UCF Arena, Orlando, Fl • May 18, 2008
The UCF Arena didn’t smell of AquaNet, nor were legions of feathered-hair teenaged girls crying tears of wanton devotion at the band’s feet, yet here we were in 2008 at a Duran Duran concert.
“Do they still play?” co-workers asked me when I told them how I’d be spending my Sunday night. Not only do they still play, they’ve never stopped. Over the years they’ve suffered a few lineup shifts — a fact that vocalist Simon Le Bon jokes about during the show — but through it all they’ve continuously put out albums and toured the world. The 2008 lineup features 4/5 of the original band (Andy Taylor left the group last June), and their latest album, Red Carpet Massacre, is worlds better than I had personally expected it to be.
Also better than anticipated were openers, Your Vegas. An unknown band warming up an arena for a bunch of devoted ’80s new wave fans wasn’t enough incentive for many to arrive early, but for those who did, the band was a sweet treat. The band from Leeds are part of the new new wave: The Killers, The Bravery and now — on a smaller scale — Your Vegas. Singer Coyle Girelli, whose voice was an odd mix of Bono and Siouxsie Sioux, won over the hearts of us all when he explained that the stool he spent the set leaning on wasn’t there for sheer laziness, but necessary to support his recently broken leg.
“Awwww,” sighed the ladies in the crowd.
“No, don’t feel sorry for me,” he explained. “It was the result of a drunken fall down some stairs in Chicago.”
When Duran Duran stepped out onto an elaborately lit stage, to the tune of the Clockwork Orange theme, it was 1984 for just one moment. Before the eyes adjusted and the wear and tear of twenty-some years became apparent on the boys who are now men, every fan in the arena could imagine that time had not caught up with any one of them or the band. It was a feeling that quickly faded into nostalgia, which in turn became a little melancholy.
Let me clarify, Duran Duran sounded amazing! The new songs (“Red Carpet Massacre,” “The Valley,” “Falling Down,” and “Nite Runner”) rubbed up beautifully against the scream-worthy classics (“Hungry Like the Wolf,” “The Reflex,” “View to a Kill,” and “Notorious”), and the guys demonstrated more energy than most bands their age that I’ve seen. Le Bon even managed a couple of jumps off of Nick Rhodes’ keyboard rise. Because of the quality of the new songs, this tour didn’t feel like a reunion tour or one more round of a band cashing in on old hits. The melancholy feeling was in the knowledge of the passage of time.
The band is older, the fans are older, and we all have more responsibilities than we did back in the carefree chaos of the ’80s. Gone are the days of Duran Duran pandemonium, and though many fans — even way up on the upper levels — stood out of their seats and danced the night away, it just didn’t feel as spontaneous and pure as it should have.
The band did everything right. The setlist was near perfect, the lights were enticing, the stage decoration artsy without being obnoxious, and Le Bon tried his hardest to get the audience to travel back in time with him and the band. I blame the size of the venue as the show’s only flaw. A show like this would have been unbelievable in a smaller venue like the Hard Rock Live, the concert’s producer. It was thought that the 3,000 capacity venue would not meet the ticket demand, and so the show was upgraded to the larger University arena. A sold-out show may have left a good many fans out in the cold, but it would have made the show that those lucky 3,000 saw undeniably memorable. Anyone who caught Morrissey’s 2007 hot ticket date at the Hard Rock Live in Orlando should agree with me.
Despite this minor drawback, two things became clear on this night: 1. Duran Duran is still a vital band in the world of popular music, and 2. Shoulder pads and feathered hair will never look good on anyone, anywhere, ever.
To see more photos of this show, and others, go to www.jencray.com.
Duran Duran: www.duranduran.com