It was 1984, and Duran Duran was performing in giant arenas in support of an album that would yield one of its biggest hits.
I was a 12-year-old “Duranie” — the nickname for devotees — whose mom said “no way” when I begged to go see the object of my obsession at the Oakland Coliseum, and over the years, I repeatedly missed Duran Duran shows.
That Duran Duran drought ended Saturday night at the Open Sky Theater in Valley Center, where four of the five original members — and two outstanding touring musicians and a backup singer — put on an energetic 105-minute show.
The bottom line? It was worth the wait.
Maybe it was the advantage of seeing them in a smaller venue — the sold-out crowd was estimated at 4,200 — the appreciation that comes with age, or the performance skills that singer Simon Le Bon, keyboardist Nick Rhodes, bassist John Taylor and drummer Roger Taylor have honed over 30 years and more than a dozen albums together.
Dom Brown has taken original guitarist Andy Taylor’s place for several years, and he fits in seamlessly.
After a highly praised performance in April at the Coachella festival, Duran Duran’s tour for the 2011 release “All You Need is Now” was postponed because Le Bon developed throat problems.
Time off and treatment have left Le Bon belting out the hits with no hint of vocal weakness.
Duran Duran gave the adoring crowd Saturday night several old favorites and, in a bold move, chose six numbers from its new CD for the 18-song show, leading off with the slower “Before the Rain.”
The mostly over-30 crowd was on its feet in no time for “Planet Earth.” Le Bon held out the microphone for the crowd, and John Taylor’s signature bass line on the classic hit was even better live.
Le Bon wasted little time turning on the charm and engaging the audience: “We play, you listen, and I’ll talk rubbish,” he joked, after asking about the “mountains” surrounding the remote Harrah’s Rincon venue.
Devoted fans responded throughout the show with shouts of “I love you, Simon!”
Le Bon took glee in telling stories before new songs like “Blame the Machines” (inspired by a wrong-way driver on Germany’s autobahn) and “Girl Panic!” (approaching an “amazing” woman in a bar). He used an extended “Notorious” to introduce his bandmates, including percussionist Chastity Ashley, saxophonist Simon Willescroft and backup singer Anna Ross.
The crowd’s enthusiasm grew song after song, whether it was new or an old favorite.
“The Reflex,” “Come Undone” and “Ordinary World” drew some of the loudest audience response.
And each song gave a musician a chance to shine whether it was Roger Taylor’s expanded drum introduction for “Hungry Like the Wolf” or Rhodes’ artful re-creation of the techy-orchestral notes on “All You Need is Now.”
Duran Duran gave something extra in every song. Fans who favor a sound that sticks closely to the recorded versions wouldn’t be disappointed, while there was plenty to appreciate for those who like a little creativity. And there’s nothing like hearing the “Rio” saxophone solo live.
Roger Taylor and Rhodes maintained a mostly serious — but not disinterested — front at the helm of their instruments, while John Taylor and Le Bon seemed genuinely thrilled. Le Bon’s face lit up as fans sang their hearts out during “Rio,” the final encore song.
When the band left the stage the first time at 10:45, the crowd began chanting “Rio.” Duran Duran quickly returned, first launching into “Wild Boys,” which had a fun, brief transition into the Frankie Goes to Hollywood hit “Relax.”
But “Rio” was a definite highlight. No one, even the band, it seemed, wanted the sunny song to stop. But it ensured the show ended on a happy note.
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