By MIKE CHAIKEN
When I headed to the Duran Duran concert at the Mohegan Sun Arena on April 7, I thought about how the last time I saw Simon LeBon, John Taylor, Roger Taylor, and Nick Rhodes was in 1984—30 plus years ago. They were on their “Seven and the Ragged Tour” and they were one of the biggest teen idol bands around.
I remember wearing a lot of hair spray and I had all of the requisite new wave gear. And I remember the high pitch squeals of the teen girls who were excited to see “their band” live on stage.
There was definitely a lot of nostalgia filling my veins as I traveled to the show. And it was clear when I arrived at the Sun that I was not alone. There were people my age trotting out some semblance of their 1980s wardrobe and working some semblance of their 1980s hair dos. (I wore khakis and a long-sleeved t-shirt.)
But as much as the audience was nostalgic for “Hungry Like the Wolf” or “Union of the Snake,” it was clear from the start that Duran Duran – although acknowledging its past—clearly was more interested in being an ongoing artistic concern.
This was evident with their opening number, the title track to their 2015 album, “Paper Gods.” The track is atmospheric and moody and sophisticated. It clearly it was a track that showcased their skills as composers rather than as a hit making machine.
Of course, a pop band trying to be taken “seriously” is not new.
But in the case of Duran Duran, it works. Although, the band stopped being teen idols years ago and have shown their musical chops over and over again these past 30 years.
And.. this is key.. the band clearly is still fun to watch and they’re having fun.
Mixing in the hits such as “Wild Boys,” “Girls on Film,” and “A View to A Kill,” the band clearly still loves its history. Duran Duran injected the classic songs with a great deal of energy and kicked butt. But, Duran Duran’s new tracks, such as “Dancetopia,” show the band is still pushing itself.
One of the highlights of the evening was the arrival of their producer Nile Rodgers on stage. Rodgers was behind the boards for their new album “Paper Gods.” And he has been part of the band’s long history, including producing their fourth album, “Notorious.”
Rodgers joined them for the title track of “Notorious” as well as the new track “Pressure Off.” Rodgers, who made his name with the disco band Chic, showed that his buddies from England can play funk with the best of them. And his joy at performing was reflected in the joy exhibited by Duran Duran.
Although, I and the audience clearly came to see the memories we had of Duran Duran, the nearly sold out crowd adored the present and future of Duran Duran.
Speaking of Nile Rodgers, his band—now dubbed Chic featuring Nile Rodgers—served as the lead-in act for Duran Duran.
His set was more nostalgic than Duran Duran. He pulled out the many, many, many hits that he either performed with Chic or that he wrote and produced for other acts rather than showcasing any new music he had available.
However, it was great not only to hear favorites like “Good Times,” “Le Freak,” and “Dance, Dance, Dance” but to hear some of the great tracks he was responsible for such as “I’m Coming Out” (Diana Ross), “We Are Family” (Sister Sledge), “Let’s Dance” (David Bowie), and “Get Lucky” (Daft Punk).
Rodgers’ band could have easily played the songs as if they were a wedding band… a musical paint by numbers. But Chic, circa 2016, showed a great deal of punch and vitality.
And Rodgers was clearly having a blast. He shared the story of his recovery from an aggressive form of cancer that doctors predicted would kill him. His joy at being still alive resonated throughout the music he shared on stage.
Rodgers and crew superbly set the stage for the arrival of Duran Duran.
Opening up the show was the little known Shamir. The male singer is blessed with one of the highest tenors I have heard. But it’s an expressive voice. The dance hall flavored music by the Las Vegas based singer fit right in with the sounds of Duran Duran and Chic. Audience members who chose to skip his set missed out on a great, enthusiastic—albeit—short performance.
I give Duran Duran and its openers, four out of four stars.
PHOTOS by MIKE CHAIKEN