Monday, July 13, 2009

Duran Duran thrills sold-out crowd at Pac Amp

Photo credit: Kim Kinsler
Duran Duran faced a number of challenges in its full-length performance before a sold-out crowd at Pacific Amphitheatre in Costa Mesa on Saturday night, July 11, 2009.
Lead singer Simon Le Bon was in great voice throughout the night, but was obviously ill and often had to go to the back of the stage to clear his throat.
The other, bigger challenge were inattentive people. In the section where I sat, there were several concert-goers who were more interested in making multiple beer runs and chatting than listening to the band –- even during Duran’s best-known hits.
A comment I overheard from several other attendees seated further back was that the video screens showed Le Bon 95 percent of the time; one person said she didn’t remember a single shot of keyboardist Nick Rhodes or drummer Roger Taylor projected on the big screens.
Even during impressive solos, the screens would focus mostly on closeup images of Le Bon. One suspects the director of the video presentation didn’t realize Duran Duran was a band not a solo performer with a backup group in tow.
Despite those roadblocks, the majority of the crowd was enthusiastic and on its feet for the 1 hour, 45 minute concert that found the band playing a 20-song set of ’80s and ’90s classics, as well as worthwhile tracks from this decade and a convincing cover of “White Lines” from the outfit’s 1995 Thank You album.
As the band opened with a crowd-pleasing “Wild Boys,” the audience was clearly in the mood to sing along, and did so throughout much of the night. The concert’s best moments came when the group performed some of its most sonically rich and far-reaching material. The soaring “Hold Back the Rain,” the driving “Rio” (featuring John Taylor’s virtuoso bass playing) and an emotive “Save a Prayer” (with Le Bon on acoustic guitar as the audience sang out the chorus) were memorable.
I thought the band’s powerful and uplifting version of “(Reach Up for the) Sunrise” and a two-tiered approach to “A View to the Kill,” in which the song started as a ’60s Vegas-style foray before going into the original rock arrangement, were the strongest selections of the night.
For fans of the short-lived Arcadia, a one-off side project featuring Le Bon, Rhodes and Roger Taylor), Duran Duran also performed a solid version of that band’s hit “Election Day” as a real treat. But I suspect the majority of fans enjoyed the one-two punch of “Planet Earth” and “Girls on Film” even more. It would have been nice to hear "Nice" or more material from the great 2004 album "Astronaut," but I'm sure even more fans missed hearing "Hungry Like the Wolf" from "Rio."

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