An unwavering tenacity coupled with a spirit of perseverance appears to be the recipe for longevity and survival in the music business. This might be the overarching lesson of New Wave gods Duran Duran’s final concert for their 40th anniversary and Future Past album tour at Forest Hills Stadium (Queens – New York City). Changing band formations (which at one point shrunk to a trio with Missing Persons alum Warren Cuccurullo), commercial lows (that often undermined the momentum of a career renaissance), uncharitable and unfair labels of irrelevance/yesteryear attached to the band, the outright rejection of an album (titled “Reportage”) recorded after a stunning comeback in the early 2000s, and being the victims of terrestrial radio’s unfortunate but longstanding bias of ageism have made the Duran Duran journey a rather turbulent one. Yet, Duran Duran has unapologetically held on to their swagger, has indulged their creative spunk, and has no desire to rest on the laurels of what many might consider their commercial prime.  In a television interview from many years ago, lead singer Simon Lebon once indicated that as a musician, if you are still working, the idea that your best work was in the past is a bitter pill to swallow, and that recognition becomes the motivating force to creatively eclipse the musical past with something new. This musical ethos is the fertile ground from which his inspired songwriting has continued to sprout and propel the band towards greater highs musically – even though the world’s powerful gatekeepers seem relentless in their collective inability to break out of the habit of attaching the “yesteryear’s star” label to the band. Duran Duran’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of fame in 2022 was the greatest catalyst for a re-evaluation of the band’s place in pop/rock music history. This concert tour was not just a celebration of their legacy but is a manifestation of their greater reverence for the broader sphere of pop music as three different eras of pop music were represented on stage in the evening with Duran Duran as the headlining act while one of Britain’s hottest recent musical exports Bastille along with 70s disco-band Chic (featuring legendary hit producer Nile Rodgers) were the opening acts. The night was characterized by several moments of unbridled euphoria as all three acts brought their A-game on steroids to the stage at Forest Hills Stadium.

The first noteworthy aspect of this concert was the choice of opening acts. One of the unfortunate consequences of genre-based radio stations in many parts of the world is the homogenization of musical tastes (MTV in its heyday worked as an effective counterweight to this by airing music videos across all mainstream genres on their 24-hour television broadcast). Modern algorithmic curation is taking this concept of taste-homogenization a step further and as the notion of mass pop culture becomes increasingly antiquated in the context of the music business, the risk of this trend will be accelerated. As curators of our 24/7 music online radio broadcast, Radio Crème Brulee, this is a source of great frustration for me as the lead DJ of Radio Crème Brulee. There are a non-trivial number of Duran Duran fans that write to us (or express their disappointment on music forums) asking us to be an “alternative” music radio station and are offended by the fact that we play a lot of pop music on our radio broadcast. The fact that we play an incredibly wide selection of rare-for-radio (and routinely ignored) Duran Duran tracks does not seem to “redeem” us for our penchant for pop music. This continues to be baffling at best for me. We have not caved to their demands but because those demands are at odds with the guiding curatorial philosophy of our radio station. The idea of picking two acts as openers from two different eras and different musical heritages is a great way to force the audience to challenge this myth that their music tastes are as limited as they think they might be. More importantly, this approach also hits at the breadth of Duran Duran – both in terms of their genre-crossover potential as well as the various musical heritages that they have reverence for and draw inspiration from. For this, the gentlemen of Duran Duran have my utmost respect.

