- The Washington Times - Monday, November 10, 2003

Five years ago, lead guitarist John Taylor of the ‘80s supergroup Duran Duran was asked by the Los Angeles Times whether the band would ever go on a reunion tour. “That’s like sleeping with your ex-wife,” Mr. Taylor replied. “That’s what you do when you have nothing else left in your life. It’s a statement of failure.”

Sometimes, it seems, failure is sweet.

Sunday night, Duran Duran brought its pretty-boy pop act to a sold-out Warner Theatre and energetically belted out its (mostly) mellifluous chart-topping hits to a giddy thirtysomething crowd.

Named after a character in the Jane Fonda movie “Barbarella,” Duran Duran was the archetypal early ‘80s MTV band, achieving its breakthrough when the fledgling music channel’s format was — imagine — entirely music videos. With their painted faces and sculpted hair, the band members staged elaborate musical odysseys set in places such as Sri Lanka and Antigua, and for a few years, they defined cool Brittania before there was such a thing. Princess Diana famously declared Duran Duran her favorite band, and the start of the group’s U.S. tour in 1983 was compared to the arrival of the Beatles two decades earlier.

The boys are all grown up now, and there is no evidence they have caught on with the Britney generation. On Sunday, though, they escaped from their legal briefs and little ones long enough to re-create a bygone era lubricated by Bartles & Jaymes wine coolers and perfumed with Drakkar Noir cologne and clove cigarettes.

The band is celebrating its 25th anniversary (the musicians recently received a Lifetime Achievement Award from MTV), and this is its first tour with all five original members since Ronald Reagan’s first term. Yet these pioneers of the ‘80s New Romantic movement appear to have weathered the ravages of time and rigors of the road quite nicely. Such at least was the feminine verdict Sunday night. (Simon LeBon, clad in white blazer with upright collar, unbuttoned his shirt just enough so he could regularly flash his navel.)

More important, they understand their audience and have no reluctance to satisfy its demands. Ignoring most of their forgettable material of the past 15 years, they stuck with crowd pleasers such as “Rio,” “Wild Boys,” “Save a Prayer,” “Is There Something I Should Know,” “Hungry Like the Wolf,” and, for encores, “The Reflex” and “Girls on Film.” The only conspicuous omissions were “New Moon on Monday” and “A View to a Kill.”

The band even revealed some range and humor during “Notorious” by gracefully inserting a 10-second riff from Sister Sledge’s 1979 classic “We are Family.” But the neo-power ballad “Ordinary World” and the dark “Waiting for the Night Boat” stopped the singalongs and interrupted the momentum as the crowd caught its breath and awaited the next chart-topper.

Ever the showman, Mr. LeBon pranced around onstage like he did in his prime, coaxing the crowd to sing and clap along. He even told a few juvenile jokes early in the show, while the stagehands grappled with what he declared a “full-blown technical catastrophe” that forced a 10-minute break just 10 minutes into the show.

Mr. LeBon’s good cheer is emblematic of the band’s music, of which John Taylor (oddly, there are three Taylors in the band, none related) once said, “The last thing in the world we’re ever going to sing about is bad times. We want to be the band that’s playing when the Titanic goes down.”

There is a lot to like about Duran Duran, even if it does resemble an ostrich at this stage in its career: destined to continue running, but never again to soar.


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