Four decades may have passed since they released their groundbreaking second album Rio, but Duran Duran has never slowed down and this year is no exception. The group released their fifteenth studio album, Future Past, last October to critical acclaim (it’s their best in years), and in May it was announced that they will be inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2022 on November 5th. In between these two milestones, they’ve undertaken worldwide touring in support of the new record, performed at the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee outside Buckingham Palace, and headlined the opening performances of the 2022 Commonwealth Games. Their latest round of touring has brought them back to the US for another run of dates, including a stop at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, MD (just north of Washington DC) this past Tuesday.
It says something about the legacy of a band when they can open their show with two of their biggest singles. But this is Duran Duran, a band who has had more hits than they could possibly play in one night. So starting off their set with “The Wild Boys” and following it up with “Hungry Like the Wolf” was no big deal, but it immediately fired up the crowd and filled the pavilion with a palpable energy that even a few early technical difficulties couldn’t bring down. They’re also a band that has managed to draw a large and fanatically devoted audience, so there was no risk of losing people by going directly to a pair of new tracks (“Invisible” and “Anniversary”).
From there it was a virtual hit parade, with tracks ranging from “Notorious” and “A View to a Kill,” to “Come Undone,” “Careless Memories,” and “Planet Earth.” The band dedicated “Ordinary World” to Ukraine, with singer Simon Le Bon taking the opportunity to speak briefly in support of the Ukrainian people. They played two more new songs, “Give It All Up” and “Tonight United,” but the main focus of the night was a trip back to the band’s heyday in 80s. This was made all the more apparent by a somewhat on-the-nose cover of the Calvin Harris track “Acceptable in the 80s” that was medlied with “Girls On Film” to close out the main set. For better or worse, the band knows what the vast majority of the crowd came to hear, and they aim to please even if it means sticking mostly to the early albums.
That’s not to say that there’s anything wrong with a nostalgia trip, and for their part, the band seemed to be having a great deal of fun playing those old songs. The audience was certainly excited to hear them. Le Bon, bassist John Taylor, and guitarist Dom Brown owned the spartan stage with constant movement from one end to the other, while keyboardist Nick Rhodes and drummer Roger Taylor anchored the sound from their (necessarily) fixed spots toward the back.
Of course if the opening was big, the encore was even bigger. “Save a Prayer” and especially “Rio” are era-defining songs, the songs that everyone thinks of when they think of the 80s. For the former, Le Bon asked the audience hold up their phones and turn on their lights, making a sea of stars within the pavilion, and to sing along.
The show was opened by famed producer Nile Rodgers, who has had his own extensive mark on Duran Duran over the years, and his band Chic. Rodgers and his band definitely know how to get the party started, playing a mix of songs they made famous themselves (“Dance Dance Dance (Yowza Yowza Yowza),” “Everybody Dance,” and the ubiquitous “Le Freak”) and songs that Rodgers had his hand in as a producer or co-author (including, amongst others, Diana Ross’s “I’m Coming Out,” Sister Sledge’s “We Are Family,” Madonna’s “Like a Virgin,” and David Bowie’s “Modern Love”).
Whether you loved Duran Duran in the 80s or found them later, this is one tour that you won’t want to miss if it comes to your town. There’s no better way to spend a summer evening.
Duran Duran setlist
The Wild Boys Hungry Like the Wolf Invisible Anniversary Notorious A View to a Kill Come Undone Give It All Up Friends of Mine Careless Memories
Ordinary World Tonight United Planet Earth Hold Back the Rain The Reflex White Lines (Don’t Don’t Do It) Girls On Film / Acceptable in the 80s