Review: Jack Foley
THERE aren't too many bands that can take to the stage and receive
an ovation before the gig has even begun.
But Duran Duran opted to milk the acclaim before a single song
had been sung, standing in front of an appreciative crowd for
about two minutes, before getting down to business.
The Wembley date, on Saturday, April 24, 2004, was one of several
the band was in the capital playing to mark the 25th anniversary
of their formation, and boasted the original line-up of Simon
Le Bon, Nick Rhodes and the three Taylors.
The band were the undisputed kings of the New Romantic wave of
the 1980s, thriving on the kitsch values which encompassed the
Their songs weren't great, but in a decade which remains largely
forgettable for quality music, they possessed a certain something
which stood them out as cool. Spandau Ballet briefly challenged
it, but Duran Duran's durability came through.
Ironically, it wasn't until the early 90s that they really delivered
some of their most memorable tunes, most notably in the form of
the classic tracks Come Undone and Ordinary World.
Needless to say, at Wembley on Saturday, those two provided some
of the highlights - even though the distinctive acoustic guitar
rifts of the latter track were lost amid the decision to play
it fully plugged in and electric.
Ordinary World's strength lay in its vocals, however,
particularly as Le Bon took time out from his usual brash approach
to explain how the song had been prompted by the death of a close
friend - a tragedy which had left a huge hole in his life until
that record helped him to move on.
It was sung with such conviction, that every word contained an
extra poignancy - prompting one to imagine the torment that must
have been going through the singer's mind while penning it.
Come Undone, in contrast, found Le Bon in typically
cavalier manner, asking the couples in his audience (of which
there were many) to imagine what they might be doing with each
other a little later, when the women might be coming undone.
It was indicative of the underlying sexual current which ran
through the night; with visuals of scantily clad, and sometimes,
naked women providing a backdrop to the band on the big screens
At times suggestive, at others slightly camp, the gig was always
fun, however, and played with its tongue firmly rolled into its
Duran Duran are fully aware of the 'wild boys' image they possessed
at the peak of their powers, and were content to play up to that
to maximum effect.
And their sense of elation was totally infectious, with the crowd
dancing along, and singing at the tops of their voices, to every
classic hit they played.
Needless to say, the band did uncover some new material, from
an album they have spent the past two years compiling, but in
the main, they were content to play the back catalogue - which
was unquestionably what the crowd had come to see.
Of those bygone hits, the guitar-driven Planet Earth,
the menacing Chauffeur, the synth-led 'cigarette-lighter'
track, Save A Prayer, and the giddily addictive, The
Reflex, left the biggest impression.
The new songs, by contrast, were hit and miss, with the tepid
What Happens Tomorrow coming across as a slightly cringe-worthy
attempt to spread some hope in the face of the world's problems.
Beautiful Colours, by comparison, was a much more effective
affair, doing much to suggest that the band has rediscovered its
ability to write addictive pop numbers.
Yet the crowd was noticeably quieter during these moments, which
will make it interesting to see how the new material fares when
it is eventually released.
Some of the older songs, too, remained as awkward and dated as
they sounded back in the day, with Union of the Snake,
a prime example of their songwriting and its most awkward and
These were but minor quibbles, however, and even provided a convenient
resting point for the sweaty fanclub, which danced and sang to
their hearts' content for most of the time.
The encore comprised Girls on Film and Rio,
and served to ensure that things ended on a high.
So while Le Bon and co certainly won't be crying for yesterday,
it remains to be seen whether the comeback will carry the same
clout as before.
For the moment, however, Duran Duran have yet to come undone
- and they fully deserve their place in the limelight once more.