Concert Review: Duran Duran Throws Two Day Bash in Palm Springs

Duran Duran at Agua Caliente Casino

What a party.

Duran Duran commenced their short 2017 Spring Tour on Friday at the most enjoyable The Show at Agua Caliente Casino in Rancho Mirage, CA (just outside Palm Springs) with sold-out back-to-back performances at the 2,000 seat venue. The Tour of the Americas, which heads south in a few weeks to central America before wrapping up the States in April, continues support for the band’s successful album Paper Gods, out a year and a half ago.

Both nights offered the same setlist (and no opening act) with an order change for a couple of songs on Night 2. Radio staples and popular singles featured prominently through the evening as both nights brought 16 songs – a few less than last year’s full tour – but it was a ball nonetheless.

You know something special is unfolding when it feels like nearly every song builds into what’s usually reserved for the climatic finale. And that’s how it was. Both nights. Two confetti showers for each set, an immaculate light show, a raucous crowd and a contagious energy that began the moment members of the band stepped on stage and didn’t let up until they left.

Is that bassist John Taylor on keyboards?

Like the 2015 and 2016 legs of the tour, Duran Duran started the evening with the title

track of the new album followed by most of their hits from the 1980s with a couple of more new songs in between. “Wild Boys” followed sending the audience into a frenzy and the Core 4 never looked back. They killed it on “A View to a Kill” which sounded so good you’d swear they lipped synced the whole thing. Afterwards on Night 1, singer Simon Le Bon, soaking in the boisterous crowd, said some of the best places they play include casinos like Agua Caliente and commented that the evening marked the beginning of a new phase of Paper Gods.

Duran Duran played “Only In Dreams” for the first time in the United States on Friday and again on Saturday. It’s a bit forgettable and a somewhat annoying song on the new album, but live it works well. Really well, actually.  It’s catchy with a great guitar groove. Also new this leg was “Is There Something I Should Know” a single track included on the Decade greatest hits album from 1989.

Missing? Oh boy. The fantastic “What Are The Chances” off Paper Gods, “(Reach Up For The) Sunrise” and “The Reflex.” No “Planet Earth,” either. Wait. Say what? Yes “The Reflex” failed to make the cut and should have at least been offered as an alternative to their cover “White Lines.” Duran Duran doesn’t need much help getting their fans standing but “Sunrise” off 2004’s Astronaut gets even the curmudgeon(ist) on their feet. Ok, check that – alternate “White Lines with “Sunrise.”

Alas, beggars can’t be choosers. Or perhaps you’re just left wanting more, more, more. Indeed, it combined a rock concert (“White Lines”), a techno show (“Last Night in the City”), 80s nostalgia (pick ‘em) and 100 percent Duran Duran rolled into a flashy club setting.

Nick Rhodes who missed a number of tour dates last summer because of an undisclosed “urgent family matter” was back behind the keyboards and Le Bon was flanked by John Taylor on bass and now long-time guitarist Dom Brown with Roger Taylor on drums. The stunning Anna Ross brought the counter vocals to Le Bon’s on “Come Undone” (wow!) while both she and fellow back-up singer Erin Stevenson helped fill the stage, kept the audience dancing and the two swapped on a handful of duet duties with Le Bon.

Duran Duran Throws a Party

This isn’t the first time Duran Duran booked this venue on their tour.  The last time they did it followed a sold-out performance at the gigantic Hollywood Bowl. The Show at Agua Caliente offers an arena stage setting inside an intimate theater giving big name acts like Duran Duran an opportunity to connect to their fans in an unprecedented and special experience. They took advantage of the moment and so did their fans.

It was 90 minutes of bliss both nights. Duran Duran looked fresh, sounded perfect and looked hungry for more.  Whether or not Le Bon meant something cryptic when commenting about a new phase for Paper Gods the band shows little signs of slowing down. Neither do their fans. Their dedicated fan base took Le Bon’s comments to heart on Night 2 when he said they better bring it if they’re to surpass the crowd from the night before. They did.

