Concert Review: Duran Duran at Verizon Wireless

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"We couldn't get on a plane for San Antonio. We couldn't get on a plane for Dallas. But we got on a plane for fucking Houston!"

And as Simon Le Bon delivered that poignant shoutout to our fair city last night, it became instantly clear that Duran Duran hadn't lost an ounce of that swagger and endearing churlishness that defined the band throughout the 1980s and early 1990s.

The members of Duran Duran took the stage like extremely well-dressed soliders, lining up precisely behind the drum kit, the keyboards, with their basses and guitars, all standing sharply at attention in anticipation of Le Bon's entrance. And when Le Bon calmly and salaciously strutted out in a three piece suit, every iota of charisma still intact after all these years, the screams from the fully-packed house at the Verizon Wireless Theater were deafening.

The band's affection for one another and for their craft was evident in every song, every little dance, every nuance. It was hard to tell who was having a better time last night: John Taylor, Nick Rhodes and Simon Le Bon, or the audience (which was surprisingly comprised of an even number of men and women, although the women definitely leaned towards the cougarrific side of the spectrum). John Taylor swaggered lithely up and down the stage, happily obliging photographers, while Roger Taylor and Nick Rhodes seemed to hum like tuning forks as they played with the kind of intensity rarely seen in bands that have been playing for as long as Duran Duran have. At several points in the show, Le Bon came to the edge of the stage and stretched his hands and fingers seductively towards the female audience members and then coyly pulled away, like a long, slow, teasing buildup to something much greater.

The band opened with a song from their brand new album, Red Carpet Massacre, "The Valley." The song was surprisingly energizing and had people on their feet well before the next two songs, "Planet Earth" and the much-loved "Hungry Like the Wolf." We could barely hear the band at certain points during "Hungry Like the Wolf" -- not because of the sound system, which is fantastic at Verizon -- but because the entire audience was singing along so loudly during the chorus.

Throughout the show, we marvelled at the way that Duran Duran held court on stage, in the way that only truly divalicious British rockers seem to be able to do, in the vein of Morrissey or the Gallagher brothers. And while one would expect one of the most successful New Wave bands to still look slick, sharp and oh-so-sexy, we were still starkly reminded of how that look -- the self-assured, cocky, consummate professionals in charge of their audience -- has fallen out of favor in recent years as petulant kids with too much eyeliner and bad haircuts mope, eyes closed and likely terrified to be on a stage in the fist place. Call us nostalgic, but we prefer our rock bands to look and act hot.

As Duran Duran romped through their catalogue of hits -- "Notorious," "Save a Prayer," "A View to a Kill," "The Chaffeur," "Come Undone," "Ordinary World" -- we couldn't help but reflect upon how integral the band was to the musical fabric of the 1980s. It's easy to dismiss them as just another New Wave band until you're listening to their incredible variety of hits, rattled off one by one -- and sounding every bit as glorious as they did in 1982 -- and you remember every single one of them as clearly as the first time you heard them on the radio.

The songs that Duran Duran played off their new album were received last night about as well as the album itself was received, with an interest level varying from lukewarm ("RCM") to hot ("Nite-Runner"). The audience -- and the band itself -- was fully in the zone, however, on songs like "Wild Boys" and "Reflex." "Come Undone," unlike the other classics they played last night, was slightly redone with a very well-received heavy guitar distortion and faster, harder beat. It sounded like a very finely crafted remix and had people on their feet from the second that initial, iconic guitar riff rang out.

A rousing, rocking double encore of the highly-charged "Girls on Film" and their ultimately defining hit, "Rio," closed out the show. And as we left, we couldn't help thinking to ourselves that while so many bands from the 1980s haven't aged well at all, the bloom is definitely not off Duran Duran's rose yet. No, they're still fully in bloom.

---courtesy Houstonist