Opening acts are typically up-and-coming artists/bands that most of the audience is generally quite indifferent to and often ignores. I am guilty of this attitude to opening acts and often feel like suffering through their setlists is the inconvenience I have to endure in order to appreciate the magic of the main act of a concert. That being said, both Bastille and Chic are successful acts (commercially speaking) in their own right that do NOT necessarily need to share a stage with Duran Duran to be able to play to a large audience. Evidently, this fact might not have been grasped by a noticeably large swathe of the concert audience given how sparsely populated the floor area seating of Forest Hills Stadium was when lead singer Dan Smith and the rest of the members of Bastille took to the stage at 6 pm. The band seemed absolutely unperturbed by the thinly populated floor area and compensated with gusto on stage. Lead singer Dan Smith indulged his sense of humor by saying “We realize it is early. Probably still lunch time!”. They leveraged large screens and impactful lighting effects to amplify the effects of their short but fantastic set that included a significantly more up-tempo (and far superior version) of “Million Pieces” (oddly enough, this song was never released as an official single) from their 2019 album “Doom Days”, the addictive “Of The Night” (a creative mashup of 90s German dance act Snap’s “Rhythm is a dancer” and Corona’s “Rhythm of the night”), “Shut off the lights” (which Dan Smith used as a hook for audience participation with an easy enough chorus-lyric) from their 2022 album “Give me the future”, and their predictable set closer and breakout single “Pompeii” from their UK #1 album “Bad Blood”. Their two female backup singers added a layer of richness to the harmony sections of the song. For those that spent this part of the evening at the bar outside the stadium, this was truly their loss – since Bastille is hands down one of the best opening acts I have watched in almost two decades. I do not mean to look down upon those that are unaware of the band’s existence, credibility, or popularity but there is a marketing challenge here to be solved when the audience does NOT realize that they are getting a “3 acts for the price of 1” deal on a concert.

By the time Chic got on stage at 7 pm, and opened with the timeless and ubiquitous funk-meets-disco hit classic “Freak out”, the stadium was packed. What followed was a musical time-travel experience to the 1970s and early 1980s – an expectation founding member and legendary hit producer Nile Rodgers set when he told the audience “Let’s party like it’s 1979!”. Chic’s set had two distinct approaches blended into one. One featured hit classics by Chic while the other was centered around Nile Rodgers’ place in music history as one of pop music’s production heavyweights – which led to the performance of covers of hits such as “Like A Virgin” (Madonna), “Material Girl” (Madonna), “Let’s Dance” (David Bowie), “I’m Coming out” (Diana Ross), and “Get Lucky” (Daft Punk featuring Pharrell Williams) being performed. Nile Rodgers was at the helm of production of these pop classics. That being said, this little teaser of his accomplishments barely skims the surface of the breadth of music that he has been the sonic mastermind of. My personal favorites by Nile Rodgers as a producer include Wet Wet Wet’s “Shed A Tear” and Al Jarreau’s “Moonlighting” (the theme for the television show starring Cybill Shepherd and Bruce Willis). One of the most emotional moments of this set was when Nile Rodgers described the recording of Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” as his way of coping with and finally conquering cancer. His admission of finally being cancer-free met with deafening screams of joy from the audience.  As expected, Chic closed out with a bang with the addictive “Good times”. It is impossible to adequately praise the quality and caliber of musicians on stage for this part of the concert. It was humbling to say the least. Needless to say, Chic did a grand job of gearing up the audience for the evening’s core highlight – Duran Duran.

Having only seen Duran Duran in relatively intimate venues in the past, I was rather unprepared for the over-the-top (not complaining though!) scale of what they brought to the stage. Their dramatic entrance on stage was preceded by a video of the four of them commandeering an aircraft and slowly exiting it while taking their helmets off. This stage entry sequence might have been more apt for a younger act but it did not matter one bit. It totally worked and the crowd was eating out of the palm of their hands as they screamed their lungs out and as the band members entered the stage and lingered momentarily in the bask of the halo of adoration that the audience cast around them before opening with “Night Boat” from their debut album.

The concert was a largely up-tempo and high-octane affair with the only mellow moments being those associated with the performances of “Ordinary World” (a dedication to the citizens of Ukraine), “Come Undone” and “Save A Prayer” (the first post-encore track). Even the relatively mid-tempo “Lonely in your nightmare” quickly morphed into a cover of Rick James’ “Superfreak” via a very clever transition. The energy that these men are able to channel on stage could make one believe that the rules of aging are mere suggestions for Duran Duran. They seemed to be able to tap into their youthful spark with relative ease as they played one hit after another. As a vocalist, Simon Lebon’s shining moment continues to be on “Ordinary World” as he delivered an abundance of raw emotion in his performance of that song. “View to a kill” (the only Bond theme so far to have hit #1 on the US singles chart) featured great visuals on the large screens capturing the spirit of the James Bond franchise. “Come Undone” was another great moment of the concert featuring backup singer Anna Ross to do the female vocals. Her emulation of the female vocals of the song’s studio original is nothing short of stunning and it scored her enthusiastic cheers from the audience. She was not the only backup singer to pull her weight on stage. The second and only other backup singer Northern Ireland native (and former contestant of the TV show The Voice) Rachael O’Connor rose to the occasion and performed Tove Lo’s vocal section on the single “Give it all up” from Duran Duran’s 2021 album “Future Past”. This is one of only two songs performed from that album but it showcases Duran Duran’s impeccable knack for creating soundscapes that are both up-tempo and moody simultaneously. The live rendition does justice to the fabulous studio original. Last, but not least, the band did a great job of capturing visuals of both their meteoric rise and of the skepticism and speculation around their potential demise as part of the large-screen backdrop for the performance of “Notorious”.

