Duran Duran was in danger of being upstaged by their opening act.
Chic featuring Nile Rodgers is no ordinary warm-up band. Rodgers is behind some of the funkiest guitar riffs of all time, like the oft-sampled disco hit “Good Times,” and has worked with everyone from Lady Gaga to Keith Urban to the headlining band. He and his group of skilled vocalists and musicians established a “party like there’s no tomorrow” atmosphere inside Gila River Arena last night.
They cleverly stirred together some of the finest moments of Rodgers’ production work into a soulful medley that included Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky,” “Upside Down,” by Diana Ross, and David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance.” The crowd was on its feet (and onstage at one point). How could Duran Duran top such a fun set after their talented friend set the bar so high?
The band’s solution was simple: keep the party going. Nothing stopped Duran Duran from giving the nearly sold-out crowd a nearly flawless set. By opening with the title track from their latest album, Paper Gods, they established that there was no pretending the world had changed since the MTV mainstays had established themselves as a global musical force in the '80s. Singer Simon LeBon crooned that “the fools in town were ruling now,” but Duran Duran was not going to let the outside world affect the celebration inside.
LeBon howled like a banshee as he hit the audience with the one-two punch of “Wild Boys” and “Hungry Like The Wolf.” The famous James Bond gun barrel opening played behind the group during their rendition of “A View To A Kill.” LeBon swaggered on stage with the bravado of Mick Jagger, hitting those high notes when he needed to. Mini cameras were placed in various locations on the stage to capture the joyous expressions on the band’s faces. In nearly 40 years together, it was clear Duran Duran had not lost a step.
This didn’t stop the party hosts from reminding the crowd why they were there having a good time. LeBon shrewdly donned a T-shirt featuring the cover artwork from their latest record. They brought Rodgers back out to assist with a rendition of “Notorious,” which he produced back in 1986, and Duran Duran’s latest single, the infectious “Pressure Off.” LeBon praised the influential guitarist for helping give them their first number one hit with his remix of “The Reflex.” It was a truly touching moment, especially after Rodgers spoke during the opening set about continuing to be prolific despite a cancer diagnosis. He is now cancer-free.
“Chic and Duran Duran go so well together," LeBon said.
Notably missing from the band’s line-up was blonde-haired keyboardist Nick Rhodes who, LeBon said in a diplomatic tone, had to go back to the United Kingdom to sort some things out. His replacement, the prolific MDNR, fit right in as Duran Duran paid their respects to David Bowie by segueing during the bridge of “Planet Earth” into the Starman’s first hit, “Space Oddity.”
Duran Duran wound the show down with LeBon skillfully playing the ocarina, a flute-like instrument, during a chilling performance of “The Chauffeur.” He then strapped on an acoustic guitar for “Save A Prayer.” Originally a song about a one-night stand, LeBon refashioned the ballad as a tribute to the people who won’t give in despite the terror of the world outside. Cellphone torches lit up as LeBon urged the crowd to “light up the darkness.” It was another poignant moment from a group not especially known for sentimental music.
Tomorrow was fast approaching. With the iconic Patrick Nagel illustration on the video screen, Duran Duran triumphantly cleared the bar set by Rodgers by closing with their hit “Rio.”
The Wild Boys
Hungry Like the Wolf
A View to a Kill
Last Night in the City
What Are the Chances?
Planet Earth/Space Oddity
I Don't Want Your Love
White Lines (Don't Do It)
(Reach Up for the) Sunrise/New Moon On Monday
Girls on Film
Save a Prayer
What: Paper Gods Tour — Duran Duran with Chic featuring Nile Rodgers
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The Crowd: Various generations of Phoenicians, demonstrating the influence Duran Duran has had over the years
Overheard In The Crowd: “That ‘White Lines’ song … is that from their new album?”
Personal Bias: Duran Duran is one of my favorite bands despite some glaring missteps in their discography (I’m still shaking my head over why they decided to play “White Lines”). I feel like I’ve defended them to friends all my life. I’m glad I didn’t have to stick up for them after this performance.