Not quite Shameless Nostalgia at Duran Duran

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Not quite shameless nostalgia at Duran Duran

By Bernard Perusse, Gazette Music Columnist October 24, 2011

MONTREAL - It could have been an exercise in shameless nostalgia, an excuse for fortysomethings to leap out of their seat and sing Hungry Like the Wolf at the top of their lungs one more time.

But it wasn’t.

Not quite, anyway.

The concert was hardly an event, given that Duran Duran were here only six months ago at Le National to play a set that was fairly similar to the one they delivered Sunday night at the Bell Centre to just under 5,800 fans. If there was something really new in the mix, it was that more people had a chance to see their heroes than the fortunate few that got into the small Le National in April.

Duran Duran’s music is not songwriter’s-hall-of-fame material. Planet Earth, A View to a Kill, Wild Boys, Rio and the like clearly still excite a fan base for whom such songs are the soundtrack of their youth, but they are very much of their time. Synth beds and snapping robotic drum sounds made the band – now in its 34th year – sound like a period piece at times.

As most of the group members decisively enter their 50s, their position in rock history seems unclear. Once dubbed the prettiest boys in rock, they now have to rely on something more than their looks. And moving into the current time will require more than just having tweets about the show scrolling on the back screen, as they did Sunday during Tiger Tiger.

The group’s most recent album, last year’s All You Need Is Now, seemed to bring good news on that front. The disc, most of which was played during Sunday night’s two-hour set, was a surprisingly strong and assured set of new songs, with hooks that rivaled anything in the group’s catalogue.

Word that a touring veteran band is promoting a new album often comes as a harbinger of disaster, or at least an opportunity for multiple trips to the beer stand, but that’s not the case with Duran Duran. Melancholy opener Before the Rain, confident rocker Blame the Machines and Safe (In the Heat of the Moment), featuring vocalist Anna Ross, all three from the recent disc, were among the highlights.

And in truth, some of the older material has aged well. Careless Memories was loud, fast and fab. And as amiable frontman Simon Le Bon went into high-kick mode during The Reflex – after getting a fan to launch the song’s singalong chorus on mic – the room seemed to light up emotionally.

When Le Bon and bassist John Taylor cheekily summoned the ghost of James Brown and announced that whatever they do, it’s got to be funky, they might have been seriously overreaching, even in jest: funky is what Duran Duran is not.

And yet as drummer Roger Taylor, guitarist Dominic Brown and sax player Simon Willescroft joined in on the square-wheeled hip-shaking groove of compulsory singalong Notorious, it was all too infectious – and impossible to begrudge the band and its fans their fantasies.

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