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Why Duran Duran’s John Taylor looks at live music as a ‘vote for togetherness’

March 14th, 2017

By Vanessa Franko / vfranko@scng.com

Published: March 13, 2017 Updated: March 14, 2017 6:26 a.m.

When John Taylor turned on the radio on a recent Sunday night, he didn’t expect to hear his bass playing back at him.

As a founding member of Duran Duran, it’s not unusual for the band’s beloved hits, like “Hungry Like the Wolf,” “Girls on Film” and “Ordinary World,” to rock the airwaves decades after their release. But this was different. Taylor was hearing a dissection of his bass line on “Rio,” on KLOS FM’s “The Session,” a program that analyzes iconic songs.

“I probably would have been paralyzed, wouldn’t have been able to do what I was doing in some ways,” Taylor said in a telephone interview last week, reflecting on the recording of the hit spawned from the 1982 album of the same name.

It may have been unfathomable to the band at the time, but Taylor, along with singer Simon LeBon, keyboardist Nick Rhodes and drummer Roger Taylor, recorded an album that would chart the course to turn Duran Duran into one of the biggest bands on planet Earth.

With that album, Duran Duran led a British invasion on MTV of colorful global videos and catchy hits far more complex than those who deemed the band as mere pinup idols would ever admit at the time. And in the 35 years since “Rio” came out, Duran Duran continued to reinvent itself, from a self-titled record in the early ’90s spawning moodier hits to a triumphant set at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in 2011. More recently, the band has sold out shows around the world in support of the band’s 2015 release “Paper Gods,” an album that paired the group with modern hitmakers such as Janelle Monae and Kiesza.

All of it will be celebrated with the band’s pair of Southern California shows at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa in Rancho Mirage on Friday, March 17, and Saturday, March 18.

To Taylor, the live show is a chance to cherrypick the most significant stops throughout the band’s career.”We’re trying to give the audience the journey that we’ve taken,” he said.

While Taylor thinks the next few months of shows will be the last for the “Paper Gods” tour, he isn’t yet sure what direction new music from the band might take, but thinks modern music as a whole is becoming more minimalist.

“Less is more. It’s like contemporary music is more about primary colors than ever before. There’s less and less room for nuance, for light and shade,” he said. “And that analog world was about light and shade. I think as we’ve gotten more deeply into the digital medium, music’s becoming super binary.”

However, the other end of the spectrum is a great unifier — the live music experience.

“We’re going through very divisive times. The media, it feels like politicians are trying to divide us constantly. Every time we show up to a concert or a sports event, it’s a vote for togetherness,” Taylor said.

“When you go to a concert, you don’t know who you’re going to be standing next to. you find yourself in the middle of a group of people that you might not normally be socialized with. You’re all dancing, you’re all cheering together and you’re all there for the same reason. I think that’s empowering.”

And as Taylor drove on the freeway in Los Angeles, with the bass line of “Rio” thumping through his speakers, it reminded him that being too precious could have led to paralysis and that the whole reason the band is still around is the reason the fans are.

“We’re together because we’re music fans. We’re pretty good friends. We bring out, if not the best, we bring out good stuff in each other. And we’re fortunate to still be doing it,” Taylor said.

Duran Duran
When: 9 p.m. Friday, March 17 and 8 p.m. Saturday, March 18.
Where: Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa 32-250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage
Tickets: $135-185 for Friday. Saturday’s show is sold out.
Information: www.hotwatercasino.com

Courtesy Press-Enterprise