Chicago Theatre, Chicago
Friday, December 14, 2007
For those who think Duran Duran went off the deep end by working with Timbaland and Justin Timberlake on its new CD, step outside the ’80s and consider the basics. To start with, Red Carpet Massacre (Epic), is loaded with robust beats destined for the dance floor, undercut by some seriously scintillating grooves. (Any naysayers should recall the reception given “Notorious” two decades ago; once considered a shocking departure, since it has proved its longevity.)
Add the fact this disc is loaded with infectious songwriting wrapped around slick production, and it’s basically the same formula Simon LeBon and the boys have been regularly refurbishing since day one.
Of course, those who hadn’t yet heard the release but bought a ticket to the Chicago Theatre might not have expected a series of urban angles that bounced with the same sensuality of Timberlake’s “SexyBack” (and could quite possibly come straight from the former Nsync star’s latest project). But Duran Duran was confident in the different direction from the get go, though perhaps a little too determined to convey current material, especially with only 80 minutes to spare under the abbreviated guise of a radio show (101.9 FM’s Miracle On State Street 9, to be exact).
LeBon, keyboardist Nick Rhodes, bassist John Taylor, non-related drummer Roger Taylor, plus a bonus guitarist, background vocalist, and sax player, gave a triple punch from the Massacre sessions to start off the show, a spot normally reserved for a golden oldies like “Hungry Like The Wolf” or “Union Of The Snake.” Oddly enough, both of those animal-related mega-smashes were ignored in favor of the thumping funker “The Valley,” the tribal toned “Red Carpet Massacre,” and the delectable after-hours decadence of “Nite-Runner.”
Yet even the most enthusiastic displays and dead-on deliveries made the mood feel distant from a classic Duran Duran concert, partially because the audience didn’t seem all that familiar with any of these cuts. Soon after, however, the melodic chants that introduced “Notorious” lit up the sold out theatre like New Year’s Eve within a nanosecond, while the new wave nugget “Planet Earth” also recalled how the band was once at the forefront of a trend rather than following one.
While some might argue this album is indeed cashing in on a current craze, cuts like the electronically charged “Tempted” and the more acoustically minded “Falling Down” are instead tasteful examples of the group blurring the lines of yesterday and today. In actuality, “Skin Divers” was the sole completely out-of-context dud, simply because Timbaland’s taped raps were inserted loudly into the mix, often overpowering LeBon’s live vocals.
Out of the retro staples, only “Ordinary World” fell flat. There’s nothing wrong with the early-’90s comeback song in and of itself, but even after lowering the key, the still-fashionable frontman can’t come close to nailing the notes. Thankfully the more upbeat material was still in step and appeared to back in full-fledged style, thanks in part to a younger generation of bands (like Scissor Sisters and The Killers) citing Duran Duran as influences. “Rio” reemerged in all its horn-heavy glory; “Wild Boys” adapted an entirely more forceful direction; and “A View To A Kill” upheld its icy mystique.
But just as the vibe was truly heating up, the party seemed to shut down all too quickly, with just a single encore of “Girls On Film,” despite the group having at least another hour’s worth of material in its arsenal (especially considering most of its shows easily reach two hours). Granted, these types of events are more of the promotional nature and merely a primer for the band’s real tour, and in that regard, Duran Duran’s strategy of leaving faithful hungry for more could either flop from collective backlash or warrant continuously curious repeat customers.
– Andy Argyrakis
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