Tonight’s electric performance shows once again why they were once the biggest band on the planet and are one of the all-time great British bands.
Combining a love of Bowie, Nile Rodgers and Romantic style Duran Duran are simply one of the most iconic British bands of the 1980s. Submerged by the MTV revolution they and the other Blitz kid bands provided the escapism needed in the dour social unease of an early 1980s Britain becoming the biggest band on the planet in the process. Tonight, the band bring their ‘Future Past’ tour to the Manchester AO Arena during a similar social landscape and I for one am looking forward to a night of 80s excess.
The lights dim over the 21,000 crowd as stunning state-of-the-art visuals play on huge stage mounted screens. The futuristic instrumental “Velvet Newton” plays over the P.A and the four original members appear in the green strobes at the top of a set of futuristic stairs. One by one walking down to huge applause leaving Simon, religious-like, to take centre stage as the audience thunders in response. There are not many bands who could get away with this entrance, the bands sense of style, drama and love of technology showing no sign of waning. It’s an entrance befitting a band who practically defined the music video and as they launch into “Night Boat” from their 1981 debut album I’m transported back to my teenage school days where discussions of “who’s your favourite Duran?” were an ever present on the school playground.
“Wild Boys” follows. A digital robotic head looms on the screens. Simon and John share “Wild Boys” chants with each other and are constantly moving from one side of the stage to the other. It’s tribal, enthralling and befits the legacy of a song inspired by the same book that along with “A Clockwork Orange” inspired the look of one Ziggy Stardust. Simon jokingly complains that the five minute venue journey took 40 minutes in the Manchester traffic before the big songs continue. The decadent “Hungry Like the Wolf” has thousands of no longer teenage fans dancing and joining in with “do,do,do,do,do,do”, the anthemic “A View to a Kill “and “Notorious” showcase Simons’ commanding stage presence, John’s vastly underrated intricate bass lines and Roger’s metronomic drumming all holding things together.
The bands love of performing and individual personality on stage is undeniable and it’s clear that they are genuinely having a great time performing together. Nick is still effortlessly cool and unemotional behind his keyboards, Roger is still happy to be the “quiet one” hiding behind his kit while John, Simon and guitarist Dominic Brown interact frequently, swapping positions on the stage. The energy of the band is electric, the crowd singing along to every word and dancing through every song as the futuristic images continue to be projected behind them.
The energy slows a little for “Give it all up” from the band’s latest album before we’re back to the early 80s for the inspired “Last Chance on the Stairway”, the bouncing “Careless Memories” and the edgy and sublime “Friends of Mine” which has me mouthing “Georgie Davies is coming out, no more heroes we twist and shout” along with the front rows. This is” Ordinary World, it saved the life of the band” announces Simon before launching into a perfect version of the 1993 classic.
It’s not all high-tech, fine-tuned precision though. Simon completely forgets the words to “Anniversary”. Looking to John for help, he too appears to not have a clue what they are. Although seemingly embarrassed it’s endearing to watch as the crowd help to complete a great version of the song from their excellent last album, Future Past. The glorious sci-fi voyage of “Planet Earth,” its flowing space-age synthesizers, disco-inspired bass lines and brittle guitars have the whole arena moving and chanting the chorus. It’s the same with “Girls on Film” before they’re gone to huge cheers for a well-deserved pre-encore break.
“Come Undone” is beautiful, Simon performing with backing singer Anna before the video screens flash images of white doves and Nicks opening arpeggiated synthesizer riff lead us into the emotional “Save a Prayer”. Everyone lights up their mobile phones, sways and sings along to the baby making classic. Simon laughingly telling us “Don’t worry if you don’t know the words, as I’ve already proven” as the song begins. The hairs on the back of my neck stand up. Songs and performances don’t get much better than this, but there’s only one song to end the night. A song which immediately conjures up visions of sun kissed beaches, 80s excess and escapism. “Rio” is electric and has everyone yet again singing their lungs out and dancing in the sand before the band leave to a standing ovation.
Duran Duran were always more than just young heartthrobs with mascara and flowing hair to me. The band tonight proving through new songs, huge hits and underrated album tracks how good they were and still are. Their music is timeless and is just as relevant and powerful today as it was when it was first released. Tonight’s electric performance shows once again why they were once the biggest band on the planet and are one of the all-time great British bands. It’s a performance that shows while styles come and go, class is permanent and Duran Duran are still certainly that.
Duran Duran are: –
Simon Le Bon (vocals/acoustic guitar)
Nick Rhodes (Keyboards)
John Taylor (Bass/backing vocals)
Roger Taylor (drums)
Dominic Brown (Lead guitarist)
1/ Velvet Newton
2/ Night Boat
3/ The Wild Boys
4/ Hungry Like the Wolf
6/ A View to a Kill
8/ Give it all up
9/ Last Chance on the Stairway
10/ Is There Something I Should Know?
11/ Friends of Mine
12/ Careless Memories
13/ Ordinary World
15/ Planet Earth
16/ White Lines
17/ The Reflex
18/ Girls on Film / Acceptable in the 80’s
19/ Come Undone
20/ Save a Prayer
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I’ve loved music since forever. Graphic designer, photographer and artist at painted.papillon.smile (www.ppsdesign.co.uk)