21 March 2005

Don't Monkey With My Business

Here's a review I wrote for a painstakingly straight news organization. Accordingly, I couldn't use the excessive profanity that seems to exemplify my writing style. However, I've inserted a few comments in red that I judiciously left out of the "official" version.

Back in their '80s heyday, Duran Duran was seen as something of a joke: An MTV-concocted bunch of pretty boys posing and preening through video after video with no real musical substance behind them.

How times change. In the present day -- the era of Ashlee Simpson -- Duran Duran now seem positively venerable. After all, they wrote their own material, played their own instruments and were able to perform live without cheat tracks. Although the group never actually disbanded, Duran Duran was reduced to a core of two original members -- singer Simon LeBon and keyboardist Nick Rhodes -- after the other three left at various points. Guitarist Andy Taylor and drummer Roger Taylor (no relation) were the first to split; bass player John Taylor (again, no relation) left a decade later. As with most bands, the original line-up was the best. As with most bands that break up, a reunion seemed inevitable, and it finally happened for the Durans last year. A new album (Astronaut , Epic Records) was recorded and the newly reconstituted band hit the road.

The tour made a stop in Louisville Sunday night, and judging the reaction of the sold-out Palace Theatre, the reunion is an unqualified success. Drawing heavily upon their hit-littered past without neglecting their new material, the Durans played a tight two-hour set that kept the crowd on its feet for the duration. However, due to a family illness, Andy Taylor had to fly home to England, so one Dominic Brown handled guitar duties. The show must go on.

The big '80s hits ("Hungry Like the Wolf," "A View to a Kill," "The Reflex") got the biggest responses, but many people new the lyrics to newer tunes like "Want You More" and the risqué "Bedroom Toys." In fact, they opened the show with "(Reach Out for the) Sunrise," as if to say, "We're not just a nostalgia act, folks."

Overall, the band looked good, although middle age has thickened the waistlines, and none of the members appear to have had any obvious plastic surgery. (It's gotta be said: LeBon kinda resembled William Shatner -- sorry, girls.) John Taylor was wearing a skirt, while the rest of the band was more conservatively attired. LeBon seemed to get winded a few times during "Hungry Like the Wolf," and his vocals were mixed conspicuously low, but midway through the set, everything evened out. Taylors John and Roger provided the muscle, proving that a good rhythm section is a good rhythm section, no matter the musical genre.

Giant video screens were used to good effect, featuring close-ups of the band, graphics and even short films, the highlight of which was an anime-style cartoon featuring the Durans gruesomely battling ninjas and giant monsters during "Careless Memories," culminating in LeBon's animated doppelganger destroying a building labeled "Endangered Music Industry" -- a swipe at the band's former record label, EMI. Another highlight was the near snuff film that served as the backdrop for "A View to a Kill," portions of which were downright disturbing. Who knew the Duran boys were such perverts? One wonders what the former teenyboppers made of all the bondage and mutilation on the big screens -- something to think about in the minivan on the way back home to St. Matthews.

The encores of "Girls on Film" and "Rio" ended things on a suitably high note. Duran Duran put on an impressive show, demonstrating how bands with 20-year careers can mix the old with the new.

(Reach Out For The) Sunrise
Hungry Like the Wolf
Planet Earth
Want You More
Union of the Snake
What Happens Tomorrow
Come Undone
I Don't Want Your Love
A View to a Kill
The Chauffeur
Ordinary World
Save a Prayer
Bedroom Toys
The Reflex
Careless Memories
Wild Boys
Girls on Film

Addendum: Me, I was pleasantly surprised by how good Duran Duran was last night. Good show, lads! I was pretty indifferent to them the first time around, although they always had hot chicks in their videos (whatever happened to the actress in the "Rio" video?), but every woman I ever dated, including the lucky one I eventually married, loved Duran Duran, so having their greatest hits in the CD collection was a no-brainer.

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