DURHAM. N.C. — When Duran Duran arrives at Philips Arena on April 15, prepare for a blissful pop-funk party.
The band’s U.S. tour kickoff Monday night at the lovely, intimate Durham Performing Arts Center offered a well-balanced blend of hits spanning their admirable 30-plus year career and new songs from their strikingly fresh current album, “Paper Gods.”
Though the theater version of Duran’s tour is obviously condensed compared to what they will bring to arenas (as well, Chic with Nile Rodgers is also part of those dates), it’s likely to be a visual feast in any form.
I talked to John Taylor a few weeks ago (that story will be posted in the next couple of weeks along with more show details) and he was jazzed about the multimedia that the band is utilizing during the show.
Indeed, a crop of frantic, colorful spinning lights accompanied “Hungry Like the Wolf” (mediocre video below); a beautifully stylish black and white video of the guys (and Janelle Monae) played behind “Pressure Off” (which is as tight and funky as “Notorious” live); a familiar James Bond clip opened “A View to a Kill”; and simple, yet mesmerizing video of psychedelic colors, desert scenes and an eerie forest paired with other songs.
While singer Simon Le Bon had a couple of rough moments – his voice strained uncomfortably during “A View to Kill” and he prompted keyboardist Nick Rhodes for a re-do after starting “I Don’t Want Your Love” in the wrong key – a few flubs are preferable to anyone who can’t even lip sync properly.
The band – Le Bon, Rhodes, drummer Roger Taylor and bassist/Cheekbone God John Taylor – sounded taut and shared frequent grins and nods as they bopped through a nearly two-hour set. John Taylor in particular appeared thrilled to be on stage as he loped around like a gangly puppy, plucking some deep, throbbing bass lines.
As per usual during their last few tours, the core four were joined by guitarist Dom Brown, sax player Simon Willescroft and background singers Anna Ross and Jessie Wagner.
While the set list already shuffled between a couple of shows in Canada over the weekend and the Monday night Durham production, let’s hope the seamless melding of “Planet Earth” and David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” remains, as well as the band’s always airtight cover of “White Lines” and the surprise inclusion of 1993’s underrated – and prescient – “Too Much Information.”
Talk about a song that has never been more relevant. But then Duran Duran has always been a bit ahead of their time.