By Carolyn Lamberson
After a nearly 40-year career that has at times placed them among the most popular bands in the world, it would be easy for Duran Duran to kick back, relax and rake in money as a nostalgia act.
Last year’s “Paper Gods,” Duran Duran’s 14th album and their first top 10 album in years, proves they’re more than that. As Rolling Stone noted in its 3 1/2-star review, “what makes this music fun is its youthful sense of invention. Our ’80s-mad era would’ve been happy with a ‘Rio’ redux, but these guys aren’t ready to settle for that.”
No, they’re not. In recording the album, Duran Duran brought in collaborators both familiar – producers Nile Rodgers and Mark Ronson – and new – singer Janelle Monae, producer Mr. Hudson, and actress Lindsay Lohan. The result is an album that sounds utterly contemporary, and utterly like a Duran Duran album.
And that’s how they like it, said lead singer Simon Le Bon in a telephone interview earlier this summer.
“We have a very modern sounding record,” Le Bon said. “When you can play that next to a Kanye West song on the radio, and it sounds good next to it, that gives you a lot of pride in the people in whom you’ve invested your support.”
“It’s a golden time for Duran Duran,” he later added. “It really is.”
That golden time is now for local fans, as the band is bringing its “Paper Gods” tour to Northern Quest Resort & Casino on Friday night.
Duran Duran formed in Birmingham, England, in 1978 and rode the British new wave movement to musical stardom in the early 1980s. The catchy synth-driven dance hits, accompanied by elaborate videos that got massive airplay on MTV, brought the band legions of fans – mostly teenage girls who proudly called themselves Durannies.
The core lineup of Le Bon, keyboardist Nick Rhodes, and the three unrelated Taylors – John Taylor, bass, Roger Taylor, drums, and Andy Taylor, guitar – put out three albums: the self-titled debut in 1981, “Rio” in 1982 and “Seven and the Ragged Tiger” in 1983. Early British hits “Girls on Film” and “Planet Earth” helped the band get a toehold in America. Then “Hungry Like the Wolf” came out, and Duran Duran was a sensation. The video, filmed in Sri Lanka along with the video for “Save a Prayer,” helped set the standard for video production in the 1980s. It won the first-ever Grammy Award for a music video. The band hit No. 1 in the U.S. for the first time with “The Reflex,” the third single from “Seven and the Ragged Tiger.”
By the late ’80s, however, the band began fracturing. Andy and Roger Taylor both left the band after “Seven and the Ragged Tiger.” John Taylor, Le Bon and Rhodes continued on, putting out albums like “Notorious,” “Big Thing” and “Liberty.” But musical tastes were changing, and despite the success of the 1993 album “Duran Duran” (nicknamed “The Wedding Album”), which sparked the hit singles “Ordinary World and “Come Undone,” Duran Duran’s fortunes faded as grunge and alt-rock ascended. By the late 1990s, only LeBon and Rhodes remained in Duran Duran.
The original five reunited in 2001, released the album “Astronaut” to acclaim and toured the world. And while Andy Taylor again parted ways with Duran Duran, the remaining four members have continued to work together, releasing “Red Carpet Massacre,” “All You Need is Now” and “Paper Gods.”
It’s a very healthy relationship these days.
“We’re each others’ best friends,” Le Bon said. “There’s nobody I’d rather work with. There are a lot of people I’d like to work with, but there’s no one I’d rather work with than Nick, John and Roger. It’s great to do it – it’s great to go through this life with friends and to experience this creativity together, and to get that thrill that you get when you bounce off each other. The last 10 years have been more and more fun. The pressure has come off us. We’ve earned the right to spend the time making the kind of music we want.”
They’re having a great time on the road, although they’re minus one member as Rhodes returned to the U.K. this summer to deal with a family matter. The tour is finding mostly acclaim and drawing big crowds across North America. While they have a new album to draw from, and have been playing a few tracks off it in recent concerts, Le Bon said the group is keenly aware of its history and what fans want.
“In our case, they came to hear ‘Rio.’ They came to hear ‘Ordinary World.’ They came to hear ‘Come Undone,’ they came to hear ‘Hungry Like the Wolf,’ ‘The Reflex,’ ‘A View to a Kill.’ You know what I mean?” Le Bon said.
And he has no problem playing those songs. They’re a joy to sing, he said. Still.
“We feel very lucky that we’ve had this incredible career, and we feel very lucky that we’ve had as many different hits that we’ve had, and we feel very lucky to have this incredible audience in North America,” Le Bon said. “So when you’re standing up there and you’re playing ‘The Reflex’ for the 500th time – probably way more than that, actually – it would be easy to look at it as trite and lightweight. But you see how happy it makes people, how it gets them dancing and singing along with you. And you realize that’s a good song. It’s what a good song is supposed to do.”
Beyond completing the tour, Le Bon said the band hasn’t even started thinking about the next project. That’s by design.
“If there’s one thing we learned from the ‘Paper Gods’ experience” – the album two took years to complete – “is you should go into the studio with an absolutely clear mind. It’s like a pool that you start chucking pebbles into, see what happens, see what kind of ripples you can make. But don’t try to second-guess it or try to figure it out before because you’ll just ruin it for yourself.
“It’s the fun of discovery, of finding out where you are in your life, that’s one of the joys of making an album.”
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday
Where: Northern Quest Resort & Casino, Pend Oreille Pavilion, 100 N. Hayford Road, Airway Heights
Cost: $65-$105, through the casino box office or website.
Info: (509) 481-2800 or www.northernquest.com/
Courtesy The Spokesman Review