Concert Review: Duran Duran at Chastain

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Concert Review: Duran Duran at Chastain

By Sandy M. Tyler

Having once been a teenage girl in the 1980s, I have a long and storied history with Duran Duran. I plastered my bedroom walls with posters of the band, kept my Capezio jazz shoes sparkling white in their honor and got in trouble for watching too much MTV, obsessively looking for their videos. Friday night’s concert at Chastain was assurance that I was far from alone. Though not completely sold out, the stadium was nearly full of dancing, screaming Duranies, no longer in their teens, but just as enthusiastic.

For those of you under 30 and not in the know, Duran Duran is not merely an 80s nostalgia act, which is quite a feat for a group from the “New Wave” era who appeared on the covers of magazines like Tiger Beat and Bop in fancy suits and orange hair for much of the decade. And although it’s true that they were at the height of their popularity in the 80s, the band has released albums and had hit singles consistently enough over their 30-year career to give their core group of fans a great show. Know any other bands from the decade playing both Coachella and Madison Square Garden this year?

Always a band to experiment, Duran Duran has returned to their classic sound with All You Need is Now, produced by Mark Ronson whose credits included work with Amy Winehouse, Lilly Allen, Kaiser Chiefs and Adele. And with four of the original members on tour – John Taylor on bass, Nick Rhodes on keyboards, Roger Taylor on drums and beloved front-man Simon Le Bon – along with some talented back-up musicians and singer Anna Ross, the band sounds better than ever.

Before their performance, video screens on stage displayed their Twitter feed full of messages from rabid local fans. Opening with Before the Rain from All You Need is Now, Duran Duran quickly transitioned to the classics Planet Earth and A View to a Kill. This is a band that knows their audience well and can get even a more straight-laced Chastain crowd out of their seats with the right mix of old and new.

A major highlight was the band’s performance of The Reflex. Say what you will about the nonsensical lyrics, this has always been a fan favorite, and the crowd went wild. My friend Halle, who scored our tickets to Friday’s show, put it best, “I feel like a kid again! A kid with beer!” Seriously, I’d like a show of hands. How many of you bought all of the remixes of this song in the 1980s? I had all versions on vinyl and cassette.

This was followed by a pairing of new songs The Man Who Stole a Leopard and Girl Panic!, tunes that definitely bring to mind Duran Duran’s 80s sound and “we’re starring in a James Bond movie” attitude. The addition of percussionist Chastity Ashley added a lot of punch to the band’s live sound, but on classics like Hungry Like the Wolf, when you think she’d be most needed, she was absent from the stage. Playing to their base, Duran Duran knows that sometimes it’s all about a Nick Rhodes sample as it should be.

The band’s main set ended with Reach Up for The Sunrise from 2004’s Astronaut, perfectly setting the stage for a classic encore set of Wild Boys, mashed-up with Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s Relax, and culminating with a classic performance of Rio. Though the band did take liberties with some of their most popular songs throughout their set, Rio was performed with no variations from the original recording, just as their audience wanted it.

And that’s one of the many reasons why Duran Duran is still so successful 30 years on. If you take the screaming teenagers who made you rich and famous from the beginning seriously, chances are they’ll still be around to support you so many years later, when you’re all older, wiser and with much cooler shoes.