By the way, thanks Mr. Le Bon for saying nothing about the current state of political affairs in America. We attend concerts to forget about life for a while.

Certainly, Duran Duran did their job on these two nights.

Duran Duran Setlist at Agua Caliente Casino (Palm Springs)

  1. Paper Gods
  2. Wild Boys
  3. A View to a Kill
  4. Come Undone
  5. Only in Dreams
  6. Is There Something I Should Know
  7. Notorious
  8. Pressure Off
  9. Ordinary World
  10. I Don’t Want Your Love/Last Night In The City*
  11. While Lines/I Don’t Want Your Love*
  12. Last Night in the City/Hungry Like the Wolf*
  13. Hungry Like the Wolf/White Lines*
  14. Girls on Film
  15. Save a Prayer
  16. Rio

*Denotes Night 2 Setlist Change

Written By: AndrewT

Concert Review: Duran Duran Heats Up Agua Caliente Casino

Two days after selling out the 17,000 seat Hollywood Bowl, Duran Duran sold out the 2,000 seat Agua Caliente Casino on Saturday in Rancho Mirage, CA.

Yes, casino.

You know the type of place most “has-been” bands recycle on their endless tours.

But this place is different. Much different. And well worth the extra long drive into 100 degree desert heat past Palm Springs.

Sure there’s something to be said about the “iconic” Hollywood Bowl nestled in the Hollywood hills just a few blocks from the Walk of Fame and that famous Chinese Theater. But there is also something to be said about this venue anchoring one side of a slightly smoky casino just a stone’s throw from the 10 freeway.

Built in 2009 with architects brought in from Las Vegas, whoever devised the blueprints for this place left no details behind. The Show, as it’s called, is not immense and in some respects looks like a high-end lecture hall at some prestigious university. It’s got three levels and even box seats, practically layered in carpet. It’s intimate yet hardly claustrophobic. The sound – fantastic.

So perhaps it was fitting then for Duran Duran to close out the United States leg of the tour in support of their new album Paper Gods in such a personal fashion to those fans who made the trek into the hot, dusty alcove.

The setlist did not deviate from past shows, (though the order changed a bit including “The Wild Boys” moving from the main set to the encore) it was exactly the same as the one at the Washington State Fair. (The concert at the Hollywood Bowl dropped “Wild Boys” in the Main set and “Save a Prayer” from the encore because they ran out of time, only playing “Rio.”)

The performance, however, unmatched.

It was indeed a special evening from the first song, which happened to be the first song and title track off the new album which hit #10 in its first week of release stateside last month, all the way through the final song, the first song and title track off their iconic Rio.

This hits, so many of them came fast and furious. Singer Simon LeBon asked the crowd if they were hungry, and of course they were because they knew what came next. Then came one of their biggest smash hits and the best James Bond theme song ever recorded with “A View to a Kill.” Past tours featured this song as an acoustic but this time around it was ripped straight off the recording tapes.

Duran Duran played five off their new album, four of them the best songs on Paper Gods including “What Are the Chances” what should, overtime, become a definitive Duran Duran cut. LeBon takes his singing to new heights and was in fine form here. His soaring vocals through the lyrics – “So, what are the chances?/We’ll never know/If we take it for granted/A diamond explodes/What are the chances?” is something to experience live.

It was a flawless evening. They played tight, enjoyed each other and held up the same professionalism and production you’d expect from these veteran musicians to give regardless of the number in attendance. And, you know what? John Taylor is a really good bassist.

Of course, you can’t forget those awesome chords he plays on “Planet Earth” and “Rio” but through all of Duran Duran songs, his bass guitar is a showcase. He’s not simply a two-chord puncher who stands overshadowed in the background because the bass cleft helps keep the rhythm. He brings great melody, a lot more than just mindless thumping and in many respects is the glue for the arrangement of so many of Duran Duran’s songs.

