Last Night: Duran Duran at the Fillmore
By Jennifer Maerz in Last NightWednesday, Jul. 8 2009 @ 9:46AM
San Francisco Weekly
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
Better than: Watching Michael Jackson's memorial service on your laptop.
Last night, the Fillmore felt like a giant bachelorette party that just happened to have some dudes at it.
Women in their 30s and 40s were pressed in toward the stage in packs of four and five, passing the time before Duran Duran stood before them by clinking together plastic cocktail cups, taking photos of their entourages, singing along to the piped-in Cars and Power Station songs, and adjusting their tight, sparkly outfits -- for those who had arrived in tight, sparkly outfits. The ladies' night vibe was so strong -- and so verbal, the whoops rising every couple minutes regardless of whether John Taylor was remotely in view -- that the men who did brave their way toward the front probably started their periods just by being there.
The females owned the room. They were ready to party like it was 1985. And really, I can't remember a show where the crowd was this visibly, verbally, and avidly enthusiastic from the minute they entered the room until the last Duran Duran poster was handed out at the door (at which point the ladies started cursing the security guards). But then again, I've never been to a Jonas Brothers concert.
Around 9:30 p.m., the big cheers from the crowd became giant cheers, as Nick, Roger, John, some new dude who is not Andy and looks like Steve Zahn, and yes, Simon, strutted into the colored spotlights and began what would become a two-hour (to the nose) set. No opening act. These '80s pop idols wanted every penny of those $75 tickets, and really, the room was sold out on their behalf anyway.
The band knew its fans were partying on nostalgia's dime, and they kicked things off with a return to the Reagan era, pulling out one of my personal Duran Duran favorites, "Hold Back the Rain," early on in the set. And even though Simon Le Bon had to run back and take a swig of water in the middle of that one, overall the original members of this '80s pinup band looked fairly fit. Or at least John Taylor did, his receding hairline one of the few indicators that he'd aged beyond his 30s. Nick Rhodes was a tad puffy under all the stage makeup (still with all the stage makeup, he's ever the biggest Duranie dandy) and Le Bon has grown chipmunk cheeks, but his voice was early-days-of-MTV perfect, and that's what really counted.
By the third song, it was eat your veggies time, and the group threw in one of its bad recent comeback attempts -- "Nite Runner," which was recorded with Justin Timberlake -- before jumping back into the hit parade. "Notorious" and "I Don't Want Your Love" set the timer back to the late-'80s before Simon and co. pulled out the total crowd pleaser. "Save a Prayer" became a full Fillmore singalong, the space over our heads jammed with camera phones held aloft as men and women joined in on the romance ballad: "Some people call it a one-night stand but we can call it paradise."
Yeah, that last line is terribly cheesy, but it just worked -- and the same could be said for Duran Duran's banter between songs. Whether Simon was asking everyone to "throw their hands in the air" or telling them he wanted them to feel "marvelous inside," his worst cliches got the best responses. He hammed things up to hyperbolic extremes without irony, attempting to be suggestive ("We've got something to make you wet yourself -- if you're not wet already. I know I am.") only to have the song that followed be relatively unsexy ("Election Day"? Do long, rock song sax solos make women wet?).
Even with "Rio" on the setlist, the concert suffered a sag midway through, bogged down by too many cornball ballads, shifting tempos, and cloying covers ("White Lines" and "Le Freak"). Not that the crowd showed much loss of momentum -- the fans seemed to know the words to everything, even the DD techno tunes.
The group pulled it back together for the encore, Simon returning to the stage in a white tux jacket and black tie for "View to a Kill" from the James Bond soundtrack; the stage lights flashing white for "Girls on Film"; and "Planet Earth" sounding a little slower than it should've been, but a great song nonetheless.
Things ended then as they began, with Simon being a total cornball ("This is one of the best places in the world to play -- and it ain't the room, it's you guys!") and the ladies, so many ladies, yelling out their enthusiasm in kind.
Personal bias: I grew up a Duran Duran fan, a fickle lover of both John Taylor and Simon Le Bon (I even saw Laser Rio with my dad when I was a kid). My best friend Monica, however, was a bigger Duran Duran fan and a steadfast Nick Rhodes girl: Her bedroom was wallpapered floor to ceiling in Bop magazine cutouts of the keyboardist. From Monica I will never forget that Nick's favorite color was once pink, his favorite food strawberries, and his favorite animal the flamingo.