POSTED ON AUGUST 8, 2012:
Return of the Wolf
MTV generation has high expectations for one of its favored groups
When Duran Duran burst onto the pop scene in 1981, chances are the only ones who expected the group to still be carrying on 30 years later were the band members themselves. Granted, it's been a long ride which included its share of twists, but when Duran Duran arrives at the Joint for a show this coming Wednesday night, August 15, it does so with four-fifths of the original lineup still intact and a new live album in hand to represent over three decades of work.
Originally formed by keyboardist Nick Rhodes and bassist John Taylor in 1978, Duran Duran went through a couple of iterations and band member changes before settling into the lineup that caused a bidding war between record labels and exploded on to the pop scene in 1981. Fronted by Simon Le Bon, and completed by guitarist Roger Taylor and guitarist Andy Taylor, the Birmingham-based quintet separated itself from its New Romantic contemporaries like Spandau Ballet and Ultravox with sharper pop sensibilities, bigger hooks and an uncanny sense of fashion and pop culture that allowed them to dominate the airways with catchy singles.
Perhaps even more essential to the explosion of Duran Duran, however, was the band's presence on MTV. As the video channel was debuting and launching a new format for music distribution, the British band was arguably the master of the movement, creating some of the most iconic and memorable videos of the decade. After all, who can forget the images from "Rio," "Save a Prayer" and perhaps most importantly, "Hungry Like the Wolf"? In the early '80s, the band members didn't just become superstars, they became the faces of MTV.
Although the band took a break in 1985 to recharge creatively, that hiatus launched a pair of side projects: The Power Station with John and Andy Taylor and Arcadia with Simon Le Bon, Nick Rhodes and Roger Taylor. The band did regroup to record "A View to a Kill," the title track for the soundtrack of the 1985 James Bond movie of the same name (which remains the only Bond theme to reach #1 in the US) and performed together at JFK Stadium in Philadelphia for the Live Aid concert, but as fate would have it, the original five members would not play together again for nearly 20 years. As Andy Taylor left the band to pursue a solo career, drummer Roger Taylor stepped down as well.
Without missing a step, Rhodes, Le Bon and John Taylor moved forward, producing Notorious with Nile Rodgers, landing another Top 10 single and carrying on with guitarist Warren Cuccarullo, who had previously played with Frank Zappa and Missing Persons. Another decade of recording and touring yielded a handful of albums and some of the best praise of the band's career for the group's more mature sound and direction on 1993's self titled release (better known as "The Wedding Album" due to the pictures of the band member's parents' wedding pictures on the album cover).
Although Duran Duran carried on with Rhodes, Le Bon and Cuccarullo after John Taylor's departure in 1996, it didn't create nearly the buzz it once had until the original five members came together again in 2001 to begin work on what would eventually become Astronaut, which was released in 2004. The album marked a return not only to the band's best known line-up, but also a return to form as they married their early pop sensibilities with a more mature direction.
The 2011 release of All You Need Is Now marked Duran Duran's 13th studio album and a three decade run in the pop music industry. Although updated for the latest decide, the band still delivers its signature mix of synth pop and dance rock with an album that's not really a far cry from its signature albums Rio and Seven and the Ragged Tiger.
Not only did the album prove that Duran Duran had not lost its connection with pop music and its fans, it also proved the band also still has its sense of humor intact. The single "Girl Panic!" is a return to form both musically and visually: Its video reaches back to the band's initial forays into the media by calling upon some old friends and supermodels to portray them with a sly, tongue in cheek nod the band's celebrity and rock & rock decadence.
With Naomi Campbell as Simon Le Bon, Helena Christenson as Roger Taylor, Eva Herzigova as Nick Rhodes and Cindy Crawford as John Taylor, it's hard not to hearken back to early videos like "Girls on Film," even if it isn't nearly as racy as the video that had to be edited to air on MTV. With a mix of music and the band members interviewing their own characters, it's a great glimpse into Duran's sense of humor and appreciation of the past three decades. The group even pokes fun at its revolving door of members by casting Yasmin Le Bon (Yes, Simon's daughter) as simply "The Guitarist".
Although the band has seen an ebb and flow of popularity over the past three decades, it is once again riding a crest in its career. The band released A Diamond in the Mind, a live album and DVD taken from its current world tour, in July and returns to the US for three weeks of concert dates this month before wrapping up to work on its next studio album.
At The Joint, August 15, Simon Le Bon, Nick Rhodes, Roger Taylor and John Taylor will be joined by guitarist Dom Brown as they finish up the current tour with this final swing through the US. As of press time, a limited number of tickets were still available in the $85 and $95 price range and can be purchased online or by calling the Joint box office at 918-384-ROCK. You'll want to act quickly, though, before you miss your chance to see one of the icons of the '80s video movement that has actually matured and gone on to create a lasting impact on pop music.
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