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Story and Photos by Andy ArgyrakisOut of all the new wave bands from the early 1980s, none was more influential or able to weather as many out of season storms as Duran Duran. For starters, without Simon LeBon and the boys, there would be no Scissor Sisters, The Killers or anyone else from that like-minded ilk, nor is there any denying the troupe's tasteful merging of music with fashion. While the band's certainly had several close calls in going down for the count (including numerous membership shifts and horrendous later career albums like Pop Trash), the flamboyant front man, keyboardist Nick Rhodes, bassist John Taylor and drummer Roger Taylor are back at their best (at least for the time being).
Rather than revisiting the same old formula from yesteryear, the gang attempted an entirely new direction on its latest project Red Carpet Massacre (Epic), enlisting the skills of red hot producer Timbaland (Nelly Furtado, OneRepublic and now Madonna), with a little help from his pal Justin Timberlake. Though those radio ready, hip-hop infused grooves might not be setting any underground trends, it's a remarkably respectable mainstream blend that found the first three songs of Duran Duran's current tour ("The Valley," "Red Carpet Massacre" and "Nite-Runner") amongst its most compelling since 1993s self-titled comeback.
Sure there were still dozens of nostalgic flashbacks to lean on and many of the key cuts were delivered on full tilt in all their guilty-pleasure glory. Over three thousand thirty-somethings purred to "Hungry Like the Wolf," waved their cell phones to "Come Undone," danced down and dirty to "The Reflex" and swayed from side to side throughout "Save a Prayer." But this was far from an autopilot trip down memory lane, also thanks in part to the charming acoustics of the new "Falling Down" and the funky thumper "(Reach Up For The) Sunrise" to name a few.
Yet the band threw the audience for one of its most ambitious loops to date, taking a twenty minute break from the regularly scheduled running around and setting up shop in the center of the stage for a more intimate "electro-set." The core foursome all lined up in classic Kraftwerk-style, working feverishly on their laptops as syncopated lights swirled behind them. The older "All She Wants Is," "I Don't Want Your Love" and "Skin Trade" were amongst the handful that scored robotic rock makeovers, while the current "Tempted" adapted a more soulful side that help transition towards "Notorious" (beefed up with a session guitarist, background singer and sax player).
The surprises kept coming in the encore, starting with the icy keyboard chills of the deep cut "The Chauffer." Outside of earning screams since it's a rarely performed piece, the Chicago-area crowd also appeared overjoyed over surprise guest guitarist Billy Corgan. The Smashing Pumpkin never stepped up to the mic, though he did add some signature distortion to the track's already eerie flare. After a quick removal of his cap and a bow of that bald head, Corgan disappeared into the shadows as Duran Duran wrapped up with "Rio," putting the cap on one of its most extraordinary evenings since the decade of decadence.
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