Host of The Emo Diaries
I grew up on Duran Duran, and while I wasn’t alive for their heyday, their show on June 6th really made me feel like I was back in the 80s.
The set began with images on the screen of the guys as futuristic astronauts on a ship, flying to and eventually landing on Earth. They fly through an aurora and through a vaporwavy city with an inexplicable jellyfish in the sky. They deplane and walk in slow-mo toward the camera until the band themselves take the stage.
The first song of the night is “Night Boat” off their 1981 self-titled debut, a song I admittedly haven’t heard much. Coupled with the intro, it was an excellent way to begin the show and set the tone for what was to come.
This was followed up with “Wild Boys,” much to everyone’s excitement. There’s nothing quite like hearing an arena chanting “WILD BOYS!” along with Simon’s strong tenor (which is just as strong as ever).
Next up was “Hungry Like The Wolf,” arguably one of their best-known songs and one I used to sing on repeat on the Xbox karaoke game “Lips.” Fun fact: if you watch the video, Simon’s hair randomly goes from brown to bleached blond at the first chorus:
After that came their Bond theme, “A View To A Kill,” accompanied by Bond visuals. I’m also watching this video now and, boy howdy, what pure cheese.
“It’s always ‘yes, yes, yes’ until it’s ‘no, no, no.’” NO-NO-NOTORIOUS. I’m not saying that I did the Sparkle Motion dance in my seat, but that’s exactly what I’m saying. After the song, Simon (who was the only member of the band to ever speak) reflected on their love of Austin. “We have had some of the best times of our lives in this town,” he said. And from the looks of it, I believe John and Roger had some of those experiences the day before the concert, biking around the greenbelt and taking a dip in Barton Springs.
After this, they launched into one of the songs off their most recent album Future Past, “GIVE IT ALL UP.” While the album version features Tove Lo, they brought backing singer Rachael O’Connor to the forefront. Following the new track, they took us all the way back to 1982 with “Lonely in Your Nightmare,” featuring a solid mashup with Rick James’ “Super Freak.” Why? I do not know. Also, who cares? It worked!
Please, please tell me now, was Duran Duran the prettiest band of the 80s? The magazine covers, posters, and music video clips during “Is There Something I Should Know?” certainly reinforced that idea for me. My goodness. The makeup! The hair! John’s ridiculously square chin!
Next, Simon asked the crowd if anyone was celebrating a birthday…or an “ANNIVERSARY,” another new-ish track from Future Past. If you’ve seen the album cover, you’re familiar with the red and green outlines. They utilized this filter for the performance and while it mostly worked, it wasn’t perfect. It worked more for Nick, who doesn’t move much at the keys. For the rest of the band, it flickered a bit but got the point across.
At this point, we travelled back to 1981 again for “Friends of Mine,” along with a bit of a costume change from Simon, who ditched his white jacket for a radioactive green motojacket. I truly did not realize how many bangers were on the Duran Duran debut album because they followed with “Careless Memories.” This might be the most goth/post-punk of their offerings. They absolutely brought the house down with this, in my opinion.
After that, Simon ditched the excellent jacket (while John changed into a pink one) and told us how good-looking we all were. Then made us repeat the mantra ourselves. “I am looking GOOD tonight.” Thank you, Simon. He then introduced the next song, which he said, “came at a time when our stock was low.” Dedicating it to the people of Ukraine, they played “Ordinary World.” Accompanying the song were visuals of classical art, sculptures, and archways. It was absolutely gorgeous.
Now comes my personal favourite part of the show. I don’t know how they did it, but they put my two favourite songs (of their set) right next to each other! Backing singer Anna Ross was highlighted for the female part in “Come Undone,” which led into yet another debut hit, “Planet Earth.” In the middle of “Planet Earth,” Simon takes the opportunity to introduce the band, including touring saxophonist Simon Willescroft and guitarist Dom Brown.
Next was by far DD’s most bizarre song ever, 1995’s “White Lines (Don’t Do It),” a cover of a 1983 rap song by Melle Mel and Grandmaster Flash (who feature in the recording). This comes from a period of time between “Ordinary World/Come Undone” and “Electric Barbarella” that I don’t remember happening AT ALL. Of course, I was a child at the time, but I truly have no recollection of this song. That said, it was a lot of fun to experience live.
As the show draws to a close, some of the biggest hits are yet to come. The set ended with “The Reflex” and “Girls on Film” mashed up with Calvin Harris’ “Acceptable in the 80s.” I love that the band embraced mashups on this tour and hope they continue to do so in the future.
After a brief break, the band came back for the encore. Simon changed into a blue Duran Duran shirt while John donned a Notorious basketball jersey. For “Save a Prayer,” Simon requested we all turn on our phone lights and that it was OUR turn to sing. The big screens had doves flying. The arena lit up like daytime with everyone singing was incredible.
They ended with “Rio” because how could they not? Probably their biggest hit, coupled with them being in Texas, the site of the literal Rio Grande?
In conclusion, while we miss Andy, Duran Duran as a unit is as strong as ever. They haven’t lost a step in their career that’s now in its 5th decade. John’s bass makes me want to cry, Roger’s drumming rivals people half his age, Nick is still by far the most fashionable, and Simon can still rock shiny silver pants and belt 40-year-old songs like the day he recorded them.
One last thing: HUGE shoutout to Ima Leupp for photographing the show for me. I’m so happy we got to cover the show together and the photos are STELLAR.