On Thursday April 7, I attended my 16th Duran Duran show. Although I’m a lifelong American fan dating back to Rio, I had never seen the band until 1997. In fact, nearly all of my Duran concerts occurred between the Medazzaland and Red Carpet Massacre tours (14 shows between 1997-2008, evenly split between the 90’s era and reunited lineups). As I sat with my wife and one of my sisters the other night, waiting for the show to start and chatting with other Duranies, these thoughts ran through my mind. How was it that I was only seeing my 2nd show in the last 8 years? Of course, starting a family, buying a house, and job demands all get in the way, as does “Durantime” and the band’s lack of touring. Regardless, I made up my mind to go into the show completely open. I was going to enjoy it, even if they played “Hungry Like the Wolf” for two hours straight! (Well, maybe that would be a bit much…but you get my point.)
A little over 24 hours later, as I write this, I am still processing what was an amazing live performance of songs old and new. Rather than go song by song, here are some general observations:
We’ve come too far to give up who we are.
Chic’s set was awesome. Nile and the gang played all of their hits—“Le Freak,” “I Want Your Love,” and “Good Times”—in addition to a medley of other songs that he’d written for other artists. The highlight was a cover of David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance.” I won’t lie, I have always loved disco (before Duran Duran, my favorite artists included Andy Gibb and the Bee Gees…I was born in the early 70’s and that’s what I grew up with!) and seeing Nile perform these songs live was a dream come true. He has an energy and enthusiasm for life that comes through in his music. Nile introduced “Get Lucky,” a song he wrote with Daft Punk and Pharrell Williams several years ago, as the response to his cancer diagnosis (and he is now cancer free!). I had never heard “Get Lucky” but it resonated with me—musically and lyrically—as Nile, Duran, and all of us fans have truly “come too far to give up who we are.” Nile Rodgers and Chic perfectly set the stage for Duran with their funky, high energy performance.
Is it out of choice that you’re here next to me, or just the aftermath of moments as they pass?
That line—from “What are the Chances”—is one of my favorites in the entirety of the Duran catalogue. As with any lyric, its interpretation depends on the listener. Last night, I wondered if it might refer to the relationship between Dom Brown and the band. Dom has been a loyal part of the Duran family for over a decade now, not just as a “touring” guitarist but co-writer on the last two (amazing) albums. Much has been made in the Duran fandom of his status (or lack thereof) as an “official” member of the band. All I know is what I saw and heard last night: an amazing show, with great chemistry, much of it involving Dom. Gone is the tension that marked the later Warren years and the initial reunion involving Andy (where something about the “Fab 5” just felt off). Now, they seem as relaxed and sure of themselves as they were in the early 80’s, and surely Dom deserves some measure of credit for that. “What are the Chances” was amazing, emotional, and a standout from last night’s show. I have been on the fence on the track for months now, but last night put me over the edge. Dom was also great on “I Don’t Want Your Love.” While I’ve seen different lineups perform that song, the Mohegan Sun show marked two firsts: The first time I’ve ever heard Dom play it, and the first time I’ve ever heard the guitar solo played properly, like Chester Kamen played it on Big Thing. Even the dreaded “Hungry Like the Wolf” sounded livelier and refreshed (my wife noticed that as well and she is no Duranie!). “Ordinary World,” another song I know some feel should be dropped (more on that in a moment) also sounded great, thanks to Dom’s faithful rendition. While I don’t fully understand the relationship between Dom and the band, and the fact that he seems to be kept at arm’s length at times, I only know what I saw last night. I hope to continue to see him playing with Duran for years to come.
We’re all busy being human; we remember.
So when it comes down to it, there isn’t much I would change in last night’s set. “Last Night in the City” was far better live than I ever would have imagined, with Anna Ross doing a great job. As noted above, so too was “What are the Chances.” “Paper Gods” was the perfect opener. Complimented by the visuals of the band (minus Nick, unless I missed him) singing the Mr. Hudson backing vocal on the big screen, the band took the stage. Roger’s percussion and Nick’s synth line followed Simon’s vocal, and then the crowd went nuts as John’s bass kicked in. Putting “Wild Boys” earlier in the set (rather than toward the end, where it usually is if they play it) was a great decision. It got the crowd rocking early and followed the momentum of their entrance and “Paper Gods.” Perhaps the highlight of the night were two of the tracks that Nile Rodgers cowrote—“Notorious” and “Pressure Off”—played with the hit maker himself, who returned to the stage. His chemistry with John, Dom and Simon reinforced the fact that Duran truly is like a second band for him. Even “Hungry Like the Wolf” and “Ordinary World”—two hits that seem far overplayed and I could do without—sounded great last night and I would not have removed them.
That being said, I would make a few changes. While it seemed well received, I would have eliminated “Come Undone.” I understand the band’s attachment to their few 90’s hits. However, we’re nearly a quarter century removed from The Wedding Album. If an 80’s hit like “Union of the Snake” or “The Reflex” can be omitted from the set, surely “Come Undone” can as well. Why not replace that spot in the set with something from the first three albums? “Last Chance on the Stairway” could easily function as an early mid-tempo number that would give the guys a breather while offering the fans (even the casual ones) a song they likely know.
Likewise, “Danceophobia” is a misstep that need not be repeated live. I understand from reading interviews how much the band worked on the track, and of course there is the celebrity connection with Lindsay Lohan performing on the studio version. If the goal is to get the casual Duranies to buy Paper Gods, why not replace “Danceophobia” with “Face for Today” or “Butterfly Girl”?
Finally, the band should either play the guitar-driven, 1993 version of “Too Much Information,” or go all-in and swap it out with “Drowning Man” and strip the guitar from that track (if they are so bent on playing something more from The Wedding Album). The sped-up, electro “Too Much Information” completely ruins one of their best songs.
Those quibbles aside, it was a great show for both long time Duranies and casual fans. The past may very well be “another country” but last night, for a few hours, Duran Duran, Nile Rodgers, and Chic successfully blended past and present songs for an amazing show.
HIGHLIGHTS: I Don’t Want Your Love, Paper Gods, Notorious, Pressure Off, What are the Chances, Planet Earth/Space Oddity, Save a Prayer, Sunrise/New Moon on Monday medley.
LEAST FAVORITE: Danceophobia, Too Much Information, Come Undone
MOST SURPRISING: White Lines continues to be a song that people go nuts for, even though most Duranies would probably like to see it replaced in the set. Yes, Rhonda, he still spit the water, although we were a section too far back to feel it.
BIGGEST OMISSION: I understand the need to promote Paper Gods, but would it have killed the band to include something from All You Need Is Now? All they need do is look at how Sunrise has become such a huge fan favorite, even with casual fans. The same could be true of the song All You Need is Now if given the chance. It has the same anthemic quality.
BY THE NUMBERS: Paper Gods (5), Rio (3), The Wedding Album (3), Duran Duran (2), SATR (1), Arena (1), Notorious (1), Big Thing (1), Thank You (1), Astronaut (1), & AVTAK.