Amid projected reports of torrential downpours and potentially hideous weather conditions, Duran Duran, in their still-mighty power, somehow conjured one of their own song titles and did their best to "Hold Back The Rain." A soggy day and one that threatened to put a damper on the band's local stop on their "Paper Gods" tour at the outdoor MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheater ended as a pleasant, breezy spring evening — ideal for the 10,000 or so attendees who filled most of the seats at the venue but spent much of the time on their feet, dancing all night long. [Words by Gabe, photos by Brian.]
Getting things started with the title track (and opener off latest album Paper Gods), the band emerged to sounds of crashing thunder booming from PA speakers, under dramatic lights and through clouds of fog, and got things off to a rousing start. A video screen at the rear of the stage projected a black-and-white image of lead singer Simon Le Bon, bassist John Taylor and drummer Roger Taylor chanting along to the song's hymnal opening verse in poses resembling the iconic image of Queen singing along to "Boheman Rhapsody." A moody, slowly-building number isn't always the best choice to kick off a concert for thousands of anxious fans ... but DD pulled it off in grandiose style.
Two back-up singers rounded out vocals (the scantily-clad and devastatingly-sexy Anna Ross and Jessie Wagner) and were perched atop a riser at the rear of the stage as they added drama and mystique to the song.
The one-two punch of signature cuts "The Wild Boys" and "Hungry Like The Wolf" that followed had the entire place was captivated. Inhibitions are lost at a Duran show, bodies usually moving in spirited clusters as far as the eye can see and belting along to the songs at the top of their lungs. This Saturday night was no exception. Surrounded by my peers in the mostly 40-something bracket, I could was tell the impact and the lasting affection most of us still have for Duran is still as fiery as ever.
At the rear of the stage, the band's quiet, brooding, stylish mad professor, Nick Rhodes, occupied his own platform amid a bank of keyboards and synths. Clad in a sparkly leopard-spotted lapelled black jacket and his trademark platinum blonde locks, Rhodes looked ageless as he twirled knobs and added to the ambiance and aura that has characterized Duran Duran's sounds since its formation.
The band mixed in newer material with older, more well-known songs flawlessly during the nearly two-hour set. Some of the fresher odes were infused with more life and oomph in a live setting; "Last Night In The City" and "Danceophobia" sounded like classic Duran on this night, while the studio version seems somewhat unrepresentative of what this dance/pop troupe is known for. Relieving himself of bass duties here and there, John Taylor climbed behind a keyboard setup for a few numbers. An unusual sight indeed, as fans are more accustomed to seeing John slap a bass at the front of the stage.Nile Rodgers joined the band onstage for a couple of songs that he helped shape at various stages of Duran's career. After a red hot 60-minute opening set courtesy of his band Chic (more on them later), Rodgers re-emerged to add flesh to the band's 1986 hit "Notorious" as well as the lead single off Paper Gods, "Pressure Off." A welcomed surprise, this was a rare opportunity for longtime DD fans to witness the band jamming with a guitarist/producer who played an integral role in their success here in the States. He did, after all, remix the band's biggest hit "The Reflex" and created a more radio-ready, danceable version of the song way back in 1984.
A touching moment came when the band launched into debut single "Planet Earth" and segued into verses of David Bowie's "Space Oddity." As a huge close-up of the band's mentor and main inspirator was beamed onto a video screen, Duran Duran paid their tasteful respect to Bowie, whose untimely death earlier this year came as a shock to his fans and followers.
The appearance of some older, rarely-played nuggets ranked as personal highlights of the show, which seemed to gain steady momentum and reach a fever pitch in its second half. "I Don't Want Your Love" off 1988's Big Thing and "Too Much Information" (delivered with an almost EDM-backbeat) from their multi-platinum 1993 self-titled LP, sounded fresh, inspired and lively. The biggest beef for some Duran fans is that the band tends to stick to the same old palate of hits, neglecting to delve into some of deeper cuts or lesser-known singles. Those fans were thrown a couple of bones on this night.
As the pumping disco of "Girls On Film" ended the night, the band left everyone wanting a lot more. And that's what we got. An encore that contained another poignant moment came when the band played their much-loved ballad "Save A Prayer" and Le Bon referenced the cover that Eagles of Death Metal released in the wake of the bloody tragedy that occurred at their Paris concert last November. In a particularly uplifting message, Simon introduced the song by stating "Music is a force for good. We will not be afraid!" before starting to strum the acoustic guitar that hung from his neck. Powerful stuff.
Closing with the title track off 1982 masterwork Rio, and beneath a giant image of the Patrick Nagel painting from its recognizable album cover, Duran Duran proved they are no nostalgia act. While their greatest successes came in the decade they defined musically and stylistically, this is no 1980s throwback band, but an acts from the era that can flip-flop through decades and eras seamlessly and pull off the magic they've created for the better part of 35 years night after night on stage.
A 60-minute non-stop jukebox of hits by Nile Rodgers and the 2016 lineup of his disco pioneer band Chic got the lively audience primed and ready for Duran Duran. Long gone are founding members Bernard Edwards (bass) and Tony Thompson (the drummer who was also a member of Duran offshoot band Power Station). However, Rodgers now surrounds himself with players who do the legacy of the funk/soul band justice. Always stylish and nattily dressed, the musicians sported white attire and sharp black ties. Both gorgeous female vocalists wore elegant black gowns and came onstage carrying handbags and shiny accessories. Nile, in familiar beret and long dreads, looked elated and pleased to be on stage. An honest mid-set revelation came when Rodgers brought up the aggressive cancer he was he was diagnosed with five years ago. Now cancer-free, Nile and company churned out most of Chic's hits as well as some he had a huge part in creating for other artists.
Delving back to disco numbers by Diana Ross and Sister Sledge to more current Daft Punk material he'd had a hand in producing, Rodgers delivered an awesome display of the fine music he's been involved with and that's defined and shaped dance culture for more than four decades. It's rare that an opener has everyone dancing and chanting aloud. This night was an exception.
As people plucked from the audience were escorted onstage to dance along to "Good Times", the Chic hit from 1979 whose slinky bassline was the basis for Sugarhill Gang's early hip-hop party anthem of the same year, "Rapper's Delight", it was crystal clear that Nile's goal was just that: to provide a good time for those who voraciously awaited the headliner to take the stage.
Dance, Dance, Dance
I Want Your Love
I'm Coming Out/Upside Down/He's The Greatest Dancer/We Are Family
Good Times/Rapper's Delight
Duran Duran Setlist
Hungry Like The Wolf
View To A Kill
Last Night In The City
What Are The Chances
Planet Earth/Space Oddity
I Don't Want Your Love
Sunrise/New Moon On Monday
Too Much Information
Girls on Film
Save A Prayer