The following review is based on the Saturday, September 10th concert.
After more than 40 years, there is no doubt that Duran Duran, which led the Second British Invasion in the 1980s and helped popularize music videos, hasn’t lost a step — neither in stage presence nor fidelity of sound. The four members — comprised of lead vocalist Simon Le Bon, bassist John Taylor, drummer Roger Taylor (not to be confused with Queen’s drummer), and keyboardist Nick Rhodes — are still very much beloved, having sold out three straight nights (Sept. 9-11) at the Hollywood Bowl for their Future Past Weekend. They performed 19 songs from their latest offering, Future Past, and songs from previous eras — predominantly culled from their self-titled debut studio album and Rio — all of which were in tribute to Queen Elizabeth II. Capping off Duran Duran’s string of hits was a breathtaking fireworks finale, a staple at the Bowl.
While rain threatened to cascade down on 17,500 fans, as it did the evening before, the pop-rock proceedings stayed dry despite 80% humidity. Launching the festivities was singer and professionally trained chef, Kelis, who, among her other energizing tracks, performed “Bossy” and her uber-famous “Milkshake,” a smash so ubiquitous that, if it was in Duran Duran’s discography, would be the English rockers’ second-most streamed song on Spotify. The enduring, 2003-released touchstone was also reconfigured with nostalgic instrumentals from “I Feel Love,” “Girls Just Want to Have Fun,” “Holiday,” and “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” which got the capacity audience into an earnest frenzy prior to Duran Duran’s burst onto the scene.
As an image of the recently departed Queen Elizabeth II flashed across the screen signaling their arrival, the original foursome showed they were as youthful and stylish as ever, dressed in eye-catching pastels, ready to delight their fervent fans. They were joined by saxophonist Simon Willescroft, electric guitarist Dominic Brown, vocalists Rachael O’Connor and Anna Ross, alongside Nile Rodgers (he and his band Chic opened the night before) and pianist Mike Garson who assisted on one song each. The 100-minute set, split up into three sections, was perfectly timed to maximize audience engagement with each subsequent chart-topper.
As the legendary band started with “The Wild Boys,” it was clear they have not sacrificed their virtuoso abilities for a safer, auto-tuned presentation. Le Bon’s vocals surely have a grittiness to them, but they are somehow better than they were before, not having lost their dynamic qualities. “Hungry Like the Wolf” followed, living up to expectations and appropriately ending with Le Bon howling like a canine. “Invisible,” a song off their most recent album from 2021, was next; it ingratiated itself with its nice and comforting familiarity. Afterwards, a video of Roger Moore doing the classic, gun-pointed Bond intro appeared on the screen, which cued “A View a Kill,” prompting the devoted attendees to stand on their feet and bask in Le Bon seamlessly hitting high A#s on “need” and “dreams,” a feat which hadn’t always been guaranteed, case in point during Live Aid 1985. As the renowned frontman later pointed out, the 007 association is quite the natural one for “Bon, Simon Le Bon.” The fifth tune was “Notorious,” featuring Nile Rodgers fabulously strumming the guitar, Rhodes harnessing the keys like only he can, and Willescroft evincing an incredible flair that became even more noticeable as the concert progressed.
In honor of Le Bon’s daughter, Tallulah, who was celebrating a birthday, “Anniversary” was the sixth number, which segued into “Come Undone” — a harmonious duet between Le Bon and the talented Ross that evoked memories of when the ballad was performed on MTV Unplugged in 1993. Le Bon, who leaned into the melodious growl in his voice, was flanked by O’Connor, another skilled belter, for “Give It All Up” (of Future Past) before traveling four decades back for “Friends of Mine,” an undervalued song with Halloween undertones complemented by a montage of classic characters from the horror genre. The New Wave luminaries then took a sharp turn, enthralling with the high-energy punk feel of “Careless Memories.”
For the middle section of the set, Le Bon removed his jacket and clearly revealed a “Union of the Snake” T-shirt, before paying homage to Ukraine’s plight with “Ordinary World” — a No. 1 hit augmented by Brown’s musicianship, the audience’s involvement, and Le Bon’s smooth falsetto. Following that, “Planet Earth” roused the thousands who were galvanized by the dulcet resonance of Willescroft’s saxophone, John Taylor’s impressive bass solo, and Roger Taylor’s electrifying drum-playing. “Hold Back the Rain,” an early 80’s track that was especially suitable on Friday, stirred the Bowl just in time for a rollicking rendition of “The Reflex,” its first beat synchronous with a karate kick from the zestful Le Bon. The decibel meter then shot up to the next tier with the final song before the encore, “Girls on Film,” which was suitably interluded with Calvin Harris’s video game-synth “Acceptable in the 80s” (Le Bon’s favorite part of the show).
The encore eased the sea of people back with a touching version of David Bowie’s “Five Years,” highlighted by Garson’s classical piano playing. Then, although the entirety of the production was dedicated to Queen Elizabeth II, “Save a Prayer” was especially pledged to her as Le Bon asked the hordes to “light up the Bowl like the Milky Way.” Of course, the fans responded in kind, outdoing their contributions during “Ordinary World,” with a grand display of phone lights resplendently swaying in the dark night. Closing out the memorable show was a tireless undertaking of “Rio,” a well-received, extended edition of the single which swelled in intensity, matching the multicolored fireworks that unremittingly lit up the sky. Certainly, this culminated a landmark weekend for Duran Duran.
Since music has become commercialized, the popularity of bands and individual acts has ebbed and flowed despite misleading social-media followings. Since releasing their inaugural album in 1981, the four Duran Duran members have been unaffected by the myriad of pivots made by the music industry, instead only growing more resilient, buoyed by their loyalty to their fan base, who can keenly observe that their muses have refused to rest on the goodwill of their sentimental records. The fact that the band filled to the brim a consecutive trio of houses — at the capacious Bowl, no less — attests to Duran Duran still having lots left in the tank.
For more information about Duran Duran, please visit: DuranDuran.com
For more information about events at the Hollywood Bowl, please visit: HollywoodBowl.com