Last Night: Duran Duran at Mizner Park Amphitheater
Mizner Park Amphitheater, Boca Raton
Monday, May 19, 2008
Better Than: Just about every other show in the last six months by a band existing for more than fifteen years.
The Review:Last night Duran Duran, now at some 28 years and running, managed to achieve nearly the impossible. The band presented a real spectacle with some actual substance, more than two hours of pure escapism still backed by real musicianship. And an introduction of new material and thorough conversion of previous skeptics. And an updated, refreshed version of older material. And not a single lull in a production that was highly smooth and well-rehearsed, but never seemed stilted, rushed, or monotonous for the band. Seriously. They’ve managed to escape wallowing in nostalgia or turning old favorites into noodling jams. And while the crowd was definitely mostly at an age where a $60 to $115 concert ticket is affordable, there were enough new bells and whistles to lure in members of the short-attention-span generation and keep them hooked.
As on the rest of the Red Carpet Massacre tour in support of their 12th album of the same name, the band hewed closely to its established three-act show. First coming into view to the creepy strains of the theme to A Clockwork Orange, the set was all futuristic cityscape, with a painted backdrop that, despite Nick Rhodes’ claims otherwise, was indeed Blade Runner-esque. And with none of the usual projection screens, the light show was an absolute pleasure, all shooting, pulsing colored lights, looking somewhere between shooting UFOs, search lights, and flash bulbs.
The band wisely capitalized on the excitement of the show’s beginning to run through much of its newest material, with the crowd enthusiastically bouncing along in anticipation of the first oldie-but-goodie (“Hungry Like The Wolf,” this time.) A couple things soon became clear: 1) Women still find frontman Simon Le Bon incredibly sexy (I counted a thong, a white tank top, and a bra hurled at the stage), and 2) with the old songs’ technological updates, songs from Red Carpet Massacre blend in seamlessly. The only exception to this perhaps was “Skin Divers,” which, while an absolute standout on the album, proved sort of impossible to replicate live (especially with Le Bon filling in for Timbaland’s signature quick-fire chorus chants).
The other major revelation of the evening was the middle portion, dubbed the “electro set,” and heralded by the band members’ abandoning of all instruments for a glittering bank of synthesizers along the front edge of the stage. Retooled with throbbing low end and minimal breakbeats, segueing into each other as if part of a DJ mix, the songs presented here make evidently clear from whence came the stylings of this decade’s electropoppers. In fact, if studio versions were made available of these middle-segment reworkings, they’d slide in easily at any late-night venue where people dance to the likes of Ladytron and Fischerspooner.
The final, and shortest segment of the show, featured the big rave-ups. And after the flawless, almost show-stopping version of “Girls on Film,” it was pretty obvious that “Rio” would be the big “encore.” Which is all well and good – Duran Duran count themselves in the rarefied company of bands with real options for that final farewell flourish. It remains to be seen if any of today’s acts, 28 years from now, will straddle worlds and still deliver the goods as effectively and satisfyingly. – Arielle Castillo
Personal Bias: Even though Duran Duran has existed longer than I have, my spot for anything Brit and Seventies/Eighties (especially if it involves synths, or existential pondering, or regional Northern accents), is real soft.
Random Detail: Le Bon’s first suit appeared to be screen printed a couple of times with the word “Oi.” A nod to the blue-collar vibe of his Birmingham, England hometown?
By The Way: The band heads over to Europe in June.
-“Red Carpet Massacre”
-“Hungry Like the Wolf”
-“Save a Prayer”
-“A View to a Kill”
-“Last Chance on the Stairway”
-“All She Wants Is”
-“Warm Leatherette” (cover, original: the Normal)
-“I Don’t Want Your Love”
-“Girls on Film”