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Duran Duran gives fans a show for the ages

August 24th, 2012

August 23, 2012 3:00 AM

Reviewed by Michael D. Abernethy / Times-News

DURHAM — Like a birthday or a pretty view, Duran Duran proved it’s still something special Tuesday for a full house at the Durham Performing Arts Center.

Yes, that Duran Duran — of the groundbreaking cinematic music videos, the pastel warpaint and (you might not want to admit this next part if you came of age in the early 1980s) — the 30-year career.

With four of the five original members intact, plus three side players, the band overcame a sluggish start and sound problems by powering through the hits and cherry picking from its latest album. Fifty-somethings all, they sounded as young as ever.

The evening got off to a bumpy start. A 7-minute, classical-music intro accompanied by video of a woman in a feathered headdress wandering through a garden with water features was followed by the sleepy ballad “Before the Rain.”

Muddy, muffled sound hampered “Planet Earth” and “A View to a Kill,” making it difficult to hear the individual instruments or lead singer Simon Le Bon’s nasal yelps.

After a pause to greet the audience and explain that the band was near the end of its 20-month tour supporting its 2011 album, “All You Need Is Now,” the group found its footing on that title track. Then it was full steam ahead, with hit after hit following.

The set showed off the rhythm section of bassist John Taylor and drummer Roger Taylor. The band’s iconic hits, like “Hungry Like the Wolf,” “Girls on Film” and “The Reflex,” are all built on a hybrid of disco and rock. The bass and drums just never let up on those songs and neither did the Taylors.

Even newer songs — especially “Girl Panic!” — are dressed in frothy, percolating rhythms and came across as lost classics in the live set.

Le Bon, a subtler version of his ’80s self, charismatically sauntered around the stage and saved his leaps and jumps for late in the set. He also revealed his sensitive side, dedicating a song to a recently deceased North Carolinian friend, and explaining the origins of the 1993 comeback hit “Ordinary World” as the song that kept the band hanging on during lean times.

Founding member Nick Rhodes mostly noodled behind his deck of keyboards, stopping only to interject a smirk or respond to Le Bon’s jokes.

And then there was the crowd. Hardcore Duranies, out of their parental and workaday duties for the evening, dancing in the aisles and squealing at every swivel of Le Bon’s hips like it was 1984. The security guards sent to herd them back into their seats eventually gave up.

By the time the band closed with “Rio,” even the otherwise staid gentlemen in the audience were jumping and twirling in time with the beat.

In that brief, shimmering moment — cherry ice cream smiles lifted skyward — Duran Duran and everyone at DPAC seemed ageless.

Courtesy The Times News