It feels like several lifetimes ago when Duran Duran became one of the most successful bands after their critically acclaimed Rio (1982). It would be unfair to write-off the beloved Birmingham outfit as merely “your dad’s favourite band”, however. Their recent concert at O2 Arena – part of a tour promoting both their 40th anniversary and their latest album, 2021’s Future Past – was an electrifying and visually enchanting show.
The band’s record, as its title implies, is a mix of their old sound with contemporary melodies; an experiment to try new resolutions, more audacious and unforeseen by the group’s fans. It bears life-affirming reflections on their career (‘Anniversary’), an epicurean homage to having fun (‘More Joy!’), heart-warming meditations on human relationships (‘Tonight United’) and, ultimately, a bona fide comeback, with Simon Le Bon’s distinctive vocals.
Duran Duran convinced the London audience at O2 – a venue Le Bon described as “like home for us” – that inducting them into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2022 wasn’t a blunder.
The on-form band welcomed us with ‘Nightboat’ and ‘The Wild Boys’, which appeared to be an ideal, romantic introduction to the show’s impressive setlist that would be replete with classics. Le Bon told us his interpretations aren’t important, “It’s what you think when you hear them that makes them special”; it was hard not to interpret them as anything other than special indeed.
Ageless anthems of romantic defiance like ‘Is There Something I Should Know?’ and ‘Girls on Film’ recalled the brilliance of Duran Duran in years gone by, while new tracks from their latest album were rapturous and catchy, welcoming O2’s audience to the band’s recent output with their compelling and easy-to-remember choruses.
Future Past’s high-voltage compositions would find life in stadiums such as this, especially tracks like ‘Invisible’ and ‘Give It All Up’, which suddenly felt like classic anthems.
And, as the band’s live 1984 album Arena proved more than forty years ago, their older hits are stadium-ready too. After the first guitar riffs of ‘The Reflex’, the stadium went wild, erupting in cheers. It was a testament to Duran Duran’s timelessness as the band’s new wave glamour met with dance rock’s intensity.
There was so much fierceness in their collective soul. As they ended their concert with ‘Rio’ and ‘Save a Prayer’ – probably their most sensual hit, which, with a slightly re-imagined tempo, became the evening’s highlight – you felt they could simply go on forever. Their classy performance of the Bond song ‘A View to Kill’ reminded us of their significant contribution to British culture.
“Thank you for having us, London,” concluded Simon Le Bon in a genuinely grateful manner, in some way echoing his sentimental vocals from ‘Nothing Less’ (“I want to thank you for all the loving, baby”).
By the time Duran Duran finished their encore songs, nearly everyone was up from their seats and it was apparent the band is back, musically and stylistically, on the right track. Their triumphant return is set to roll on too, with a new album reportedly due this year, featuring former guitarist Andy Taylor, who was recently revealed to have stage four cancer.
Being in such evidently fine form, we can look ahead to such new offerings, rather than living off the band’s former glories. Duran Duran’s music hasn’t been so fresh and soul-stirring.