When the evening ended after an hour and 45 minutes, maybe it was this venue, just a mirage, unless experienced. Or maybe it was Duran Duran performing at such a high level. Perhaps it was a little bit of both. It was an encounter.

Regardless, The Show does exist and it should be no surprise the level of talent this venue attracts. While casinos historically have been caricatures for bands in their twilight wringing out what little they have left before hanging it up, more and more artists seem to find their place there in spots around the country.

But The Show has upped the ante. It has featured such acts as Heart, Social Distortion, Chris Isaak, the Moody Blues and now Duran Duran. So maybe this little oasis in the desert will soon become a regular stomping ground for those on tour looking to rekindle their past and relive how it all first started.

Duran Duran Agua Caliente Casino Setlist

  1. Paper Gods
  2. Hungry Like the Wolf
  3. A View to a Kill
  4. The Reflex
  5. Come Undone
  6. Last Night in the City
  7. What Are the Chances
  8. Notorious
  9. Pressure Off
  10. Planet Earth
  11. Ordinary World
  12. White Lines
  13. (Reach Up for the) Sunrise
  14. Discoaphobia
  15. Too Much Information
  16. Girls on Film
  17. Save a Prayer
  18. The Wild Boys
  19. Rio

Written By: AndrewT

 

Concert Review: Duran Duran Shows They’re Still the Wild Boys

Simon LeBon and Nick Rhodes

Simon LeBon and Nick Rhodes of Duran Duran

It might be 30 years later but the girls, make that women, still have their first love.

The 80s heartthrobs gave the Pacific Northwest just one stop on their current tour in support of the new album Paper Gods (released Sept. 11) making it at the Washington State Fair in Puyallup on Wednesday tearing through a solid 19-song set full of their most popular hits and a good sampling of the latest release.

The one-time screaming teenagers have grown up and so have Duran Duran but time has yet to catch up with the artist one time known as the Fab 5. Celebrating their 14th studio album and first to land in the Top 10 in 22 years, Duran Duran got right to business showcasing the new record and opened the show with the title tract stepping on stage to some thunder and lightning, a la some strobes, before the song’s familiar opening chant began.

But it wasn’t long before the hits came as they rolled out four straight with “Hungry Like the Wolf,” a stellar version of “A View to a Kill,” the very fun “The Reflex,” and “Come Undone.” The band went back to Paper Gods with the dance tract “Last Night in the City” and the great “What Are The Chances?”

John Taylor

John Taylor

The new album is an interesting mix of classic Duran Duran with some dance heavy riff tunes but a few take a big departure from anything the band has recorded. However, the song “Paper Gods” continues much in the same vein as their last release All You Need Is Now which didn’t get tapped into at all. “Last Night in the City” indeed offers a fun beat and “What Are The Chances?” should go down as a DD classic.

The band returned to their roots with “Notorious” as Nile Rodgers, co-writer of the song and producer of several Duran Duran albums helped out on guitar and it was back to the new album with “Pressure Off” one of the strongest new songs (which features Rodgers) that’s getting some radio play and showered the front section with confetti upon its completion.

“Planet Earth” with the slick John Taylor bass line sounded as new as the previous song despite being more than three decades older. Duran Duran brought back their 1993 self-titled record also known as The Wedding Album a second, and not the last time, with “Ordinary World.” Singer Simon LeBon dedicated it the band’s fan base that’s stuck around for so many years and genuinely seemed touch by the large turnout.

Simon LeBon

Simon LeBon

“(Reach Up For The) Sunrise” the first tract off 2004’s Astronaut, the band’s first with the original five, who then reunited after nearly 20 years, featured a great guitar by the now departed Andy Taylor’s replacement, Dom Brown. “Wild Boys” kept the crowd buzzed which got killed by “Danceophobia,” the last of the new songs. No, the lads didn’t truck out Lindsey Lohan, who is a guest on the album version, but it stuck out like a sore thumb on the setlist just as it does on Paper Gods. It’s not the only one on the album either but luckily the only one played live.

