Review: Arena rock act Duran Duran plays intimate show for 500 fans

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One person referred to it as “the biggest show in the history of Menlo Park.”

And, indeed, that’s probably a fair assessment, although I’m not sure if that says more about the band that was playing or the city the band was playing in.

Either way, it sure was cool to get to see Duran Duran — an act that is typically found rocking arenas — play before some 500 lucky fans at the Guild Theatre on Saturday (Aug. 19).

“It’s a lovely way to start the second leg of the North American tour,” vocalist Simon Le Bon said to the adoring crowd. “And to do something useful.”

The purpose of the visit was to raise money for the fight against prostate cancer, a cause that has been dear to these Rock and Roll Hall of Famers’ hearts ever since Andy Taylor — the band’s former guitarist — revealed he had been diagnosed with stage 4 prostate cancer some years back. Money raised at the event went to the U.K.-based charity the Cancer Awareness Trust.

“I’ve got to tell you, (Taylor) has started his treatment and he’s doing great,” Le Bon informed the crowd.

The show also doubled as a kind of warm-up gig, allowing the band to clear out a few cobwebs prior to resuming larger-scale shows, such as an Aug. 24 date at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento.

The setlist was very close, but not identical, to what fans witnessed during the band’s North American tour opener at the BottleRock Napa Valley festival in May. Duran Duran played 17 songs, hailing from seven studio albums, and included most of its signature tunes.

Duran Duran did, however, get off to a bit slow start in the 100-minute set, opening with the most lackluster song of the night — “Night Boat” — before quickly shifting into much higher gear with the fan favorite “Wild Boys.”

The band was definitely feeling generous with the greatest hits material early on, moving from “Wild Boys” into the classic “Hungry Like the Wolf” and following up with a powerful take on “A View to a Kill” (from the 1985 James Bond film of the same name) and the popular title track to the group’s fourth studio album, 1986’s “Notorious.”

Duran Duran — Le Bon, bassist John Taylor (no relation to Andy), drummer Roger Taylor (no relation to Andy or John) and keyboardist Nick Rhodes — finally veered from that course with the relative deep-cut “Lonely in Your Nightmare,” which the group spiced up by mixing in some of Rick James’ “Super Freak.”

Backed by four touring musicians — including two female backing vocalists — Duran Duran sounded increasingly sharp and ready to resume the regular tour as it moved steadily through “Is There Something I Should Know?” “Anniversary,” “Friends of Mine” and “Careless Memories.”

“Ordinary World” — Duran Duran’s single greatest song — was as triumphant as usual, with sideman Dominic Brown’s gorgeous lead guitar work turning heads. It was nicely paired with “Come Undone,” another definite career highlight, making for the strongest two-song segment of the night.

The group closed the 15-song main set in high-adrenaline fashion as it powered through “Planet Earth,” “The Reflex” and a version of “Girls on Film” that included a taste of DJ Calvin Harris’ “Acceptable in the 80s.”

Duran Duran then returned for the encore with the beautiful “Save a Prayer” — which Le Bon dedicated to Andy Taylor — before ending “the biggest show in the history of Menlo Park” with a trip to “Rio.”


1. “Night Boat”
2. “Wild Boys”
3. “Hungry Like The Wolf”
4. “A View To A Kill”
5. “Notorious”
6. “Lonely in Your Nightmare”/”Super Freak”
7. “Is There Something I Should Know”
8. “Anniversary”
9. “Friends of Mine”
10. “Careless Memories”
11. “Ordinary World”
12. “Come Undone”
13. “Planet Earth”
14. “The Reflex”
15. “Girls on Film”/”Acceptable in the 80s”
16. “Save a Prayer”
17. “Rio”

Courtesy Mercury News