The final night of Duran Duran’s two sold-out shows at Ravinia looked and felt like a multi-year high school reunion in Chicagoland. Durannies brought spouses and children, shared stories with strangers, and buzzed with excitement about seeing the Wild Boys. There was an upbeat party vibe on the lawn where several screens were set up, and also in the reserved pavilion seats at the July 9 concert. This was clearly a crowd ready for an all-night party, and opener Chic featuring Nile Rodgers got it started with the disco trifecta of “Everybody Dance,” “Dance, Dance, Dance” and “I Want Your Love.”
Nile Rodgers graciously thanked the crowd for heartily singing and grooving along. Then he reminded them that he’s produced, written and performed on hits for a variety of artists during the past 40 years. To prove that point, he and his ensemble fired up “I’m Coming Out” and “Upside Down” by Diana Ross, and “Greatest Dancer” and “We Are Family” by Sister Sledge. All four songs, of course, are timeless originals that have been sampled in another generation's hits. The disco, funk, and dance music pioneer surprised even more partiers when he played Madonna’s “Like A Virgin.”
Rodgers used another break in the high energy show to share details about a recent hit featuring his imprint. The day after receiving a grim aggressive prostate cancer diagnosis, Daft Punk and Pharrell unexpectedly invited him to write some new material. He said that collaborative creative effort reignited his passion for making music and prompted him to perform live as much as possible. After triumphantly proclaiming he was cancer free, Rodgers and his band performed “Get Lucky” in what he called “Chic’s soulful way.”
“This song changed the whole course of my life,” Rodgers said while introducing David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance.“ After a spirited “Le Freak,” he ended the 75-minute set with an extended version of “Good Times” and led the crowd in a rousing version of “Rapper’s Delight” which famously sampled the Chic classic.
After intermission, Duran Duran treated the overwhelmingly female audience to a multimedia show highlighting the best of its arena past and revitalized present. Frontman Simon LeBon, bassist John Taylor, drummer Roger Taylor and touring guitarist Dom Brown tore into the title track from the 14th studio album Paper Gods. The band then hit rewind for “Wild Boys,” “Hungry Like the Wolf,” and “A View to a Kill.” Loyal and devoted members of the band's fan community knew before LeBon greeted the crowd that keyboardist Nick Rhodes had left the tour “to return to the UK to attend to an urgent family matter” and artist MNDR was filling in for him.
Duran Duran continued with “Come Undone” from the 1993 self-titled comeback also known as The Wedding Album. Following new tracks “Last Night in the City” and “What are the Chances,” Simon LeBon thanked Nile Rodgers for his enduring influence. Chic inspired the band’s formation in Birmingham, England in the late 1970s, and Rodgers’ innovative production work on “The Reflex” released in 1984 made the band a global sensation. LeBon said it was an honor to collaborate again on the Paper Gods CD and tour, and brought the legendary musician onstage for “Notorious” and recent single “Pressure Off.”
The poignant “Planet Earth/Space Oddity” tribute to David Bowie, a supercharged “White Lines” from the 1995 covers collection Thank You, and a mashup of “(Reach Up for the) Sunrise/New Moon on Monday” were other high points of the show. The band closed the set with “The Reflex” and “Girls on Film,” and returned for the encore with Durannie favorites “Save a Prayer” and “Rio.”
Duran Duran continues its North American trek with Chic featuring Nile Rodgers at XCEL Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota on July 23.