Perhaps paying homage to their last Top 10 album in the charts, Duran Duran grabbed a third song off The Wedding Album with the rarely played “Too Much Information” and closed out the main set with the always played “Girls on Film.” The encore featured the cover “White Lines,” the female favorite “Save a Prayer” and finally “Rio.”

Though the treble seemed a bit high, at times too high, during most of the concert, it was a mostly flawless evening with LeBon, now 56, nailing the vocals and even taking it to new heights on “What Are The Chances.” (Check out that album version!). He’s shaved the beard and looks nowhere near 60 thanks to a boyish haircut.

The ageless Nick Rhodes, with a bevy of keyboards, delivered all those crazy electronic sounds and drummer Roger Taylor, of course, kept time. Though original guitarist Andy Taylor left 10 years ago, Brown (could he be Dexter Morgan’s brother?) has handled the axe ever since and turned it up a bit for “Girls on Film” and “Rio.”

Playing at the fairgrounds (a surprisingly big venue) is a long way from the rabid stadium sell-outs during the second British invasion, however, Duran Duran is still together and they’re far more than a touring nostalgia act. They’ve released four albums since 2004 and suddenly seem back on everyone’s radar. Paper Gods doesn’t rise to the band’s standard level of fare however it’s got some gems scattered throughout and shows these guys have more to play.

And for many they remain the wild boys of their youth.

Related: Concert Review: Duran Duran Heats Up Agua Caliente Casino

Duran Duran Washington State Fair Setlist:

  1. Paper Gods
  2. Hungry Like The Wolf
  3. A View To A Kill
  4. The Reflex
  5. Come Undone
  6. Last Night In The City
  7. What Are The Chances?
  8. Notorious
  9. Pressure Off
  10. Planet Earth
  11. Ordinary World
  12. (Reach Up For The) Sunrise
  13. The Wild Boys
  14. Danceophobia
  15. Too Much Information
  16. Girls On Film
  17. White Lines (Don’t Do It)
  18. Save A Prayer
  19. Rio

Written By: AndrewT

Album Review: Duran Duran – Paper Gods

Sooner or later it seems everyone comes to grips with their mortality and what lies beyond.

It makes for good discussions among friends and when musicians enter that phase of life it tends to come out in their music. Such appears to be the case with Duran Duran and their new album Paper Gods, out September 11.

The 12-song record is the band’s 14th and fourth since the 80s heartthrobs reunited in 2004 with the great Astronaut. Though guitarist Andy Taylor left the band, again, shortly after, the core of the group Simon Le Bon, Roger Taylor, John Taylor and Nick Rhodes remains intact.

Paper Gods should certainly be praised for the band’s attempt to reach something not only out of their comfort zone (and their fans) but completely different from anything they’ve released. However, it’s a bit too far and falls well short of 2011’s classic All You Need Is Now.

The dance heavy album starts off with the title tract and perhaps a bit of a double entendre referring to religious beliefs all based on paper but there’s a clear shot against those who use faith to get rich –It’s all on sale for dirty cash/We can wash it clean /So hang it out on line/Confess and you’ll feel fine. It’s got a great bass line and despite the chanting that gets a bit old it’s one of the better songs on the album.

“Last Night in the City” is a straight-up dance song featuring somebody named Kiesza. Like any other dance tune out there it’s got a great beat and should prove popular in dance clubs the world over but radio airplay it will not.

“You Kill Me With Silence” feels like it was left off the last album and should have been left off this album. It’s a bit awkward, doesn’t boast much melody and though the guitar solo reaches it ultimately fumbles its way to the end.

