Duran Duran’s New Songs Stand Up

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Ah, the eternal struggle: Bands who stubbornly fight to maintain relevance by focusing on their new material live, and equally stubborn fans who just want to hear the hits. I can't think of a band who must face this quandary more often than new wave princes Duran Duran, who probably haven't been called "relevant" in over 20 years.

Thirty years into their career, the pop icons must surely know their ubiquitous singles are all people want to hear. It's a combination of those songs' enduring quality and their nostalgic value that sold out the Phoenix (a basement by Duran Duran's standards) instantly. Yet, here they were, flogging their new album, All You Need Is Now, as if they forgot about the laundry list of gigantic hits they had under their Versace belts.

In fact, you got the impression the Fab Five (minus original guitarist Andy Taylor) wanted to get those tracks out of the way, opening with "Planet Earth" and "Hungry Like The Wolf."

I found myself wondering how any band could possibly follow up two absolute bangers that still get dance floors in an uproar almost three decades on. Duran Duran's method was to play songs off an album the majority of the crowd probably weren't even aware existed. Astonishingly, it worked pretty well.

Surprisingly, the best cuts off All You Need Is Now stand up remarkably well to the rest of their repertoire. While a return to the new romantic synth-funk of their first three records may seem like a horrendously out of touch idea on paper, the results are more than up to the test in a live environment. At the very least, the new material is leagues ahead of 2004's Astronaut and 2007's maligned stab at a late-career renaissance, the Timberlake- and- Timbaland-assisted Red Carpet Massacre.

I was going to start this review by joking about how much money the babysitting industry must have raked in on Monday evening, judging by all the grey hairs and bald spots visible when the house lights came up.

In all fairness, though, the middle-aged audience seemed to be having a great time throughout the evening. Both the band and their fans looked genuinely happy to see each other, which was especially refreshing compared to the cold-eyed stares exchanged by performers and their audiences at many Toronto gig.

The Birmingham, England boys themselves were spectacular. A bearded, brunette Simon Le Bon was hitting notes no one would expect him to hit at this point. The frontman owned the Phoenix's small stage, and his charismatic demeanor was set for arena-level magnetism. True, they did seem somewhat cramped on the comparatively tiny stage, but songs like "The Reflex" and "Ordinary World" made you feel like you were in a stadium.

Duran Duran certainly made a case for their own relevance in 2011, bravely foregoing a hit parade in favour of their paradoxically solid new material. If the smaller venues on this tour are making them remember how to be a real band and not just arena rock dinosaurs, it might be a good idea for them to ditch the stadiums altogether.

Courtesy Chart Attack