Eighties nostalgia is big business. Younger folks who really don't remember the decade of decadence (or may not have even been born yet) look at the era with a romantic, fuzzy feeling often propelled by their love of the music that served as the soundtrack of the time. Those who were old enough to live through the 80s usually recall it with fond memories and outlandish stories of misadventures and debauchery, the music always at the forefront of any recollection of the now legendary decade. [Text by Gabe, photos by Tracy.]
And chances are, the band that's most often referenced in any discussion that hearkens back to the 1980's is most certainly Duran Duran. The British five-piece New Wave/"New Romantic" dance rock group was conceived and created at the end of the 1970's, and was geared and primed for total domination by the time their self-titled debut was released in 1981. A string of hit singles, charting LPs, popular videos and successful concert tours launched them into the stratosphere of mega-stardom and firmly carved their well-deserved place as ambassadors and innovators of the time. A true testament of the band's staying power and the affection and adoration their fans of all ages hold for them is the fact that they are still able to remain a vital force. Whether proudly basking in the glory of their back catalog or boldly showcasing their brand new material, Duran Duran still has a lot of life and music left in them. Just ask any of the 2,180 LOUD attendees at Monday night's concert at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater. It was clear that all of those who packed the place came to dance and have a good time. And the band gladly obliged and gave the audience more than their money's worth.
The band walked out to the dimly-lit stage just before 9 p.m., and opened with a slow, brooding number from their fabulous new album All You Need Is Now. "Before The Rain," the album's closer, is an unusual choice to kick off a set. The haunted, mysterious tune creates an ominous vibe not unlike that of "The Chauffeur," the closing song from the band's 1982 masterwork Rio. The pace picked up, however, at the split second that they launched into "Planet Earth," their debut single and a fat slab of futuristic disco-rock. The hall transformed into a hot sweaty dance club, everyone seeming to feel the urge to dance wildly and scream along to the words. THIS is the type of reaction Duran Duran are known to elicit. And it's safe to say, they still have it.
Lead singer Simon LeBon has had years of practice in becoming the consummate frontman that he is. He teases and toys with his audiences and they love it. Between dance moves and poses, he belts it out with a passion and ferocity that's rarely found among his contemporaries. He, bassist John Taylor, and keyboard whiz Nick Rhodes still draw deafening reactions when introduced or when they take the mic to speak. It's obvious that the band's fanbase is a loyal one.
Newer material was wisely interspersed with more well-known hits and the crowd ate it all up. The high energy of newer material like "Girl Panic" and "Safe" worked perfectly alongside more well-known crowd-pleasers like "Reflex" and "Come Undone." Never afraid to showcase their newer work, Duran Duran has made it very clear that they have no interest in merely being a nostalgia act. They aren't ready to settle for the "Remember The 80's" tour circuit; they are happy to be known as a still thriving, relevant act — an achievement that was made crystal clear with the release of their most recent album.
Duran wowed the crowd with some stunning visuals onstage, too; various video screens behind the band projected colorful images at times and sometimes doubled as projection screens for those towards the back of the hall to gain a closer view. Four large masks above the stage flashed facial images of band members singing along at times. The visuals enhanced the experience rather than overshadowed it as often happens when light displays and visuals dominate at concerts.
The night's encore featured two more Duran classics and fan favorites; "Wild Boys" turned into an all-out sing-along and reached a fever pitch when the band broke into another '80s classic mid-song, Frankie Goes To Hollywood's "Relax." LeBon and company led the crowd into a couple of verses of the naughty anthem before seamlessly falling right back into place. A highly energetic version of "Rio" ended the encore as well as the night's performance. Judging from the enthusiasm of the crowd, the band could have played for another hour and no one would have minded.
Duran Duran is one of the few acts from the 1980's that can still attract large, devoted crowds while remaining relevant and true to their roots. It's been quite a while since I've seen (and heard) an audience quite like the one I was among last Monday night. As long as the fans are enthused and the band has fresh new material to offer alongside the catalog they've built a career on, I foresee Duran Duran remaining a vital force for many years to come.
Before The Rain
A View To A Kill
All You Need Is Now
Blame The Machines
The Man Who Stole A Leopard
Leave A Light On
Hungry Like The Wolf