“Pressure Off” was the first single released earlier this summer and for good reason, it’s one of the best songs. It features everything so many of the other tracts on this album are missing. It’s a vintage Duran Duran song without sounding like they’re trying to remake “Girls on Film” or “Rio.” “Face for Today” continues in the same vein and could be a forthcoming single.

“Danceophobia” is inexplicable. It’s definitely an attempt at producing another night club dance tract, is loaded with synthesizers and drummer Roger Taylor must have taken the day off because the drum machine abounds. Then Lindsay Lohan starts talking. The mid-song narrative worked on “The Man Who Stole a Leopard” from the last album but it completely fails here. So does Lindsay Lohan.

“What Are The Chances” in many respects saves this album because it is indeed a beautiful song with stellar vocals by Mr. Le Bon. “Paper Gods” started the religious theme and “Chances” continues that trek – So what are the chances/We are lost in the flow/And looking for answers. This is Duran Duran at its finest and they do a great job bringing in such emotional depth, when they want to.

“Sunset Garage” begins the last half of the album and gives bassist John Taylor a chance to shine with a great bass line. It’s a fun pop song  with a bit of 70s disco. The dance music returns with “Change the Skyline” another synth heavy song featuring someone named Jonas Bjerre followed by “Butterfly Girl” which invites another guest singer. It’s got a great opening funk beat with Taylor’s bass that helps carry the song but that noisy guitar solo falls way flat.

“Only in Dreams” strives to a be a strong cut, once it gets started, thanks to the catchy guitar lick but the silly synth jingle peppered throughout sounds like a frame from some bad 80s sitcom theme song. It’s annoying! Finally “The Universe Alone” closes out the album (a deluxe version features bonus tracts) and is pretty heavy lyrically – Now we go to face the universe alone/In plain view the mistakes we’ve made/But is there anything we’d really want to change. It’s a bit dreamy and gets away from the dance stuff but isn’t overly memorable though the imagery blasting through space using the guitar is effective.

Paper Gods comes across a bit confused. The album title starts it but the religious theme drops off so the band can dabble in some dance songs, then it picks up again, then drops and finally closes it out. On the plus side, it resembles little to anything from past efforts so give the boys some applause for not regurgitating their own sound. And Le Bon’s vocals? Just phenomenal.

But the dance tracks sound more like what fellow Brits the Pet Shops Boys have produced of late and it just doesn’t suit them. The songs come across like those extended play remixes DJs and other artists fool around with post-album release. The guest singers detract a bit and perhaps it’s an attempt to reach a younger, more “hip” audience but it’s a good bet the women who fill the seats on the forthcoming tour haven’t a clue who Mr. Hudson is.

The album is heavy on the drum machine and keyboards with a smattering of guitar, the latter feeling more of an afterthought. In many respects Paper Gods sounds like a pre-reunion release from the 90s when it was just Le Bon and Rhodes trying to carry the Duran Duran name forward.

Grade: C+

Duran Duran Paper Gods Track List:

  1. Paper Gods
  2. Last Night in the City
  3. You Kill Me with Silence
  4. Pressure Off
  5. Face for Today
  6. Danceophobia
  7. What Are the Chances?
  8. Sunset Garage
  9. Change the Skyline
  10. Butterfly Girl
  11. Only in Dreams
  12. The Universe Alone

Written By: AndrewT

Concert Review: All You Need is Duran Duran

Whatever wine Nick Rhodes is drinking these days it has probably not aged as well as the four gents from Britain known as Duran Duran.

Duran Duran keyboardist Nick Rhodes takes a picture as bassist John Taylor and guitarist Dom Brown play on

These mega pop stars from the 80s who used to sell out stadiums are now reduced to more intimate venues like Wednesday’s show at The Mountain Winery in Saratoga, CA. That certainly doesn’t mean the Fab 4 don’t perform like the olden days. In fact, one could argue that Duran Duran is better than ever and if not for the 15-minute of fame music cycle that has infected today’s recording industry, Duran Duran should be as germane as ever.

