Duran Duran’s John Taylor Talks New Orleans Gig, Dining at Galatoire’s

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When British pop and dance maestros Duran Duran arrive at the Smoothie King Center on April 24, the guys will not only cart out a lengthy catalog of radio hits, but will also bring one of their biggest influences along for the ride: disco-funk favorite Chic, featuring guitarist, producer and all-around music heavyweight, Nile Rodgers.

Duran's last appearance in New Orleans was at VooDoo Fest 2006, and last visit to the region was in August, 2012, with a small-venue gig at Hard Rock Casino in Biloxi.

Now, with a renewed vigor, new album and pretty darn cool touring partners, the band is booking stadiums as it used to, back when "Hungry Like the Wolf" and "Rio" were cranked out repeatedly for hordes of young pop fans, back when ruffled, New Romantic-style shirts and fluffy, but unabashedly fun music were all the rage.

Duran Duran bassist John Taylor is the guy responsible for plucking out the funk, for tempering the band's synth-heavy, new wave sound by adding a sorta-groovy underlayer.

He talked a bit about his upcoming date with New Orleans.

"Architecturally I love it," he said, of the city. "I love walking around the town, the French Quarter ... but I've not spent a great deal of time there."

"Food-wise, it's my intention to get to Galatoire's," he said. "Last time I was there, my wife and I went there and it was a pleasure, so that's on the list."

Getting back into big venues -- such as the Smoothie King Center -- is a treat.

Taylor said "everybody" likes to play "a venue like your arena, where we really get to put on a night, where we get to present a night of music as we'd really want to present it," he said.

He describes touring with Chic, featuring guitarist and mega-producer Rodgers, almost as if it were a full circle moment. It's part of what made the return to stadiums possible.

"I would not have ever thought it possible," Taylor said, of touring together. "It's kind of amazing that it's happening. It's a testament to everyone's staying power that we were able to put this together at this point in our lives and in our careers."

He said going on the road together was actually Rodgers' idea.

"The whole relationship with Nile, and the whole Chic organization, has been kind of a little amazing to me," Taylor said.

That relationship runs deep. In recent years, Rodgers has worked with Daft Punk, Avicii and Adam Lambert. But long before, he shaped sounds that have now become classics. After Rodgers scored a number of hits with Chic ("Le Freak," "I Want Your Love," "Everybody Dance"), he went on to leave his mark on everything from Sister Sledge's "We are Family" to Bowie's "Let's Dance."

Rodgers remixed mid-1980s Duran Duran hits such as "The Reflex" and would later act as co-producer and session musician on the band's 1986 album, "Notorious." The record sort of signaled a new sound direction -- brass-ward -- for the then-struggling outfit that began presenting every few years as a new incarnation, with a rotating lineup.

Rodgers would again became a shaping force, much more recently, as co-producer -- along with Mark Ronson and Mr Hudson -- of Duran's newest, the primarily EDM-style "Paper Gods," released this past fall.

"The arena for us is a dream date," Taylor said. "It's our stage. We get control. We put on a multimedia show throughout."

Entering the arena atmosphere again with four of the five original bandmates -- including Taylor on bass, vocalist Simon Le Bon, keyboardist Nick Rhodes, and drummer, Roger Taylor -- feels a little like the olden days.

"With everything that we've done, though, something we've learned in the last ten years is that every show matters. Every show matters. You walk out on stage, and it's a privilege," he said.

"It doesn't matter where you are, how many people are out there, how old they are, whatever. It's a privilege to be out there," he said, "And you learn something from every performance."

For a while, he'd taken a several-year hiatus from Duran Duran in one of the many revolving-door lineup changes.

"It's very important to give people bang for their buck today," he said, referencing not only the current tour, but the live music climate of recent years. "I had been out of the band for a few years, and came back about ten or eleven years ago now -- and the industry, the live business, had changed quite a bit."

He said in the interim, in the late '90s, the "festival business" had "come back in a major way."

"Duran, we'd never really had that experience," he said. "In the 80s, our experience was clubs to arenas, you know?"

But now, they're doing it all: arenas, festivals, casinos. They're collaborating with young musicians, such as Janelle Monae, featured on the new album. They're reclining back on a 14-album music catalog while also leaning forward. Rolling with the punches, going with the flow, just to keep on doing what they love.

"Everybody started looking at the Rolling Stones, like, 'What are you doing? Are you guys still doing it?' It's like, everybody was supposed to quit by their mid-30s, really," Taylor said.

He said touring used to come with a type of expiration date, a certain ageism that said rock -- or even more so, in Duran's case, pop -- was only for kids.

"I could never understand it, you know? It was okay for, like, Duke Ellington or Muddy Waters, but not for me?" he said. "Why, when it's something that's so clearly a passion?"

The love of music -- even of straight-up pop -- should be perennial.

"Music is something that, if you are blessed to be passionate about it, you know what it can do for you. You know it can carry you through so much of your life," he said.

"It enables me to move through life."

"Why would I ever stop?" he asked. "And it's something that Mick Jagger and Keith Richards figured out in the in the '70s, and we've figured out in the last ten years."

"We're on our game right now," Taylor said. "We're having a great, great time. The country has welcomed us back."

"Duran Duran: The Paper Gods Tour with Chic Featuring Nile Rodgers" happens Sunday, April 24 at 7 p.m. at the Smoothie King Center, 1501 Dave Dixon Drive, New Orleans. Tickets, ranging from $29 to $119.50, are available at Ticketmaster.com.

Courtesy NOLA.com