View to a Thrill: Duran Duran Ready to Rock Again

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Tribune correspondent Published: March 31, 2016

With Chic featuring Nile Rodgers
When: 7 p.m. Saturday
Where: MidFlorida Amphitheatre, 4802 U.S. 301, Tampa
Tickets: $29.95, $49.95, $95.95 and $145.95;

A dozen years ago the Alarm’s Mike Peters released an album under the name The Poppy Fields. Peters even hired a band of British teens to appear in the video for the single “45 RPM.” The album scored some good reviews before the veteran singer-songwriter revealed that there was no Poppy Fields.

“I did what I did because people don’t believe that bands that have been around for years can ever be as good as they once were,” Peters explained.

It’s understandable why a legacy recording artist would resort to such an act since the world of rock is full of ageism.

Rolling Stone nailed it when it when critiquing Duran Duran’s 14th album, “Paper Gods,” which dropped in September. “If Paper Gods were a debut from some upstart band, the buzz would be insane.”

That’s spot on. Duran Duran has been around forever. A generation has passed since Duran Duran was a ubiquitous pop sensation. But the band of mid-lifers has found itself again with “Paper Gods.”

“I think we really have something with this album,” bassist John Taylor said during a phone call from his Los Angeles home.“But the fact that we have such a long history is not something that helps us. I think some people might disregard anything we do due to our history. But if another band put out this album, then they might have something. This album is better than I think most people would imagine.”

The same could be said of Duran Duran when the band broke back during the early ’80s. Much was made of the band’s style and colorful videos shot on scenic locales. “Girls on Film,” “Rio” and “Hungry Like the Wolf” were celebrated visually.

“The visual side almost always overshadowed the music,” Taylor said. “That’s the way it was. But I think we made some good music.”

Duran Duran, which emerged from Birmingham, England in 1978, was influenced by David Bowie and Roxy Music. After looking past the band’s glamour, it was evident that Duran Duran possessed a strong pop sensibility. The group had the material and became the top band in Britain’s new romantic movement. Duran Duran was wise enough to manipulate video and MTV and the act became massive stars on both sides of the Atlantic.

The hits, “Union of the Snake,” “The Reflex” and “Is There Something I Should Know” kept coming. “It was an amazing period,” Taylor said. “No matter what we did, it worked.”

But their fortunes and lineups changed during the ’90s. There was a lack of stability, which affected the quality of the band’s music. However, the band, which includes vocalist Simon Le Bon, keyboardist Nick Rhodes and drummer Roger Taylor, has made a surprising comeback with “Paper Gods,” which is its finest release since 1983’s “Seven and the Ragged Tiger.”

The band, which will perform Saturday at MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre, received considerable assistance. Nile Rodgers, who produced “Notorious,” and Mark Ronson (“Uptown Funk”), were each behind the board for “Paper Gods.” Janelle Monae and former Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist John Frusciante provided key assists.

“We had quite a few guests, who helped quite a bit,” Taylor said. “We have a history with Nile, and Mark is just amazing. Janelle is an amazing singer, and John Frusciante is such a great guitarist, and he’s so out there.”

But the lion’s share falls on Duran Duran, which is still a solid live act. “It really does all come down to us, and I like that,” Taylor said. “We still have it after all these years. We really enjoy making music and touring together, and the great thing is that we’re going to go on for years. It helps that we made an album like ‘Paper Gods,’ which people seem to really like. It’ll be interesting to see what happens next.”

Courtesy The Tampa Tribune