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By Tals Diaz/Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—“Let fear not rule our lives … I believe we are the generation that will make that change.”

No, that wasn’t a campaign speech of a presidential candidate. Those were the inspirational words of Duran Duran vocalist Simon Le Bon in between ballads at last week’s concert. Quite a departure from the same singer’s cryptic refrain 20 years ago, when he warned the masses, albeit in perfect rhythm, that “the Union of the Snake is on the climb.” Back then, I had no clue as to what the heck that meant, and neither did I figure out why “the Reflex is in charge of finding treasure in the dark.” Then again, in the ’80s, lyrical logic was of little importance to me, considering I was only 8 years old. I adored Simon Le Bon just as much as I adored Garfield. (My brother and I even shared a private, wholly original joke: “What is Garfield’s favorite Duran Duran song?” “Save a Prayer for Me-Oww!” We should’ve realized early on that comedy was not our career path.)

My Duran fascination was actually a trickle down effect of my older hormonal teenage cousin who first made me listen to the “Seven & the Ragged Tiger” album and watch all these videos with hairsprayed guys on yachts. I was hooked.

Duran Duran, along with Tears for Fears, Depeche Mode, Spandau Ballet, Pet Shop Boys, The Cure, Culture Club and … uhm … Bananarama composed the personal soundtrack of my growing up years. Now there’s an obvious clue to my early discipleship to the gods of radio and MTV. I didn’t care a whiff whether I was listening to “New Wave” or “Pop/Rock,” I adhered to the simple hedonistic principle that equated listening pleasure and guys in eyeliner with the good.

View to a thrill

Who would have thought that two decades later, lucky clover that I am, I’d be watching my idols from a past lifetime up close? There they were, Simon, John, Roger and Nick (minus Andy), still sounding as awesome as I remembered them. Their music was a compass that navigated me back across the sea of time to my wide-eared wonder years. Sure, time had etched lines on their faces and padded their waistlines, but they. Were. Still. Unbelievably. Hot!

Sigh. Duran Gurang. I believe I shed a tear when they sang “Ordinary World.” I think I also almost grabbed the dancing lolo in front of me during “Save a Prayer.”

A quick skim at the audience composition that night and it was obvious that the fans spanned the generations, which made sense since the 20- and 30-something set back in the ’80s are in their 40s and 50s today. At first I found it a tad strange that the people around me would only stand and dance if they recognized the classic songs, and would immediately take their seats during the unfamiliar tunes from the band’s newest album. I then realized that it was not out of discourtesy—more like concern for their weak knees. The unknown new songs also signaled a mad banyo rush for the older guys who could not hold their bladders as well as they used to.

As for my own generation—the budding hipster tots who grew up in a time when shoulder pads and leg warmers ruled planet Earth—yep, they were there too. Excited and vibrant, though notably a bit sheepish in hungry wolf’s clothing.

Simon Le Bon, rocking a necktie which he loosened towards the end, may not have pirouetted as much anymore, but I still got a kick out of his ’80s dance moves that would’ve been cheesy had it been executed by any other artist. The band delivered a generous sampling of cuts from their latest “Red Carpet Massacre,” which is a collaboration with Timbaland and Justin Timberlake. “Skin Divers,” “Nite Runner” and “Falling Down” are really good songs, and though you could discern Timbaland’s influence, I think there is still very much a palpable Duran overtone.

When the band finished with “Wild Boys” and disappeared from the stage, the crowd successfully and thunderously wooed them back for an encore. To this, John Taylor commented so effing coolly on the microphone, “You guys really know how to make noise! We should come back more often.” Banshee-like screams all around.

You can bet my friends and I were singing Duran songs ’til the morning after.

The music between us

So if a band that hit their peak in the 1980s could still instigate that euphoric effect on their fans all over the world today, and have more than a hundred thousand Internet pages devoted to them, does that mean that they are saved from the purgatory of pretty boy has-beendom?

In a recent Reuters interview, drummer Roger Taylor shared, “Sometimes the music press try to write us out of music history a little bit, so it’s been really cool that bands have actually said we were a good band … and they want to be a little bit like us and take something from Duran Duran.” The Killers and Arctic Monkeys are just two of those bands he was referring to. It is undeniable that Duran Duran still has an impact on today’s popular culture.

Taylor reportedly mentioned that the band rarely talks about those “early days” or even listens to that music anymore, believing it important to keep looking forward. Perhaps that’s what they meant when they sang “only change will bring you out of the darkness … feel the new day enter your life.”

Maybe it’s us fans who are the ones stuck in an era. We just can’t help it.

Courtesy Philippine Daily Inquirer

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