American Airlines Center, Dallas
Tuesday, April 19, 2016
“First there’s 1D and then there’s double D,” that is how Elizabeth Smith, a longtime Duran Duran fan, explained her 16-year-old daughter’s definitive “boy band” ranking. The pair were at American Airlines Center Tuesday night to catch Duran Duran during the Dallas stop of the band’s Paper Gods Tour. “When I was her age, [a Duran Duran concert] was all crazy hysterical girls. It was no different than a One Direction concert." Thirty years on, it's much different.
This time around the crowd was older and tamer. Many people, like Smith, had brought their kids along. But while many in the crowd embraced their memories of the '80s with leg warmers and David Bowie T-shirts (there was even a Boy George impersonator), the band members themselves weren't your typical aging, past-their-prime rockers trying to recapture their past glory. No, Duran Duran displayed a freshness and vibrancy on stage that isn’t often present in a band whose trajectory spans more than three decades.
The band, whose current iteration consists of all but one of the original five members that hit big in the '80s, kicked off their performance with “Paper Gods,” the title track from their 2015 release. The track’s lyrics offer social commentary on the transitory idols that are found in today’s media-centric culture. The evening’s set list hit on the classics like “Wild Boys,” “Hungry Like the Wolf” and “Rio,” with new tracks from Paper Gods woven in between.
The newer tracks were neither out of place amongst the genre-defining hits of yesteryear, which continue to influence electro-pop and rock bands to this day, nor did they feel dated. Synth-pop is as popular as ever and with the help of contributors like producer and musician Nile Rodgers (whose band Chic was the opener), on these tracks Duran Duran show they can still hold their own in the modern electronic landscape they helped create.
Singer Simon Le Bon's voice was noticeably hoarse when he addressed the crowd in between songs. However, when it came down to performing, any signs that the rigor of back-to-back shows was getting to his voice disappeared. It was remarkable to note that the timbre and tone of Le Bon’s voice, just like the band’s music, seems to have withheld the test of time. Not only does his voice live up to the studio-recorded quality of Paper Gods, but you'd also be hard-pressed to notice much difference between Le Bon last night and the singer of those same songs some 35 years ago.
Duran Duran was one of the first bands to embrace and fully take advantage of the possibilities for both creative expression and audience reach afforded by the music video. The mixture of retro images, music video clips and graphics that were projected behind the stage showed that the band has not forgotten the importance of visuals. But perhaps the visual quality Duran Duran is most famous for cultivating is their personal appearance. Their good looks and carefully curated fashion sense are what first helped set the band apart in London’s New Romantic scene, and pushed them into the mainstream. In 2016, the men of Duran Duran still fully embrace style, clad in leather jackets, fitted silhouettes and perfectly styled hair. They still scream cool, and they do it effortlessly.
Back in Duran Duran’s heyday, critics were quick to dismiss the band as being little more than poster boys for teeny boppers. While these Brits' faces may have graced the walls of many a teenage girl’s bedrooms, those condemnations sell the band short.
Unlike modern-day counterparts like One Direction, who were put together by industry people, Duran Duran rose organically from both the glam and punk scenes of London. For many, they provided an introduction to new wave and the possibilities available to musicians with a coherent sense of visuals and style to complement their music. How many of today's teeny bop, boy band idols will be able to stay this relevant three decades from now?