Duran Duran - Live at the O2 Arena, London
The O2 Arena, London
For a band who named themselves after the baddie in a soft-porn sci-fi movie, Duran Duran haven’t done badly. With 13 studio albums and 39 singles under their slightly widening belts, they’ve sold over 100 million records, helped to create synthpop and invaded America at least once - and they show no sign of stopping now. Or of giving up on glitter-encrusted trousers. Over the years Duran Duran have changed band members more frequently than the prostitute and her proverbial knickers, but they’re back now with the near-classic line up of Le Bon, Nick Rhodes, John Taylor and Roger Taylor (Andy Taylor left for good in 2006).
From our vertiginous perch at the top of the O2 Arena, all that can be said of Duran Duran visually is that they’re down there somewhere. Probably in a different time zone. Lucky, then, that there’s considerable life in the old dogs yet, and ant-sized Simon Le Bon manages the Herculean task of engaging an audience the size of Bristol. They kick off with ‘Before the Rain’ from new album ‘All You Need is Now’, a theatrical piece that wouldn’t sound out of place in Les Miserables. This is just an amuse bouche to the main course, however, and as the synth beats of ‘Planet Earth’ reverberate around the arena, the crowd lumbers to its feet and starts air-punching like the last 20 years never happened. This is followed by ‘View to a Kill’, with appropriate, Bond-themed images gracing the back screens, although oddly, someone has opted not to use the football pitch-sized screens flanking the stage.
In the midst of decade-defining, heavy-weight pop anthems like ‘Notorious’ and ‘The Reflex’, the new material stands up pretty well, possibly because it’s not all that different – Duran Duran have found a formula that’s worked for 30 years, why change it now? The excellent ‘Blame the Machines’ is particularly nostalgic and wouldn’t be out of place on that first, eponymous album, nestled between ‘Is There Something I Should Know’ and ‘The Night Boat’. Equally consistent is Le Bon’s voice, which is as clear as the days when he wore pirate gear and girls thought it was cool.
After waiting for this gig for 7 months (the May shows were cancelled due to ‘vocal problems’ ) you’d expect something a bit extra. This is wheeled on in the form of Mark Ronson, producer of ‘All You Need is Now’ and a man who’s turned guest-starring into a profession. He contributes some rhythm guitar and contemporary celeb appeal to ‘Girl Panic’, basically a latter-day ‘Girls on Film’.
Packed together like this, it’s striking how many hits Duran Duran have had, and how seriously they influenced the musical landscape of the 80’s. They manage to include most of the classics, including a heart-felt rendition of ‘Ordinary World’ (dedicated to “friends who have passed on”) although there’s a couple of disappointing omissions like ‘Girls on Film’, ‘Save a Prayer’ and even ‘Electric Barbarella’ for the really devoted. It’s clear that those sceptics who labelled them as fly by night ‘pretty boys’ were dead wrong. If longevity is the true mark of success, who’s laughing now?
Words by Theresa Heath
Photo by Stephanie Pistel