Duran Duran sparkles in the Hollywood rain
Onstage during a tropical storm, the band lived up to its rock, punk and funk influences
It's been a huge year for Duran Duran: The British band embarked on a world tour in support of its 2021 album, Future Past; played summer sets at Hyde Park and Queen Elizabeth II's Jubilee in London and the Commonwealth Games in its hometown of Birmingham; and will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame here in Los Angeles Nov. 5.
But last night's performance at the Hollywood Bowl was one for the record books, too, as the rainy remnants of Hurricane Kay swirled across Southern California.
Following a mood-boosting opening set by Nile Rodgers and Chic and a moment of silence in memory of Queen Elizabeth who died Thursday, Duran Duran burst through the clouds with 1984's "Wild Boys" just as the 18,000+ crowd donned disposable ponchos. The precip and the hits got heavier as "Hungry Like the Wolf" and later "A View to a Kill" followed.
Singer Simon Le Bon's voice was in peak shape as he moved enthusiastically across the stage inside the century-old concert shell, setting the tone for two hours of high-energy, wet fun. He'd better pace himself, I thought, because this show was only the first of three sold-out DD performances at the Bowl this weekend.
Duran Duran inserted new material into the playlist stealthily as video screens meshed live camera shots with graphic imagery. John Taylor's nimble bass on the recent "Invisible" felt right at home ahead of guest star Rodgers' rhythm guitar on 1986's "Notorious." Likewise, the quick pulse of "Give It All Up" built to a trance-like crescendo later soothed by 1993's "Come Undone," an atmospheric favorite showcasing keyboardist Nick Rhodes.
"Tonight United" was an effective 4/4 reminder to check out your favorite streaming service and hear what the band has been up to lately.
Most live shows today are choreographed down to the second, utilizing BPM to maximize ROI. Fans expect seamless showmanship, visual spectacle, and something to write home about. All of that was present Friday night, but when Duran Duran played "Friends of Mine" and "Careless Memories," both from its 1981 self-titled debut album, the spontaneity that made this band a tight live act from the start finally arrived. The solid force of drummer Roger Taylor, along with Taylor's bass and longtime touring guitarist Dom Brown, pierced the perfect boundaries of pop-rock with jagged punky edges.
Highlights kept coming, including "Ordinary World," the global ballad which grows in stature each time Le Bon sings it, and later the stalwart "Save A Prayer" and "Rio," soaked in celebration and glamor.
In the 1980s, we wondered if a band of teenagers from England could fashion themselves into an amalgam of their heroes David Bowie, Chic, Roxy Music and the Sex Pistols. Well, it took more than 40 years and 100 million records to get us to this soggy, joyous night.
At one point a security guard complained as dancing broke out in a main aisle connecting the upper stands (including a Hollywood Bowl employee with her hands in the air, mouthing every word).
"You guys can't party here," he said.
Wiping my fogged-up glasses, I thought about all the times the band had been ridiculed over the years, never fully allowed into the official ranks of legends in spite of its accolades. And the loyal listeners, especially the women who were forced to justify our tastes.
The rain had washed it all away.
"Just watch us," I replied.