BY ROBERT PHILPOT
It’s a neat trick when a veteran band can do these things in concert: make a showstopper out of one its newer, lesser-known songs; make another showstopper out of something you never cared for that much; and make you believe that they’re having as much fun performing their most-played songs as you do when you sing along with them on the car radio.
Duran Duran did all these things during their show Tuesday night at American Airlines Center in Dallas.
This is a band that has understood visual appeal from the beginning, doing music videos before MTV was invented, keeping at least one eye firmly on style and image. So during a show that contained most of their ’80s and ’90s hits, they managed to make one of the highlights Pressure Off, a 2015 song they did with Janelle Monae and frequent collaborator Nile Rodgers (who joined them on stage in Dallas). And visual appeal was part of the reason.
Pressure Off is a good song on its own terms — in fact, most of the newer stuff, especially opening number Paper Gods, was pretty impressive — but Duran Duran added to it by screening the song’s video above the stage, providing an extra connection while plenty of activity was happening on the stage itself. The song concluded with another visual element: Confetti spraying on the floor crowd for at least a full minute as the song concluded.
Those gimmicks were cool, but the music stood on its own in this highly energetic, seamless concert. Lead singer Simon Le Bon, bass player John Taylor and guitarist Dom Brown —along with a couple of dynamic backup singers, Anna Ross and Jessie Wagner, who doubled as dancers — all looked like they were having a blast, especially Taylor and Brown, neither one of whom seemed to stop smiling (even stoic keyboardist Nick Rhodes cracked a couple of smiles, and maybe drummer Roger Taylor did, too, although it was hard to tell behind his kit).
That kind of enthusiasm was infectious on songs like I Don’t Want Your Love, a 1998 hit I’ve long considered a minor entry in the Duran Duran canon, and their cover of Grandmaster Melle Mel’s White Lines (Don’t Do It). The recorded version of the latter is plenty noisy but lacks the grit of Melle Mel’s original, but in concert, both these songs took off, especially White Lines, with Le Bon and the background singers really getting into it, using the whole stage, projecting their energy onto the audience, basking in it as it rebounded back onto them.
Although he’s a bit more nasal than he was in his prime, Le Bon’s singing was robust Tuesday night, verging on primal during Wild Boys, hitting high notes at the end of Ordinary World, finding delicacy during Save a Prayer (dedicated to the victims of the terrorist attacks in Paris last fall). He and the band look like they still get a kick out of the “bop bop bop bop bop bop bop bop” on Planet Earth (which included a couple of verses from Space Oddity in tribute to David Bowie) and the “do-do, do-do-dos” at the end of Rio. It’d be great if we could all enjoy our jobs this much after doing them for more than 30 years.
Rodgers, who has been doing this even longer, preceded Duran Duran with his own group, Chic (an Australian pop trio, Bag Raiders, opened the show with a brief, not-bad set). But while the group was billed as Chic featuring Nile Rodgers, the set was more a nonstop parade of hits that Rodgers has written or produced for other artists, such as Diana Ross (I’m Coming Out, Upside Down), Sister Sledge (He’s the Greatest Dancer, We Are Family), David Bowie (Let’s Dance, sung by drummer Ralph Rolle) and Daft Punk (singer Kimberly Davis did a soulful take on Get Lucky, which Rodgers said was the first song he wrote after receiving a cancer diagnosis five years ago — he’s now in the clear).
But it was the Chic stuff, most notable show-closers Le Freak and Good Times, that glowed: During Good Times, which segued into Rodgers doing Rapper’s Delight (which samples a Good Times riff), the stage was filled with dancers from the audience, turning the stage, as Rodgers put it, into a disco party. In a night where both main acts were on full funk-steam ahead, however, much of the arena looked like a disco party at times. Good times. Good times indeed.
Courtesy Star Telegram