Duran Duran returns to San Diego
Posted by LGBT WeeklyFeature Story, Section 4A, Entertainment News, Latest IssueThursday, July 21st, 2016
BY PAUL ALLEY, @PAULALLEY ON TWITTER
Tuesday, Aug. 2
One of the most internationally successful bands ever, Duran Duran, returns to San Diego on the latest leg of their North American Paper Gods Tour with ’70s disco sensation Chic featuring Nile Rodgers and upcoming electronic artist Tokimonsta.
Formed 38 years ago in Birmingham, England by Nick Rhodes and John Taylor, the band rose to pandemonium levels of fame with ear grabbing hits like “Hungry Like the Wolf,” “Girls on Film” and “The Reflex.” Over the course of almost four decades now, they have sold more than 70 million albums with several No. 1 singles around the world.
Known for their extravagant music videos shot in exotic locations like Sri Lanka and Antigua, Duran Duran hit U.S. shores as part of the second British Invasion with 1982’s “Rio” at the same time as the debut of the revolutionary MTV. The pairing led to millions of screaming fans, world tours and it of course eventually came to a head which splintered the band in 1986. Yet the band persevered as a trio and continued having hits for a couple more years, though not nearing the levels previously seen. But in the midst of the early ’90s grunge, an unexpected comeback occurred that fans and even critics loved. By the early 2000s the band was almost at the end when the original five members reunited. First touring and then recording a new album, the band had yet another comeback with Astronaut in 2004.
In September 2015, Duran Duran released their 13th studio album, Paper Gods, debuting at No. 10 on Billboard’s Top 200 Album chartafter signing a deal earlier that year with Warner Bros. It took several years to record after the return to roots Mark Ronson-produced “All You Need Is Now” in 2011. The new album was also produced by Ronson along with Ben “Mr” Hudson and features the most collaborators the band has ever worked with on a single album including Nile Rodgers (Daft Punk, Madonna, David Bowie), Mark Ronson (“Uptown Funk,” Adele, Amy Winehouse), Mr Hudson (Jay Z, Kanye West), Janelle Monáe, John Frusciante (Red Hot Chili Peppers), and Kiesza (“Hideaway”). “We found a whole new level of inspiration on this album,” says the band’s keyboardist and aesthetic overlord, Nick Rhodes.
Lead singer Simon Le Bon has a theory as to why the band are still friends, and still making vital, compelling music. “I think with some artists, as they get into extended careers, it’s like climbing up a rock-face – they start to look down. If you do that, musically, you’re pretty much dead in the water. We’ve always written music that turns us on; we’ve never tried to tailor it to any kind of taste.”
For bass guitarist John Taylor, the most satisfying thing about the new album is that it captures the duality, the sense of conflict, at the heart of the band’s music. “In the original blueprint for the band, there was this dark, slightly progressive side to us, and it tended to get a little bit trampled on by the poptastic aspect. In that desire for pop satisfaction, you can forget what you set out to do. The new record really goes back to that strange early Duran mix: the hard-edged pop, coexisting with this dark, weird, experimental side.”
With the lead single, “Pressure Off,” a song the band recorded in just a few days with Rodgers and Ronson, their sound is as infectious as ever. “It was the quickest to record. Nile showed up with his guitar that has recorded $1 billion of songs. Its known as ‘the hitmaker,’” says drummer Roger Taylor. Adding, “The good stuff comes really quickly. We recorded ‘Hungry Like the Wolf’ in just a couple days as well.”
John says that “Last Night in the City” was recorded as a remix in a manner of speaking, adding “We EDMed it out.” He also said, “I am not terribly excited about the art of the remix right now. I am not hearing any super remixes where I’m like ‘wow, I want a piece of that.”
“I know that artists always like to say this,” Nick continues, “but truly, without a doubt, I think this is our best record since The Wedding Album. Being in this band is like being married to three other people. We take care of each other, but we also argue all the time, too, particularly about music. But that’s essential. If you don’t argue, don’t have strong opinions, that’s when you end up producing junk. We fight for every note – literally. But it doesn’t feel like a battle. It feels like a victory.”
The Paper Gods Tour first came to San Diego last fall at a sold out show and was a spectacular performance that preceded the band’s first appearance at the renowned Hollywood Bowl a couple days later. John says of the show now, “It’s just getting better. It’s tighter with more punch. And it’s dynamic.”
John also says, “It’s a visual, multimedia show. The screen content we have put a lot into which has a way of bringing all the material together so that you don’t quite feel the pull of time between where a song is 20 years old and the next is only a year old.”
Roger added, “The stage set is largely designed by Nick and the band’s lighting designer Vince which gives a whole new dimension to the show.”
Also appearing with Duran Duran is Chic featuring Nile Rodgers, who also toured with them last fall. With hits like “Good Times,” “Le Freak” and “Dance, Dance, Dance,” Chic amplifies the audience to dance frenzy before Duran Duran take the stage. Later in the show, Nile Rodgers returns to the stage to perform with Duran Duran on the classic hit he produced and played guitar on, “Notorious,” along with “Pressure Off.”
Roger says, “We did a great U.K. tour just before Christmas and the new stuff is coming together amazingly.” With John adding, “The key is to keep the excitement throughout so that the audience is on that journey with us through the show.”
The show opens with the title track from Paper Gods, a daring song, its polemical lyrics set to a soundtrack of fierce originality and menace. “It’s a song about our obsession, with money, with material things,” says Simon, “and how we trivialize our lives, and humanity. It’s definitely the angriest song on the album.”
But both the casual and fanatic can come expecting to hear the songs they know and love while catching something new. John says that it’s a retrospective show that features the new album prominently. Recent shows have included the beautiful 1993 top 10 hit “Ordinary World” along with “Come Undone” from The Wedding Album, “Girls on Film,” “The Wild Boys” and “(Reach Up for the) Sunrise.”
The show also features a tribute to the late David Bowie, a major influence for the band, performing Bowie’s “Space Oddity” interlaced with the band’s debut single “Planet Earth.” Roger says, “I don’t know if there would be a Duran Duran without David Bowie. I know I wouldn’t be playing drums.”
John commented on how the glam rock which Bowie was part of revolutionizing ties into the bands unique connection with the LGBT community, saying “Glam rock was something I got into at 13. Most of my ideas about people come from music. Music is one of those things where people respond to it universally.”
“Sometimes I feel like I am being manipulated by the media, the church, or even a country to think ‘I am different’ be from one country to another or Northern California versus Southern California. But really we are all the same. Our passions are all the same. Our loves are the same. We want the same things.”
John added, “There are so many gay people in my life – clothing designers, hair dressers, set designers. They are such a huge part of what makes our culture what it is.”
Duran Duran with special guest Chic featuring Nile Rodgers and Tokimonsta perform live at Sleep Train Amphitheatre in Chula Vista, Tuesday, Aug. 2 at 7 p.m. Tickets can be bought through Live Nation.
Special performance note: Keyboardist Nick Rhodes had to leave the tour earlier this month for a short period due to an urgent family matter. Standing in for Nick will be long-time friend and collaborator, artist MNDR.