Gig review: Duran Duran at First Direct Arena, Leeds

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There’s a notable moment at the end of an epic version of Ordinary World where Duran Duran singer Simon Le Bon stands in the centre of the giant stage at Leeds’s First Direct Arena with hands held above his head in silent prayer.

The song is a poignant meditation on mortality that the 64-year-old had introduced as “really pivotal” for the band when it came out in 1993 and here, in the middle of a two-hour set, you can really appreciate the ballad’s significance, not only in turning around their then-flagging fortunes after their 80s heyday but also in ensuring they would still be packing out arenas worldwide 30 years later.

The fact that they remain relevant has much to do with their 2021 album Future Past, represented tonight with three of its singles – Invisible, Give It All Up and Anniversary – all of which possess enough of Duran Duran’s prime DNA – strong melodies hung on John Taylor’s disco-funk basslines and instant earworm choruses – to make them worthy of a place alongside bigger sellers such as A View To A Kill, Is There Something I Should Know and Notorious.

It’s evident too that they’ve been keeping up with technological innovations – tonight’s dramatic opening sequence where they make full use of giant screens and sci-fi animation before the four original members of the band emerge in silhouette at the top of some steps has shades of ABBA’s trend-setting Voyage shows.

Although there are technical gremlins at work early on, that leave Le Bon battling with his ear monitor during Wild Boys and saxophonist Simon Willescroft’s playing in Hungry Like The Wolf virtually inaudbible, they are eventually overcome and for hardcore Duranies there’s much to enjoy with the inclusion of deep cuts such as Night Boat, Lonely In Your Nightmare (which is set to droll footage from creaky Hammer Horror films and includes an interpolation of Rick James’ Super Freak) and a particularly welcome Friends of Mine.

Careless Memories, from their 1980 debut album, is another stand-out, as is the perennial fan favourite Planet Earth, with Nick Rhodes’ keyboard part sounding more indebted to Giorgio Moroder than ever.

If their cover of Grandmaster Flash and Melle Mel’s White Lines (Don’t Do It) seems like an indulgence too far, it is at least delivered with a knowing sense of ludicrousness, and there are more crowd-pleasers to end the main set in The Reflex and Girls on Film, the latter of which amusingly segues into the Calvin Harris song Acceptable In The 80s.

An encore that features Come Undone, delivered as a soaring duet between Le Bon and backing vocalist Anna Ross, and celebratory renditions of Save a Prayer and Rio send the audience home sated.

Thirty years on from the original release of Ordinary World, Duran Duran have good reason to be grateful for that flash of creative inspiration that gave their career renewed impetus.

Courtesy Yorkshire Post