Nick Rhodes hasn’t changed at all in more than three decades. Neither have John or Roger Taylor. Simon Le Bon? Aside from growing a rough beard that makes his face just a little more round (and a voice that’s missing some of its youthful squeal from time to time), he also looks timeless. Up close in the tightly packed confines of the Ogden Theatre on Wednesday night, the original members of Duran Duran might have looked even better than I remembered.
And their performance didn’t disappoint. Through 16 songs over 80 minutes, the iconic group delighted a gathering of fans that looked like they’d been at the same party since the video of “Hungry Like The Wolf” was first broadcast. Rhodes and Le Bon sported signature suits with sparkling lapels and boots, and led the band through a set that depended a tad too heavily on material from the new record, this year’s “All You Need Is Now.” It may have been a general lack of familiarity with the new stuff, but the connection to the performance was visibly troubled until the recognizable first notes of their mega-hits jolted the audience back to life.
Nonetheless, no doubt due to their thirty plus years on stage, Le Bon and the rest balanced the set to take advantage of that see-sawing. They first warmed up the sold-out house with “Planet Earth” and “Hungry Like The Wolf” — which impressed me. I appreciate superstars that play mega-hits early on, as if they’re trying to sate the one-hitters in favor of true fans. Next, they worked through the new album’s title song and “Being Followed,” a funky meditation on paranoia, before diving into “Notorious.” Le Bon danced as he sang, full of James Bond swagger, and If he weren’t an actual ‘80s icon himself of at least equal stature, I’d have said he was the spitting image of George Michael.
They wrapped up the set with an absolutely explosive version of “Rio,” which dinged my regard for their getting “Hungry…” out of the way early on, and then returned for an encore that included the film hit “View To A Kill” and an extended remix of “Girls On Film.” The lengthy number included old-school band member intros, a drum solo and a completely unnecessary mini-cover of Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face” that pushed the envelope just a hair too far.
Still, and especially since they admittedly “don’t get out here much,” as Le Bon uttered toward the show’s end, the performance was satisfying, even powerful. While too many bands with similar musical tenure have long been sent out to satisfy the state fair and amusement park crowds by this time in their careers, the show seemed to prove they still have enough mojo to stay safe. For now.
Nathan Iverson is a Denver photographer and regular contributor to Reverb.