't hear a familiar note until after intermission.
And against the odds, the one-time New Romantic kingpins managed to pull the whole shebang off with relative ease, putting material from the yet-to-be-released "Red Carpet Massacre" across with visceral punch -- largely the product of rousing rhythms designed by collaborator Timbaland -- and nodding just enough to nostalgia.
The quintet, rounded out by replacement guitarist Dominic Brown, who split the difference between subtle assertiveness and eggshell-walking, performed the dozen songs from "Red Carpet Massacre" in order, opening with "The Valley," an atmospheric piece reminiscent of the band's earliest days.
Frontman Simon LeBon seemed to be most within his comfort zone when the mood turned pensive, faltering noticeably when trying to pump up the energy level on the musky "Falling Down." Bassist John Taylor -- the member who seems to have weathered the years most successfully -- stepped up when the songs aimed for the pelvis, however, upping the sensual tone on "Box Full o' Honey."
Following a brief intermission, the four original members took the stage for a bizarro-world take on the "unplugged" concept, settling in behind individual electronic consoles for a mini-set based on covers of futurist chestnuts like Kraftwerk's "Showroom Dummies." That was a cute conceit in theory, but the execution was so palpably tongue-in-cheek that it crossed the line into parody.
The band found its footing again during a surprisingly brief set of greatest hits highlighted by a sharply honed "Reflex." Repertoire choices aside -- it's doubtful that any Durannie in attendance would've put "I Take the Dice" on a list of 10 most wanted tunes -- the set confirmed the durability of the band's material and suggested that this time, the comeback may just take.