Just a reminder that we graciously accept reviews from DD shows, as well as blogs on any topic that has to do with Duran Duran. Today Jason Lent shares a different perspective on the recent Las Vegas show. If you’re interested in submitting a blog, please check out our “Guest Blog” page for information.
For the next two weeks I will be on vacation with family (I’m doing nearly the polar opposite of “touring” by going camping with family in Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons), so I have a few guest blogs to take my place. Enjoy!! -R
By Jason Lent
My nostalgia drenched July wrapped up with Duran Duran at the Mandalay Events Center in Las Vegas. Seven nights earlier, I stood in a parking lot downtown while Howard Jones and OMD performed on what felt like the surface of the sun. After Duran Duran, Howard Jones and Thompson Twins were pivotal touchstones in my formative years of music while OMD were always on the edges of my life soundtrack. All three provided different reminders of why I love the synth pop sounds of the 1980s. I still find myself expecting more from Duran Duran overall because they were “my” band as an impressionable 11-year-old. As I walked to my car that night in a mad dash to escape a parking garage built by Satan himself, I realized that no matter what the band does now, all I ever needed from them was already given to me back then.
Touring in support of Paper Gods, I went into last night’s show having already seen the earliest incarnation of this tour in 2015 at the Hollywood Bowl and the Life Is Beautiful Festival in Las Vegas. Selfishly hoping for some radical updates to the set list (this was, after all, the second Vegas show in under a year), I knew that such dreams were foolish. At this point, the band has firmly entrenched itself into the legacy circuit where delivering the most appeal to the largest amount of people is job number one. With that as the goal, this current tour might be as effective as any they’ve undertaken in the last twenty years. That night in Las Vegas, the cheers of the arena were literally deafening and I awoke the following morning with a ringing in my ears that I’d have expected if I stood in front of the PA at a Five Finger Death Punch concert (on a side note, very cool that Chris Kael from Death Punch was at the Duran show last night!).
From the viewpoint of a casual fan, there is no denying the overall power of the current show. After the artsy run through of the new album’s title track, the hits come fast and furious. Wild Boys, Hungry Like The Wolf, and A View To A Kill lifted the crowd to their feet and had them screaming along. The band appeared to be thrilled by the reception and Simon LeBon stepped into the role of the saucy frontman, a role he was born to play. Come Undone, the finest single of their second career peak, sounded and looked brilliant, providing one of the many highlights.
For the more ardent Duranie, the disappointment with the current show resides in the lack of hope that each show provides. Maybe this always existed with Duran Duran but age and technology now infringe on the innocent hope we carried to shows as teenagers. There is no mystery to which songs might be played and the stage banter feels a little too comfortable as a result. The show is the show and the band delivers it night after night at a very high level. However, most of us know exactly when LeBon is about to ask the audience if anybody is hungry. This lack of spontaneity and a refusal to push themselves outside their comfort zone takes a little sparkle off the modern Duran Duran.
For those of us who lived and died with each album (and Liberty sometimes felt like it wanted to kill me), the current tour does offer a few moments of ecstasy such as a killer performance of I Don’t Want Your Love from Big Thing and a reworked take on Girls On Film that feels funky and fresh. Both of these choices do nothing to hamper the casual fan’s appreciation of the show while giving us more fanatical sorts the hope for more twists and turns in the future. The clock is forever ticking when a band sticks around for over three decades but Duran Duran has some gas left in the tank and the next tour could be truly special if they are willing to take a few more chances.
First and foremost in my mind would be to bring 25-30 songs on the tour and arrange each set list slightly differently from town to town. In doing so, the band would have to stay on their toes musically from night-to-night. Why does that matter? It brings out the best in musicians. What if Notorious and Pressure Off weren’t always side by side for example. The songs are too similar sitting next to each other. If Notorious dropped down into the encore, it’s not like Nile Rodgers isn’t going to come back on stage. From what I’ve seen, he’ll take any chance to get in front of the audience especially if he gets to remind us of all the #1 hits he worked on. God bless the man, but we know you’re a legend. Stop telling us each night.
If the band brought 30 songs on the road, those extra tracks could open up a whole new world to long time fans. It starts with the new material. Last Night In the City should be dropped. It’s a boring EDM track that feels like the band trying to appeal to the very people who aren’t buying concert tickets regardless. Sunset Garage, a far better track, with a video montage of the band over the years could be a show highlight. The fatal flaw with Paper Gods was the decision to put the most Duran sounding songs into the “bonus tracks” of different versions of the release. Ask a hundred Duran fans and we would choose Planet Roaring over Danceophobia almost 100% of the time.
In addition to a better mix of the new tracks, the band’s depth gets grossly overlooked in the current tour which can be fixed fairly easily. All You Need Is Now from 2010 was one of their best studio albums since Rio and not a single song makes the current tour. This is more ludicrous than the decision to cover Public Enemy’s 911 Is A Joke. The album that brought them back into arenas gets no attention while the band continues to play Reach Up For the Sunrise, a modest hit but hardly essential listening. To make matters worse, the band taunts us with a chorus from New Moon On Monday in the middle of Sunrise. Here’s an idea, just play Monday, one of the beloved singles from the band’s biggest period.
As a kid, collecting Duran Duran 12” records felt like my life mission. On the flip side of the Careless Memories 12” was a track called Fame. At that age, I didn’t know who David Bowie was and this was my first time hearing an artist whose career and life would greatly influence everything I love in music. If the band had added Fame to the set list for this tour, not only would it have paid tribute to our collective hero, it would have taken us all back to the early stages of fandom when we were full of hope and wonder. I chalk up the medley of Planet Earth and Space Oddity as a near miss but still a lot of fun last night.
So where do we go from here? Next year is the 35th anniversary of Rio and the trend of bands revisiting complete works shows no signs of dissipating. Rather than head back into the studio, I hope Duran Duran embraces their legacy fully and undertakes a summer tour to celebrate a landmark album in all our lives. Open each night with a handful of other hits, take an intermission with a short film of the band in the studio and on video sets over the years, play Rio in its entirety and finish the night with an encore of even more hits. The ticket sales would be monumental and those of us who stayed with them all along would be rewarded with rarely heard songs like Hold Back the Rain.
I look forward to new albums and new tours while continuing to want more of the past each show. Last night was an amazing experience and despite my many words above, I left with a huge smile on my face. The music critic in me will always explore every corner of my Duran Duran fandom but my passion never diminishes. The recent resurgence in interest for their work vindicates many of us who grew up being teased for loving five good-looking lads from England. Take away their youthful smiles, the expensive videos, and all the radio hits and you still have truly gifted musicians with a natural-born entertainer on the mic. Duran Duran forever.