sat 03/12/2022

Duran Duran, Brighton Centre, 2015 | reviews, news & interviews

Duran Duran, Brighton Centre, 2015

Duran Duran, Brighton Centre, 2015

The New Romantic mainstays hit the south coast to celebrate the Eighties - and their new album

The arrival of Duran Duran is announced by a barrage of strobes, dry ice creeping about the stage, and the thunder-rumble of an approaching storm through the speakers. There is another noise too. It is the sound of female voices letting rip. They’re doing a loud, heartfelt approximation of the hysterical teen shriek that’s greeted boy bands from The Beatles to One Direction. Duran Duran, after all, are the top dog poster boys of their youth. However, these are women, not girls, and they are in their 40s and 50s so the pitch is lower and the tone less piercing. It is oddly poignant.

Accompanied by touring guitarist Dom Brown, saxophonist Simon Willescroft and feisty, mini-skirted backing singers Jessie Wagner and Annie Ross, the four members of Duran Duran roll on stage, bathing in the response. Their look tonight is black leather jackets and leisurewear, with frontman Simon le Bon in white jeans and a motorcycle jacket. They strike straight into the title cut from their new album “Paper Gods”. It’s a decent song, an eight minute epic wherein barbershop harmonies are overrun by a catchy amalgam of synth-pop and easy, LA-tinted light funk. It’s greeted enthusiastically but not half as enthusiastically as the next three, “Wild Boys” and their Bond theme, “A View To A Kill”, songs from their globe-conquering mid-Eighties pomp accompanied by suitably bombastic visuals, topped off with the 1982 monster “Hungry Like The Wolf”.

It’s as if they’ve become carried away by enthusiasm for their new material 

And here’s the thing; the audience is as much middle-aged men as women. I’d put money down that, like the 15 year old me in 1983, these males once dismissed Duran Duran. The band represented, at best, an annoyance, with girls endlessly swooning over them, and at worst, a monument to the toxic materialism of Thatcher’s yuppies. Yet nostalgia has treated them well. That and the fact the best of their songs are rock solid. No other boy band since could match the actual music (except, possibly, Robbie Williams). Finally, of course, they weren’t ever a manufactured boy band anyway, but a Birmingham post-punk synth pop outfit who, by channelling Roxy Music and Chic, fulfilled their every rock star dream.

Perhaps the last is why Le Bon makes a rather awkward frontman. He was never groomed for it like Harry Styles and the rest. His voice, once off-key and unreliable in the live arena, is now strong and hitting the high notes, his persona is guilelessly bubbly, and his dad-dancing is commented upon by many. The rest of the band appear to be enjoying themselves too, especially bassist John Taylor, once their greatest sex god, grinning and running around the stage. Meanwhile drummer Roger Taylor and lynchpin member/keyboard-player Nick Rhodes maintain suitably New Romantic deadpan faces.

“Pressure Off”, another and new Rodgers collaboration, is ballistic

There were quibbles with the gig. The sound, initially good, ran into guitar-heavy distortion so that for much of the concert’s middle section songs lost their polished sheen, notably the cover of “White Lines (Don’t Don’t Do It)”, Duran’s post-modern gag that sounded very messy. The dynamic of the set order doesn’t carry as well as the last time I saw them here in 2011. It’s as if they’ve become carried away by enthusiasm for their new material (the new album was, after all, a bona fide Top 10 hit here and in the States). Such enthusiasm for being an active, creative band rather than an Eighties cabaret turn is admirable but results in a mid-set slump, saved by the Nile Rodgers disco-funk attack of “Notorious”, another song time has treated well.

Such moans aside, “Pressure Off”, another and new Rodgers collaboration, backed by a high-end black-and-white video shown behind them, is ballistic and is followed by the killer twosome, “Planet Earth”, wherein the crowd shout-along reaches a peak, and the touching, mournful 1993 slowie, "Ordinary World”, a lighter-waving anthem, if such were allowed. Unfortunately, they then went into EDM-flavoured medleys that were wearing rather than euphoric, mashing their cheesy 2004 hit “(Reach Up For The) Sunsrise” into the never-great “New Moon on Monday”, and a decade-crossing three song medley that pissed away “Girls on Film”, arguably their best song (and, along with “The Chauffeur”, one of the few my teenage self openly admitted to liking).

The encore begins with Le Bon making an announcement that the Eagles of Death Metal version of their 1982 single “Save A Prayer” would be released in aid of charity to honour the recent attacks on Paris. The speech is very clunky but the intention decent, so, passing over it, they play the song in question to a quiet house, then wisely finish with the revved-up party anthem “Rio”. It’s a well-chosen high point on which to stop. After it they line up stage-front for applause. “Good to see Brighton rocked,” says Le Bon affably, the last to leave, lapping up the final applause, and so our brash, frothy TARDIS trip to the Eighties is over. 

Overleaf: Watch the video for "Pressure Off" (as mentioned above), featuring Janelle Monáe and Nile Rodgers


Oh, the subjectivity of musical experience! I too saw Duran Duran at the Brighton centre in 2011 and thought they were much better on this occasion - they were completely on it - my girlfriend thought so too! Loved the guitar drenched in overdrive!

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