Duran Duran thrills fans at Mountain Winery concert

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Duran Duran thrills fans at Mountain Winery concert

By John Orr
Daily News Arts and Entertainment Editor

Forget living fast, dying young and leaving a beautiful corpse; the British rock band Duran Duran apparently has it in mind to live well, die at advanced ages and leave highly presentable corpses.

The people who brought us "Rio" and "Hungry Like a Wolf" performed at sold-out shows Tuesday at the Fillmore in San Francisco and Wednesday at the Mountain Winery in Saratoga, and they looked great, despite having been out there as pop stars for three decades.

More importantly, they sounded great, performing what used to be called new romantic music, then new wave, then alternative music, but is really just funky dance music that has made millions of people shake what nature and surgery gave them in clubs worldwide since the band's emergence in the late 1970s.

Duran Duran has gone through various personnel shifts in the last 30 years, but the group touring now (and shopping around what will be its 13th album) has four of the original members: Simon Le Bon out front, John Taylor on bass, Roger Taylor on drums and Nick Rhodes on keyboards. The new guys, not full members, are guitarist Dom Brown and saxophonist Simon Willescroft. (A female vocalist was also on hand, but her name wasn't available by press time.)

The band is one of those groups that actually sound better live than they do on the albums. Part of it, of course, is that it's very hard to recreate through a home stereo system what John Taylor's bass lines feel like when they drive into your abdomen with all the force he can generate through his tall stack of Peavy bass cabinets.

And part of it is just the excitement of seeing all these guys really working to play the music, which is very precise, very well rehearsed. They are very good musicians, and good showmen.

Le Bon brings — in addition to a terrific singing voice, despite an apparent cold on Wednesday — that wonderful combination of haughtiness and apparent depravity that can really only be achieved by the British and the Germans. Sure, Prince tries for it, but he's obviously having too much fun. Le Bon is above all that.

On Wednesday he danced to the edge of the stage and stretched out his (probably cold-germs encrusted) fingers to women desperately reaching for him, women who would be all too happy to share a cold virus with the subject of their fantasies, but at the last second pulled his hand away in an ongoing sexual tease that just raised the level of screaming to new highs. That haughty look was the only gift he gave them.

Duran Duran opened with "Wild Boys" from 1984, then went back to "Hold Back the Rain" from the 1982 album "Rio." Their set also included "Nite Runner," "Notorious," "I Don't Want Your Love," "Save A Prayer," "Red Carpet Massacre," "Election Day," "Come Undone," "White Lines," "Ordinary World," "Skin Trade" and "Rio."

For encores, Le Bon came back out to the stage at the Mountain Winery wearing a white dinner jacket with bow tie and tuxedo slacks to sing the title song Duran Duran performed for the 1985 James Bond movie "A View to a Kill." The encore medley also included "Planet Earth" and "Girls on Film." Tuesday at the Fillmore the band also performed "Hungry Like a Wolf," but not at the Mountain Winery.

For you pop historians out there, "Girls on Film" was one of the first rock videos, back in 1981. It was created to be played in European dance clubs, was banned by the BBC and heavily edited to be allowed on MTV. The original is available on YouTube, of course.

Duran Duran started strong on Wednesday and just got better as their two-hour set continued. Brown's guitar and the Taylors (not related) on drums and bass made for a powerful funky rhythm section that kept the beautful Mountain Winery echoing with dance beats. Brown and sax player Willescroft only each took a few solos — mostly the evening was about dancing, and hopeful teen girls rushing toward the stage in hopes of getting closer to these dapper, middle-age men.

Courtesy Mercury News