Yes, gone are the screaming 15 and 16-year-old girls who used to push their way through fencing and fight their way to the stage. Today’s fan base consists, of course, of those same girls albeit far fewer and a bit older much like the men they would have given anything to marry 30 years ago. What’s difficult to ascertain is why a band that consists of four of five original members (the fifth Andy was not always the most popular anyway, ask any Duranie) is unable to return to the large sellout crowds it once commanded. (Journey still tours arenas and large shacks with a different singer!) Too many helicopter parents afraid to leave their little ones for just an evening, I guess.

To them I can only say you missed out.

Simon Le Bon, John Taylor, Roger Taylor and the aforementioned Rhodes put together an entertaining 18-song set that featured all the old hits and a number from their latest album All You Need is Now. Wednesday’s show (the first of two in Saratoga) was the start of the final leg of their tour which began last year and has taken the band all over the world.

Singer Simon LeBon

Though age and perhaps a long flight from Britain which Le Bon and guitarist Dom Brown (Andy’s replacement) apparently took the day of the show may have sucked some energy out of Le Bon (his “The Reflex” karate kick and center stage run and leap during “Hungry Like the Wolf” were suspiciously absent) his voice has never, yes never, sounded better. In a recent interview John Taylor said the band has recognized this which apparently is a result of Le Bon taking certain precautions after his bought with vocal cord paralysis last year.

Maturity is always a good thing and Duran Duran has indeed matured. At times, the band, along with a couple of additional musicians, played so tight and pristine it sounded as if someone simply popped in a CD. What separates Duran Duran from today’s pop trash is how timeless the songs that made them huge are and how well their current offering stands up against them. Red Carpet Massacre  aside (2007’s not so well received album despite having a couple of gems) 2004’s Astronaut (the “reunion” album) and All You Need is Now are strong efforts with the latter a purposeful reflection of 1980s Duran Duran.

Five songs from the new album (six if you count the 46 second “A Diamond in the Mind”) made the set list including the emotive “Before the Rain,” the title track, “Being Followed,” the melodic “Girl Panic!” and the enigmatic “The Man Who Stole a Leopard.” Of course the usual favorites were already well-rehearsed by the sold out crowd of 2,200 – “Wild Boys,” “Planet Earth,” “Rio,” the crowd pleasing “Save a Prayer” and one of their best and the best Bond theme song “A View to a Kill.”

Rhodes, who along with Le Bon, stuck with Duran Duran during the departure of the Taylor’s (no relation) in the 1980s, is always enjoyable to watch behind his stockade of keyboards. The variety of sounds and beats he creates is probably the driving force of the band. And, while Roger Taylor (drums) and John Taylor (bass) may never be seen in the higher  echelon of their perspective career paths both are much more than a 1-2 puncher and three note bassist seen in much of today’s popular music. Neither have really been given the platform to shine but perhaps that’s what makes them happy – being in a band.

Duran Duran may no longer be relevant to the mainstream but for their fans the mainstream has never really been relevant to them. It’s always about the music and it will always be about Duran Duran.

Duran Duran Mountain Winery Setlist:

A Diamond in the Mind
Before the Rain
Planet Earth
A View to a Kill
All You Need is Now
Being Followed/Blame the Machines*
The Reflex
Come Undone
Is There Something I Should Know/Safe*
Girl Panic!/Union of the Snake*
The Man Who Stole a Leopard/Girl Panic!*
Notorious/Mediterranean*
White Lines/Notorious*
Ordinary World/Careless Memories*
Hungry Like the Wolf/Ordinary World*
Reach Up for the Sunrise/Hungry Like the Wolf*
Wild Boys/Reach Up for the Sunrise*
Save a Prayer/Wild Boys*
Rio/Save a Prayer*
Girls on Film*

* denotes set list change on night two

Written By: AndrewT