At one point during Duran Duran’s performance at New York City’s the Theater at Madison Square Garden Thursday night, singer Simon Le Bon dedicated one of the band’s biggest hits, the ballad “Ordinary World”, to everyone—but not before acknowledging how Duran Duran considered itself lucky. It was an appropriate and sobering moment for a veteran band that still remains at the top of its game. The proof of that comes in the form of Duran Duran’s latest album, Paper Gods, which has garnered critical acclaim since its release last month and recently hit the Top Ten on the Billboard album chart for the first time in 22 years. That’s a remarkable achievement for a band that is slowly approaching 40 years and has survived the changing trends of pop music.
Duran Duran’s appearance at the Theater was unique in that the group was the headlining act for what turned out to be a four-hour event sponsored by local radio station Fresh 102.7—the other artists on the bill were Adam Lambert, A Great Big World, Rachel Platten, and Phases. Given the circumstances, Duran Duran still managed to satisfyingly perform both the new songs from Paper Gods and the classic hits within its one-hour set as midnight approached.
Interestingly, rather than open the show with a familiar favorite, Duran Duran dove right into the ominous yet pulsating title song from the new record, which kind of indicated the band’s confidence in its latest work. With its almost art-rock tendencies, the song “Paper Gods” could have easily been on the band’s 1981 debut record.
After that, it was smooth sailing the rest of the way as Duran Duran launched pretty much hit after hit throughout the set: the still-timeless “Hungry Like the Wolf”, the sensuous “Come Undone”, the funky “Notorious”, and the dazzling finale “Rio”. In between were two other new songs from “Paper Gods”: the very exuberant techno-dominated “Last Night in the City” and the equally funky “Pressure Off”. Perhaps the most rocking moment of the evening was the band’s cover version of hip-hop icons Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five’s cautionary “White Lines.”
As for the founding members of Duran Duran, they were in fine form Thursday night. Le Bon can still hit those notes, which is remarkable after the issues with his vocal cords that forced the band to postpone some dates during its previous tour a few years ago. Bassist John Taylor and drummer Roger Taylor still made a powerful rhythm section, and keyboard Nick Rhodes provided the blueprint for the distinct Duran Duran sound. Longtime guitarist Dom Brown turned in some impressive solos, especially on “Ordinary World”.
For New York City fans of the Second British Invasion era in pop music, 2015 turned out to be indeed magical. Earlier this year saw Spandau Ballet and Culture Club return to the stage for the first time in the Big Apple in decades. And now Duran Duran’s performance has hit the trifecta for the many local area fans in attendance who most likely grew up with the glorious sounds of synthpop emanating from the radio and MTV. But don’t call Duran Duran a nostalgia act—one listen to Paper Gods and you get the sense that band still is capable of making great new songs on a par with its previous best.
Hungry Like the Wolf
A View to a Kill
Last Night in the City
(Reach Up for the) Sunrise