Still Hungry Like the Wolf
At 30, Duran Duran Shows It's Far From Over the Hill
By Jen Chaney
Special to The Washington Post
Friday, May 23, 2008;
John Taylor has been playing the same bass lines with Duran Duran for three decades. So it's natural to ask: John, are there ever nights when you're not sure you can soldier through yet another performance of "Rio"?
"I haven't felt like that in a long time," he says during a phone call between gigs on Duran Duran's U.S. tour, which brings Taylor and his bandmates to Merriweather Post Pavilion on Tuesday. "We're feeling really good about who we are right now. And it's such a privilege just to go out and get to [perform] . . . I think you have to kind of surrender to what you are. I just try to play it better than I have ever played it before."
It may seem unfathomable, but Duran Duran -- the British pop group that rose to prominence in the 1980s by spearheading the music video revolution, concocting such hits as "The Reflex" and never leaving the editors of Tiger Beat magazine wanting for pinup options -- celebrates its 30th anniversary this year. (Yes, Gen Xers, we are officially old.)
While much of the tour's set list commemorates those "Girls on Film" glory days, the performances also draw heavily from the group's latest CD, "Red Carpet Massacre." Released in the fall and featuring collaborations with Justin Timberlake and mega-producer Timbaland, the album hasn't generated much buzz. Still, its late-night-lounge, funk-infused sound stands as proof that Duran Duran has no plans to go quietly into that '80s-retro night.
Teaming with younger artists seems central to the band's game plan. During a gig this month in Las Vegas, Brandon Flowers and Dave Keuning of the Killers joined the Wild Boys on stage to perform "Planet Earth." Next month, Grammy-winning producer Mark Ronson partners with the band in Paris for a show Taylor describes as a "monster mash" of Duran Duran tunes and Ronson's music.
"It's kind of like nothing we've ever done before," Taylor says.
What Duran Duran has done before is persevere through numerous upheavals, including the departure of original drummer Roger Taylor and lead guitarist Andy Taylor (none of the Taylors are related) in 1985; John Taylor's exit in 1996; and a much heralded reunion of the original members in 2003. The lineup remained intact until 2006, when Andy Taylor departed again after disagreements over the album "Reportage." The band ultimately scrapped that project, starting from scratch to craft "Massacre"; John Taylor says it's unlikely that "Reportage" will ever be released.
But all that is behind them, at least for now. These days, Taylor, a man whose image once wallpapered the bedrooms of preteen girls around the world, seems content with fame at a lower volume while making the most of every moment on stage.
"There is something fundamental about a live performance and the magic of the lights going down, whether you're playing to 100 people or 100,000 people," he says. "The principle of that entertainment has not changed. And it will never change. That, to me, is why I do this. Because that excites me."
Taylor (who turns 48 next month and, it must be said, is sexy enough to make the hearts of every 20- and 30-something woman in a concert hall flutter simultaneously) might be more than excited. As he talks about Duran Duran's responsibility to give the fans their money's worth at every show, his tone becomes more animated, almost urgent. When John Taylor is selling, buying is hard to resist.
"We need to have those people rolling out of that show saying, 'That was so much fun. We had such a good time,' " he says. "We can't afford for people to be coming out and saying, 'Eh, I don't know.' Because they just might not come again. So we've got to be giving our best game right now."
Duran Duran Appearing Tuesday with Your Vegas at Merriweather Post Pavilion, 10475 Little Patuxent Pkwy., Columbia. Tickets:$40-$125; available at 202-397-7328 or http://www.ticketmaster.com.
Courtesy Washington Post