Duran Duran: Still Electrifying Audiences in 2016

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Written by Wendy Gelbart and photography by Kate Gelbart, Informer Media Group

Before I can review Duran Duran’s show held at the Mandalay Bay Event Center on July 29, I have to issue a quick disclaimer: I absolutely adore the band, but I couldn’t always say that out loud. Having grown up as part of the mid-80s heavy metal subculture, admitting my devotion to Duran Duran was certainly taboo. When I saw them during a 1984 pass through The Forum in Los Angeles, I had to swear my date to secrecy, lest my leather-clad clan discover I had strayed. Judging from the eclectic crowd in attendance Friday night, their appeal is universal in the genre bending musical scene of the new millennium.

The show was the most energetic romp through America’s playground that I’ve experienced from the boys from Birmingham. The set was a perfect balance of greatest hits from their reign as ‘80s new wave idols and more recent cuts from 2015’s Paper Gods. Duran Duran covered classic hits such as “Hungry Like the Wolf” and the theme from the James Bond film, “View to a Kill.” Leading up to “Reflex,” the band was joined onstage by Nile Rogers of opening act, Chic. LeBon spoke of the influence Rogers had on the funky beat of the hit song, crediting him for helping create the unique, punctuated staccato of the word flex in the song’s intro. Their set also delivered a shot of adrenaline with their cover of Grandmaster Flash’s “White Lines” from 1995’s album Thank You. With the exception a few of their slower songs, Duran Duran had the audience dancing throughout the entire show.

My lone disappointment in the show came during “Planet Earth.” The band had segued into “A Space Oddity” as a tribute to David Bowie. The homage to the late icon was fantastic, but I would have preferred to have Duran Duran perform one more chorus of “Planet Earth” for closure. The band quickly redeemed themselves during “(Reach Up for the) Sunrise” by breaking midsong into “New Moon on Monday.” Judging from the enthusiastic screams from the crowd, I was not the only person that approved. More screams were elicited when virtual fireworks show erupted on the video screen.

When I previewed the set list, I was ecstatic to see the song “Girls on Film” make a return to the lineup. During a Q&A session held in 2015 during the Life is Beautiful Festival, John and Roger Taylor commented that they did not play the song live anymore. As the last song before their encore, they slipped it into an unsuspecting audience with a musical intro that preceded the unmistakable camera shutter sound that any dedicated fan of the ‘80s would recognize.

Simon LeBon strutted on stage for a two song encore. But the playfulness soon subsided as he set up “Save a Prayer” by speaking of optimism through song and bringing people together using music to heal the world. He dedicated the song to “survivors, victims, families and most of all people trying to make peace work in the world.”

The show closed, of course, with the iconic Patrick Nagal album art as a backdrop to “Rio” as the audience sang along to the familiar lyrics while the band playfully kicked giant beach balls into the crowd. Early in the show lead singer had LeBon declared the concert a “magnificent dance party” and that “their music takes him back to some of the best times in his life.” I’m glad to see that almost 40 years into Duran Duran’s career, we are still reliving those best of times with them.

Courtesy Las Vegas Informer