Duran Duran Having More Fun Than Ever as Biloxi Show Approaches

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BILOXI, Miss. -- Somewhere in Europe, John Taylor of Duran Duran is trying to attend to his end of an afternoon telephone interview, and the interruptions are beginning to pile up.

“Los Angeles is waking up,” he murmurs, back after deflecting a call on another line.

The comment is an intriguing glimpse into Taylor’s life: It’s something you might have expected him to say in the early ‘80s, when his band was globe-trotting to worldwide fame. Nearly 30 years later, it suggests that some of the heady air of those days still lingers for bassist Taylor and his bandmates.

As it turns out, there’s plenty of evidence to back up that suspicion. Duran Duran, which will play Hard Rock Biloxi on Aug. 18, has had an extremely active year.

When it played Mobile’s BayFest last October, it was touring in support of a new album, “All You Need Is Now,” which had cracked the Top 30 on Billboard’s Pop Album chart. Since then it’s toured internationally and recorded a live concert DVD, “A Diamond in the Mind,” which was released on July 10, provided fresh fuel for the last leg of the tour.

The group played in London’s Hyde Park at the start of the Olympics. Taylor is getting ready for a book tour supporting his memoir, “In the Pleasure Groove: Love, Death, and Duran Duran,” which will be published in October. And there’s already talk that the band will convene early next year to begin work on its next album.

“Busy, busy, busy!” says Taylor.

Interruptions aside, he’s a generous and good-natured interviewee, taking time to refer back to the October BayFest show as “a blast.”

“One thing that stood out was that we all said, you know, we don’t spend enough time down South,” he says. “There’s a depth and authenticity that one feels there. It’s not like we had that connection with Southern music, say like the Rolling Stones did. But there’s a feeling that you get when you’re down there and you think, you know, ‘I’ve got to play good tonight.’ You guys have forgotten more than we’ll ever know.”

“I’m looking forward to coming back again, let’s put it that way,” he says.

This show will be different, he says. At a festival, members know they’re playing to “a lot of people who really have only a passing acquaintance with the band.” So they lean heavily on their greatest hits.

A non-festival show presumably brings in more devoted fans, meaning they can dig deeper. To a point.

“You know, we’re not stupid. We do try to please all the people all the time. It’s not entirely possible,” he says. “It’ll probably be a little more artistic this time around. But that’s not to say you won’t hear quite a few million sellers — he says, braggingly — even if they’re all 20 years old.”

The regular flashes of self-deprecating humor are just one more clue that, all these years after its heyday, the band is still enjoying life.

“It’s a living,” Taylor concedes, when this suggested. Then, after a pause, he laughs. “You know what?” he says. “We’re having a good time. We’re having a better time than we were having 10 years ago. Or even 20 years ago. I’m not quite sure why. For me, I think life improved immeasurably when I surrendered to middle age. When you’re not trying to be something that you aren’t anymore, or trying to hold onto something that you once were ... we’ve got a better acceptance of who we are. And we love our job.”

“I guess by the time we reach 50, we’ve all become philosophers, of a sort,” he says. “You have to, really. You have to if you want to have a long life, if you want to have any friends.”

Another piece of evidence might not be necessarily, at this point, to back that up. But the group’s video for “Girl Panic,” released late last year, has to be considered. It’s simply a hoot. A cadre of female supermodels stand in for the band: Posing for paparazzi, answering stupid questions, looking glamorous. The band members themselves make fleeting cameos as chauffeurs, journalists, bellhops and so on. It ends with a saucy note that “No supermodels were harmed during this production.”

“Credit to Mr. Nick Rhodes,” says Taylor, tipping his hat to the band’s founding keyboardist. “He’s never grown up. He just knows how to keep that flag flying.

“He’s still got that girlfriend in her 20s, he knows how to be in Duran Duran when the rest of us are not quite sure anymore. He never forgets. He’s very good at those ideas. It was just sort of a naughty idea, really. I don’t think any of us could have foreseen quite how beautiful that video was going to turn out. And who else could have done it, other than Duran Duran?”

“A Diamond in the Mind” is a sprawling set of music, a 19-song playlist plus a couple of bonus tracks. Clearly, this is a band that doesn’t like to choose between old and new material.

“We’ve kind of entered that phase of our career, really, where brevity doesn’t seem honorable,” Taylor says.

He postulates a continuum: At one end, Johnny Ramone’s adage that no band should play for more than half an hour; at the other, Bruce Springsteen’s four-hour marathons. There’s a happy medium, he says.

“About two hours, it does feel like after three decades of music-making, it’s hard to say any less,” he says.

But quality can’t take a back seat to quantity, he says. And he suggested that Gulf Coast fans are in a good position on that score.

“We’re coming to the end of a long run, and the show is hot,” he says.

Duran Duran in concert

8 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 18, at Hard Rock Biloxi.

Tickets: $69.99 and up, available at the casino box office and through Ticketmaster.

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