The band also made a not-so-subtle nod to their upcoming Halloween-inspired album “Danse Macabre” (a combination of new tracks, reworked hits, and covers) by overlaying Halloween inspired image filters on the faces of members of the audience and broadcasting them on the large screens that formed the visual backdrop for their performance. The only song performed from this album was the album’s title track “Danse Macabre” (a pleasant but far from ground-breaking musical offering).

As for the setlist, there is a heavy dose of their eponymous debut album. Some might say this is appropriate because it is reflective of the band’s New Wave roots. It is a compelling assertion but I cannot help but think that it’s heavy exposure comes at the unfortunate cost of entire albums (e.g. “All you need is now”, “Liberty”, “Paper Gods”, “Astronaut” etc.) being ignored altogether. Some of these albums have singles that mark critical commercial and creative inflection points for the band’s career – and are hence relevant in the context of a career that has spanned a little over 40 years. I am cognizant of the challenge that a band faces when trying to compress a body of work spanning 15 studio albums into a setlist of twenty songs. That being said, for a band that tours as often as they do, they have earned the right and luxury to take a few chances and sprinkle a few surprises into the mix. Their relative reluctance to do so in favor of an ultra-safe and predictable setlist is somewhat baffling. This 80s-centric setlist also ignores the fact that they did cross over to another generation in the 90s. It is unclear how much of the audience fell in this category (I most certainly am a part of this subset of fans). This setlist approach does not lend itself to broadening the horizons of a casual Duran Duran fan – and to that extent, this concert was somewhat of a missed opportunity for Duran Duran. It would be great to see songs such as “Serious” (from the album “Liberty”), “Falling Down” (the sonic cousin of “Ordinary World” and “Come Undone” from the album “Red Carpet Massacre”), “What happens tomorrow” (from the album “Astronaut”), and “Breath after Breath” (from “The Wedding Album”) added to the mix. This concert’s setlist does not come close to revealing the depth of the sonic treasure chest that is Duran Duran’s stellar back-catalog. This alone would have convinced me to give the concert a lower star rating but the larger-than-life performances by opening acts Bastille and Chic compensate for any deficiencies in Duran Duran’s setlist (which undoubtedly pleased most of the crowd).

It has been over forty years since the young lads of Duran Duran laid the foundation for sky-high aspirations of global domination while being mainstays at Birmingham’s famed Rum Runner club (closed in 1987). Their experiences navigating both the journey to fame/fortune and the cycle of commercial and creative turbulence that they encountered over the years is what great stories are made of. I wish them the best and wait with bated breath for their 50th anniversary concert tour (which is hopefully hot on the heels of new material). After all, their grit, energy, and creative well is far from dry.

STAR RATING: 5 out of 5 Stars


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In case you did not pick up on this earlier, the blog you are reading is affiliated with Radio Creme Brulee – an online radio station that features an eclectic mix of current pop and rock music from both sides of the Atlantic alongside hits, forgotten gems, and rarities from the last three decades. Alongside newer artists, we also play plenty of newer music by bands that rose to prominence in the 80s,90s, and the 00s. Noteworthy examples include Simply Red, Wet Wet Wet, Coldplay, Kylie Minogue, Dubstar, Tears For Fears, Go West, Duran Duran, Belinda Carlisle, Camouflage, Spandau Ballet, INXS, Depeche Mode, Suede, The Corrs, Jamiroquai, Keane, Johnny Hates Jazz, Simple Minds, and Culture Club.

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