Walking up to the entrance of the Durham Performance Arts Center, it was clear that the 80s had rolled into town; there was big hair and vintage wear as far as the eye could see. Why, the smell of Aqua Net practically permeated the air. Ladies who hadn’t worn heels to a concert in years walked by precariously balanced on 9-inch monsters, while proudly wearing their finest in satin jackets. Yes folks, Duran Duran was back in town.
The night started with the introduction of the opening act, MNDR. While MNDR in actuality is a duo, the lead singer Amanda Warner tours as a solo artist under the group’s name. This, in my opinion, is a mistake. Perhaps best known for appearing on a single on Mark Ronson’s last studio album, Record Collection, there was an air of vulnerability surrounding her 30 minute performance in Durham. Constantly tinkering with her soundboard between songs, twisting knobs and synching tracks, all I could wonder is if this is what The Ting Tings would look like as a solo effort.
Of course, it doesn’t help that audiences in the Triangle are notorious for shitting on opening acts. This was dance music, performed in front of ladies prepared to have a good time, and only once did I see a couple of women stand up for Ms. Warner, and they did so ironically. For 30 minutes Ms. Warner gave her all for a group of people that could barely muster up a slow clap usually reserved for scenes in teen movies.
All of this changed once the headliners hit the stage. Well…almost. Strains of classical music began to belt from the speakers, while scenes from a silent film flashed across the screens onstage. The audience cheered wildly each time the music waned, only to be disappointed when the volume picked up again. This happened for nearly 10 minutes straight. I began to picture the revolt that would occur if Ke$ha were to begin a concert with a showing of Chaplin’s Modern Times on her next tour. I have to give it to the members of this audience, though; the majority remained on their feet for the moment when the heroes from their youth would arrive.
Finally, the band took the stage. Having seen my fair share of sad reunion bands up close, I have to say that Duran Duran has physically kept it together pretty well since their heyday in the early 80s. Lead singer Simon Le Bon’s vocals are remarkable live, while his appearance now Is best described as Zach Galifianakis a few months into a vigorous workout routine. Bass player John Taylor appears to be the member who has most embraced the rock lifestyle, starting to resemble a ’68 era Keith Richards. The keyboardist, Nick Rhodes, still gives off the air of being put-out by having to perform for a living, barely moving during the entire concert and wearing a perma-scowl.
Once the band kicked off the show with a rousing version of “Before the Rain”, the crowd was moving in ways that it appeared they haven’t in years; call the babysitter, Mrs. Smith was going to be getting home late tonight. This audience was soaking up every ounce of entertainment being handed to them and appreciated it. When Le Bon announced to the crowd that the band had been on the road for almost 20 months straight, there seemed to be an unspoken response from the crowd of, “Feel free to take a break after tonight, but can you please play “Hungry Like the Wolf” twice before you leave?”
The band, starting to sweat profusely in their leather and silver vests made from the corpses of a hundred Member’s Only jackets, dragged a fan onstage to help kick off “The Reflex”. The only problem was, whether from embarrassment or unfamiliarity, it was soon clear this girl didn’t know the words. No problem; the audience filled in the “Da na na na” for her.
After playing a string of hits, it soon became apparent that both the band and audience were ready to call it a night. Le Bon was down to miscalculated disco moves on stage, while the women in the audience were flashing jazz hands because they were running on fumes from dancing for 2 hours straight. Coming back for the encore, the band left the audience with memories of happier days gone by with a stirring rendition of “Rio”, and we all trudged back to our cars, leaving the staff at the DPAC to pick up the antacid wrappers and empty bottles of headache medicines left in our wake.