Twenty-eight years ago in the lonesome halls of Park Hill North Junior High, the center of my myopic teen-angst world, a question was raised by ’80s icons Duran Duran, “Is there something I should know?” Retrospectively clueless, the answer eluded me for years, until last year. “All you need is now” is the album and title track of their latest album, and the mantra I adopted when I turned 40 years old. I have been talking to girls about Duran Duran and dreaming of the glam life the notorious band members carried out for so long now. Funny how events conjure up the same fantasy today. This year I have been fortunate to see my favorite band perform for the first time — twice. The first was in April at this year’s Coachella and the second this week at Madison Square Garden.
Back in 2010, someone had the brilliant idea to pair Mark Ronson with our wild boys to produce their new album. The result was their best record in years. Ronson insisted they use instruments from the ’80s to recapture their iconic sound after recent misfires with Timberlake, Timbaland and other trendy timbers. Simon’s still pitch-perfect voice, Nick’s stoically goth/glam musical genius, John’s bass picking, swagger and supermodel looks and Roger, well, he’s the drummer. I always love the drummer. The third Taylor, Andy, is no longer in the band, but Dom Brown, the electric guitar replacement is superb. The spitting image of a young Bryan Adams, Brown co-wrote seven of Duran Duran’s new tracks. So a concert chock full of ’80s hits and ’10s gems made for a seamless, perfect blend of old and new.
I’m going to admit again that I felt like a 14-year-old seeing Duran Duran for the first time. At Coachella, I was a lone Duranny in a sea of Strokes fans. Not this time. My buddy Brian and I splurged on pricey pit tickets and packed extra undies to toss at Simon, but not until I got to the floor of Madison Square Garden, a mere 20 feet from the stage, did it really sink in. We positioned ourselves at the foot of John Taylor (of course). Not long after we got there, lights out, the boys in the band made their way to their instruments and Simon glided into the mid-tempo “Before the Rain.” Love it when a band eases you in slowly. Their first hit from 1982 “Planet Earth” followed and put their long-time fans into teenage euphoria, as did the kitchy and now campy 007 theme song, “A View to a Kill.”
“Blame the Machines” off the new album was up next and it’s such a terrific song, as was the haunting “Come Undone” from 1994. I’m struck by how pristine Simon Le Bon’s voice has remained. Close your eyes and it’s still 1984. Continuing with new material, Simon welcomed a surprise guest, the sensational and self-proclaimed “Duranny” Ana Matronic of the Scissor Sisters to sing one of the strongest tracks on the new record, “Safe (In The Heat of The Moment).” I love that song and I love that girl. I’m jealous of her.
Every song they played was better than the last. Everyone’s favorite track off Seven and the Ragged Tiger, “The Reflex,” threw me into a dancing frenzy. I kept waiting for the wave of water to pour from the ceiling like in the video, but it never did. “The Reflex” was followed by “The Man Who Stole a Leopard.” Special guest number two was producer Mark Ronson, who joined the guys on stage for a song he co-wrote, and my personal favorite off the new record, “Girl Panic!” It’s quintessential Duran Duran. “Please, please tell me now!” and the opening chords to “Is There Something I Should Know?” was my favorite moment of the show (call it closure), and it’s one of my all-time favorite songs.
“Leave A Light On” off the new record is Duran Duran’s new “Save a Prayer.” I love this song, it’s beautiful, as well as “Ordinary World” which they dedicated to friends who have passed away. Spirits were lifted quickly with the closing crescendo trilogy featuring “no! no! no! Notorious!” “Hungry Like a Wolf” and “(Reach Up for the) Sunrise,” which is an amazing live performance. It’s such a pleasure to see these guys still having fun, soaking in the moment and being honestly appreciative for the long-time love and adoration from their fans. For their encore, they didn’t disappoint. The guys returned to perform “Wild Boys” and perhaps the song the defines them, “Rio.” Upon reflection of this show, I learned that dreams never die. I feel lucky that my dreams have come true. Not about seeing Duran Duran live, but pursuing, chasing and fighting for the life I wanted to live, and taking to heart the lyrics that inspire my fifth decade of life: “When you move into the light, you’re the greatest thing alive. And you sway in the moon, the way you did when you were younger. We told everybody — All you need is now.”