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Duran Duran: Caught live at Wembley Arena


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 movement.

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 behind them.

At times suggestive, at others slightly camp, the gig was always fun, however, and played with its tongue firmly rolled into its cheek.

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 throwaway.

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.

 

 

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