Duran Duran’s live ferocity apparent at Chastain show
When Duran Duran’s Simon LeBon announced from the stage that the band’s recent trips to Atlanta were, “The most we’ve ever played anywhere,” he wasn’t exaggerating.
The still-photogenic fivesome (well, four originals and Dom Brown, their guitarist since 2006), performed a memorable, sold-out–in-minutes gig at Center Stage in April 2011 and returned in October for a solid, if unspectacular show at Chastain Park Amphitheatre.
On this quick victory lap tour – 16 dates in a month – for their excellent studio album, “All You Need is Now,” Duran is mostly playing markets they previously skipped. But the combination of a receptive audience and the band’s affection for Chastain brought them back to the venue Sunday night for a concert more aligned with their Center Stage appearance in terms of song choices and energy level.
Though technically still touring behind “All You Need,” Duran also has a new live album and DVD, “A Diamond in the Mind,” to promote, and last night’s concert was a bracing reminder of how age and sobriety have strengthened them as a live unit (go back and listen to 1984’s shoddy “Arena” for proof of how far they’ve evolved on stage).
LeBon has rarely sounded stronger, the whiny tendencies in his voice all but erased, while eternal glamour-puss Nick Rhodes’ keyboards still shimmered with originality and the sleek rhythm section of John Taylor on bass and Roger Taylor on drums continued to prove itself as one of the most underrated in music.
For two hours, the well-coiffed and stylish band – aided by backup singer Anna Ross and saxophonist/percussionist Simon Willescroft – bopped around the stage like guys half their age. It was often the little moments – John Taylor grinning while jamming with Brown, Rhodes shaking his head at the goofy antics of LeBon, the usually stoic Roger Taylor actually cracking a grin during his onstage introduction – that indicated Duran Duran is grateful to still matter to thousands of fans (about 5,000 of them at Chastain) and enjoying this ride.
Here’s a quick look at Sunday’s set.
“Before the Rain” — A moody opener, taken from “All You Need is Now,” with the stage bathed in red and LeBon showing that he hasn’t lost his drama club flair.
“Planet Earth” – The first of many singalongs of the night, with John Taylor living up to his old nickname of “Tigger” as he bounced around while effortlessly tossing off sublime bass lines.
“A View to a Kill” – The hint of a whine that still resides in LeBon’s voice actually works well on this song, which Entertainment Weekly recently reminded was the only James Bond theme to hit No. 1.
“All You Need is Now” – LeBon called it, “The title of our lives at the moment.” The industrial whizzing and clanking keyboards and killer hook manage to make the song both nostalgic and forward-thinking.
“Being Followed” – Another new song anchored by John Taylor’s lean and muscular bass riffs to perfectly showcase the song’s message of paranoia.
“The Reflex” – “There’s no roof on this place!” LeBon shouted as an incentive for the crowd to loudly provide some “da na na na”’s. It worked.
“Safe” – The band’s homage to the glory days of Studio 54. Ross provided some Debbie Harry-style rapping over an incandescent disco-funk groove.
“Union of the Snake” – Still a bizarre little song that sounded like nothing else at the time – and is still wholly original. Sunday’s version was also exceptionally tight.
“Girl Panic” – The perfect Duran Duran song. A driving rhythm, percussive fiesta, soaring chorus. More people need to hear it.
“Save a Prayer” – The classic ballad was brought back for this tour and, though it sounded a bit overmodulated, it’s doubtful anyone noticed since they were busy waving their cell phones in the air and swooning at LeBon singing about one night stands.
“Notorious” – Nasty funk with bass plucks that reverberated in your gut.
“White Lines” – A ferocious cover of the Grandmaster Flash rap that is always a firestorm of energy and lights. Possibly their most engaging live moment.
“Ordinary World” – LeBon called it Duran Duran’s “way of trying to help people through a difficult time.” It’s a gorgeous ballad that resonated deeply through LeBon’s creamy high notes.
“Hungry Like the Wolf” – Though LeBon amusingly muffed the intro, the re-do was ‘80s radio perfection.
“(Reach Up for the) Sunrise” – One of their last hits as the original quintet, the song is a breezy declaration of hope.
“Wild Boys” – It’s never been their most musically challenging song, but throwing in cranked-up guitar and a few lines of Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s “Relax” gave these “Boys” new verve. Not to mention, LeBon’s exaggerated preening was a hoot.
“Girls on Film” – This overplayed satellite radio staple also picked up new velocity live, especially with LeBon’s priceless band introductions delivered mid-song.
“Rio” – It’s festive, it’s spirited, it’s a pop piffle that sent fans to their cars grinning.
(Check out our photo gallery for more pics from Sunday’s show.)
By Melissa Ruggieri, Atlanta Music Scene
Courtesy Atlanta Music Scene