When I was a young lad in the early ’80s on the search for good music, Duran Duran struck as a revelation. They’ve remained as powerful and interesting today as they were then, and their talent, chemistry, and sophistication were on full display at a pair of shows in newly opened The Fillmore New Orleans this week.
To a radio-listening lad still shy of his teens like myself, Duran Duran first may have seemed unlikely heroes. I first began to notice them during the campaign for Rio, as they were fully embraced by my female classmates as a glam boy band. Should a kid have then been prepared to dismiss frontman Simon LeBon and company as “pretty boys,” he would only have to listen to a few songs, as I did, to understand the gents were already true musicians with a fine ear for tunesmithing and craftsmanship.
More so, in unhappy times, Duran Duran were guaranteed to make you smile or better yet, raise your head and put a spring in your step with songs that inspire rejuvenation with an unrelenting optimism — songs like “New Religion,” “Hungry Like the Wolf,” and “Rio” — all played at The Fillmore New Orleans on Feb. 19.
Stream Rio by Duran Duran on Spotify:
The brief run of US tourdates was built around a festival appearance in the Cayman Islands, giving Duran Duran some breathing room to turn these performances into fan favorites. And so in addition to the popular tunes from Rio, the band made the remarkable addition of “The Seventh Stranger,” a lush romantic tune from Seven and the Ragged Tiger and a number not played live since 1984 until Duran Duran reintroduced it at a show in Miami in the previous week. At two-thirds through the set, the song was certainly a highlight of the show, as a concert performance of the song by the band as younger men projected onto the wall behind them as they performed it.
Smiles abounded early through the show, once Duran Duran started playing “Wild Boys” in particular. Bassist John Taylor always stood in the exact right spot under the exact perfect light with the broadest grin imaginable. John and Simon playfully roared “Wild Boys!” into a microphone together, rekindling a magnetic bond between the two. Behind them on stage left, Nick Rhodes imperiously stood behind his synthesizer, producing magic at every note, but even he too beamed in satisfaction, particularly in reaction to the audience excitement to the show.
On stage right, Roger Taylor remained invisible behind his drumkit all night, but you could hear the man’s work in the air, in the rhythms, and in your bones. Guitarist Dom Brown was a consummate showman, and although younger than the core bandmates, he matched their zeal with a muscular guitar performance suited to the music.
In other highlights, Duran Duran nodded to their original self-titled album by closing the set with the enduring “Girls on Film” and opening the encore with the always welcome “Friends of Mine,” a rarely performed gem always embraced by the audience. More rarely played “Tempted” from 2007’s Red Carpet Massacre also appeared late in the set, and it was really quite well received.
At the end of the day, Duran Duran are all about seizing the day. And seize it they did at The Fillmore New Orleans. The new wave superstars made us feel feel as good as they made made my young self feel in 1982 — and it feels sometimes like maybe Simon, John, Nick, and Roger are the only band in the world with the cheers and the chops to make any day a better day.
We can only hope there is a lot more Duran Duran in our near future with a new album on the way (maybe next year) and a 40th anniversary for their debut record coming up. (Or maybe you’re seeing them in Las Vegas this weekend?) Meanwhile, here are some pictures of Duran Duran performing at The Fillmore New Orleans on Feb. 19, 2019. All photos courtesy and copyright of Mickey McCarter.