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Duran Duran rolls back the years at Red Rocks


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Back when Duran Duran released the “Wild Boys” single and the accompanying Mad Max-esque video, this editor was in his single digits, obsessed with Adam Ant, and that post-apocalyptic imagery coupled with anthemic choruses checked every box. Before long, every Duran cassette tape was being played on repeat on the trusty Walkman, batteries zapped as parents slept.B

A lot of living has gone on since then, but one thing hasn’t changed at all: the sound of Simon Le Bon and the boys kicking into those old tunes is enough to raise hairs. The English band has come in for plenty of abuse over the years, accused of being all image and no substance. That simply isn’t true, though it may have been born out of their early dallies with post-punk and new wave. Duran Duran is a pop band, but the Birmingham lads happen to be one of the finest exponents of driving pop ‘n’ roll that has ever entered a studio.

At Red Rocks on a warm Sunday night, they were preceded by new band Clean Bandit (sorry guys – didn’t get there in time to see them), and a wonderful set by Nile Rodgers’ Chic. The name Chic evokes memories of disco/funk standards like “Good Times,” “I Want Your Love” and “Le Freak,” but it’s easy to forget how many hits Rodgers has produced and a medley at Red Rocks was most welcome. “We Are Family” by Sister Sledge, “Upside Down” and “I’m Coming Out” by Diana Ross and, later, “Let’s Dance” by David Bowie – it’s astounding how many amazing songs this man has been involved with and they all got a funked up Chic treatment in Morrison.

When Rodgers announced that he was recently given the all-clear from cancer after being told “to get my affairs in order,” he got the biggest cheer of the night, and rightly so. Nile Rodgers is one of music’s true gems, across all genres, and we were glad to have him at Red Rocks.

And so to the main event. Duran Duran’s recent Paper Gods album is their best in years, probably since the 1980s pomp. While recent albums like, say, Astronaut had one or two good tunes and then a whole lot of filler, this new record is near enough top-of-their-game level Duran Duran from start to finish. The band is obviously happy enough with it; they kicked off Sunday’s set with the title track and it was a wise choice. The song builds and builds from a moody, harmonic opening to a goose-pimply conclusion while Le Bon sings about the celebrity culture that, once upon a time, saw him front and center.

Throughout the killer set, new songs like “Pressure Off” (featuring a reappearing Nile Rodgers) and “Last Night in the City” blend seamlessly with bonafide classics like “Hungry Like the Wolf,” “Planet Earth,” “Ordinary World,” “Come Undone,” “Wild Boys,” “Save a Payer,” “Girls on Film,” and “A View to a Kill.”

This marked Duran’s first show at Red Rocks, and they were clearly excited about getting to perform at the beloved venue. “It looks like the inside of an ancient alien spacecraft,” said Le Bon, not without merit. Fair play to the original four (out of five) – they all looked great and sounded spot on, milking the gorgeous natural Red Rocks acoustics.

This felt like an event more than a regular gig and, by the time the band reached the “Rio” conclusion, the boys had Denver in their pockets. “We feel so lucky,” said Le Bon. “We get to do a job we love – making music – and then we get to come to amazing places like this and play to people who also love music.” We felt lucky to have you here, Si.

Author

Brett Calwood
Brett Callwood is an English journalist, copy writer, editor and author, currently living and working in Los Angeles. He is the music editor with the LA Weekly. He was previously a reporter at the Longmont Times-Call and Daily Camera, the music editor at the Detroit Metro Times and editor-in-chief at Yellow Scene magazine. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brett_Callwood

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