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Review: In Clearwater for one night, this is Planet Duran Duran



Duran Duran/photo by Steve Spears

How was the Duran Duran concert last night in Clearwater? Let me put it this way. There are certain signature moments in a person's life. Scoring a driver's license. Losing your virginity. And hearing The Reflex performed live. And finally, after 44 years, I have managed to complete that trifecta. And I'm not sure I could have possibly celebrate the two former milestones as much as I did last night's.

There's something unique about a Duran Duran concert. The mind-boggling video effects. (I just loved the 3D glowing masks above stage that sang along to the chorus of the hits.) The pageantry. The buzz of the crowd. And just the mere appearance of Simon, John, Nick and Roger. From the moment you see their silhouettes, the screams from the audience became eardrum-splitting, and I'll confess I was one of the offenders. (As a guy, I don't "scream" as much as I go "yeaaahhhhh!" really, really loud. Does that still count?)

Here are some highlights from last night's concert at Ruth Eckerd Hall:

THE OPENERS: I honestly didn't intend to sit through Neon Trees' set. But I'm glad I did. I loved the youngsters from Utah, even though (hand to god) I couldn't name a single tune of theirs prior to the show. (I don't listen to current radio ... ever.) Frontman Tyler Glenn has an androgynous appeal that was hard to ignore. It's not hard to envision them headlining big shows themselves soon.

John Taylor of Duran Duran/Times photo

THE NEW TUNES: Every fan knows by now that Duran Duran was going to play more than a fair share of tunes off the new All You Need is Now album. So I was prepared for the lulls. Happily enough, the fans stayed on their feet for 90 percent of them last night. A few fell flat, including Safe (In the Heat of the Moment) and Leave a Light On. Some happily campy footage saved Blame the Machines from becoming too weary. But the good news is that Before the Rain (the show opener), Girl Panic and the title track just plain dazzled. And The Man Who Stole a Leopard almost stole the entire show. (Sooo much better live than on record.)

THE HITS: It's hard to complain here. The band wisely chose tunes from throughout their career. So for every Careless Memories (amazing live BTW), we got a Notorious, Ordinary World and Planet Earth. Hungry Like the Wolf didn't seem to have the usual fun bite to it, but I doubt anyone cared. At that point, the very humid Ruth Eckerd Hall (does the AC not go below 80 there?) was taking its toll on the band, I think. And let's face it, as cute as Dom Brown is on lead guitar, he's no Andy Taylor (or Warren Cuccurullo for that matter).

Simon Le Bon/Times photo

THE REFLEX ... FLE-FLE-FLE-FLE-FLEX: I have a mystical attachment to The Reflex from the Seven and the Ragged Tiger album, as many U.S. fans do, I imagine. And Duran Duran honored our passion for it with an amazing performance. The 3D masks came alive with a band member's face in each mask, singing "Ta-na-na-na" and we were all hooked. Simon even pulled off his never-less-than-adorable spin during the line "I'm a ride and I want to get off, but they won't slow down the roundabout." If I could relive four minutes of my life over and over again, I might choose this song on this night.

THE DEMONS: As I've said before, I had waited about 30 years to see Duran Duran live. I've kicked myself hundreds of times for missed opportunities. But I could feel all the frustration leave the building with each tune. By the end, this Duran Duran concert felt like half baptism, half exorcism. Who knew that Rio and Wild Boys would become my personal Proverbs and Psalms? I feel saved. Purified. Clean. ... At least until the next Duran Duran tour.

John Taylor and Simon Le Bon/Times photo

[Last modified: Tuesday, October 11, 2011 9:48am]


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