Duran Duran Doubles Back to Where ‘Insanity’ Began

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By Matt Misterek

Duran Duran digs performing in Washington, or at least co-founder John Taylor does.

He recalls the “insanity” of Duran Duran’s concert at Seattle Center Coliseum in 1984 with a sort of awe. It was the Brit-pop idols’ first stop on their American tour, and it gave them a glimpse of the Yankee teen hysteria the Beatles beheld in the same building 20 years earlier.

Now the Fab 5 (minus one) are back, bringing their New Wave revival to the Washington State Fair on Wednesday.

And while Taylor acknowledges an outdoor fair grandstand wouldn’t usually be his first choice, he’s excited for Duran Duran’s date with Puyallup in the first half of a month-long swing through the West.

“I think it’s going to work,” Taylor told The News Tribune from England as the band prepared to head to the states. “It’s the end of the summer, and people are going to be ready to have a good time.”

Duran Duran’s bass player promises a 30-year journey back to Reagan-Thatcher-era hits such as “Girls on Film,” “Rio” and “The Reflex.”

There will be new material, too. The tour coincides with this month’s release of the band’s 14th album, “Paper Gods,” which had them holed up in a studio for two years. They enlisted a small army of talent ranging from the trendy (Mark Ronson) to the wacky (Lindsay Lohan).

The new album also had help from long-time collaborator Nile Rodgers, founder of ’70s disco band Chic, with whom Duran Duran will share the stage Wednesday. Taylor calls it “probably the least self-contained album we’ve ever made.”

But he knows the power of the band’s prom-night classics — the ones that made us want to strip off our cummerbunds and dance.

“We’ve come to appreciate that the songs people like to hear most are the ones that are most fun to play.”

He chatted with the TNT about the album, the tour and how performing today is different than entertaining the wild boys and girls of ’84.

Q: What were you trying to achieve musically and thematically with “Paper Gods?”

We spent the first year mostly finding out what we are capable of, the four of us. And we were fortunate in the second year of creativity of recording where we were joined by a great roster of producers, writers, musicians and singers that really helped us make a different record. I don’t know how to describe it, but I know we didn’t plan it. We have a very vague sense of where we’re going when we start.

The more you do this, you realize the privilege of doing it and the legacy, potentially, of making something you’ve got to live with. In the past, we’ve all compromised a lot, and it feels OK at the time because you’re just trying to get the thing done. But then, a year later or whatever, it’s like “(expletive), I wish we’d spent longer on this song.” None of us wanted to have that feeling this time around. I call it the no-half-measures album. It was just no stone unturned.

Q: Although you formed Duran Duran with Nick Rhodes, you have sort of come and gone over the years for side projects. What keeps bringing you back?

In the few years I was away, I changed my perception of what the band was. I was able to come back as a fan and separate myself from it in the time I was away. I was able to come back with an appreciation of who we were and what we’d done. I couldn’t do that before I left. It was all just a scramble. I had to clear my head out a little bit, really.

It’s been no turning back for me. Obviously, it’s not sunshine and roses every day or every hour of every day. We fight a lot. We disagree a lot. But I know where I am with these guys. We’ve got each other’s backs.

Q: It looks like your show here is the only state fair currently on your touring schedule. Is that frightening in any way?

(Laughs) They are not my favorite venues to play, I have to say. But we were made an offer, and it looked like we could have a good time. I’m really excited about the bill. It’s one of the half dozen shows we’re playing with Chic.

It’s a very relaxed kind of atmosphere at state fairs. People come to have fun. It’s a good-time show. And it’s great to be in Washington state. We haven’t played up there in a while.

Q: I saw your “Seven and the Ragged Tiger” concert at Seattle Center Coliseum in 1984.

Oh, man, I never forget that show because that was the first time we played to an arena full of crazy kids. We always remember the Seattle arena on that tour because those basketball arenas don’t really exist in the U.K. We’d never played, what, like 16,000 or something? It was insanity. Life was never the same again.

Q: How do your live performances today measure up?

They’re more controlled today. I think we are more at the wheel. On that tour, we were hanging on for life. It was very hard to control the show.

But you’re also telling a story. It’s a 30-year narrative, it’s three decades of songs in the show now. So you’re taking people on a journey, we’re going on a journey. ... You’re trying to play everything with a vitality. You don’t want anything to feel old, so you’ve got to infuse it with enthusiasm and passion.

We’re super excited to play. We’ve been in the studio for two years. We’ve hardly gotten out. We’re like animals, you know — we’re out, we’re free of the cage!

Courtesy News Tribune