A new wave band from the 80’s meets a disco group from the 70’s for a spring tour in 2016. The pairing of Duran Duran with opening act, Chic, might seem strange to some, but for anyone familiar with either act, the coupling is a long time coming.
When asked to describe their music early in their tenure as the most visible act of the New Romantic movement, Duran Duran would often reply, “The Sex Pistols meet Chic.” Name-checking disco’s most influential act wasn’t a random choice. John Taylor has said he decided to switch from guitar to bass after listening to what the late Chic bassist, Bernard Edwards, was able to do with the instrument.
Nile Rodgers: Duran Duran Hitmaker
It was Nile Rodgers, who co-founded Chic with Edwards, who helped give Duran Duran their first number one single with his remix of, “The Reflex”. He went on to produce,”The Wild Boys” and the entire “Notorious” album with the band. Most recently, he worked with the band on their latest effort, “Paper Gods.” It makes sense that the man who told Radio.com that, “Duran Duran is truly like my second band” would take his first band, Chic, out on tour with them.
After playing to a sold-out crowd in St. Augustine, FL, Duran Duran met up with Chic at Bayfront Park in Miami for the first date of their combined tour. Rodgers took the stage with the latest incarnation of his band with the 1977 track, “Everybody Dance.” Anyone unfamiliar with his long and storied career got a quick overview as Chic not only played their hits from the disco era, but a few of the many songs made famous thanks to the influence of Rodgers. High points included the Daft Punk single, “Get Lucky” and a remarkable version of David Bowie’s, “Let’s Dance”.
They closed out the performance with the iconic, “Good Times”, which included a reworked version of “Rapper’s Delight.” The Sugar Hill Gang used “Good Times” as the music bed for their legendary rap single, and it was fun hearing it incorporated into the Chic track.
The only disappointment in the set was the choice not to play 2015’s, “I’ll Be There”. The studio version of the funky song was used as the background music as the band left the stage, but it would have been great to hear it live.
New Songs and Old Favorites
Following a brief break, the lights dimmed and Duran Duran appeared in a haze of fog to perform the title song from the new album, “Paper Gods”. Lead singer Simon le Bon sang the brooding track with a level of solemnity that seemed appropriate for a song that sounded to be about conspicuous consumption and celebrity culture (although one can never tell with most of le Bon’s lyrics.)
Anyone concerned the show would be more about new sounds rather than the old classics was quickly mollified by the next trio of songs. MTV fave, “Hungry Like the Wolf” made way for 1985’s, “Wild Boys”, rounded out by the Bond theme, “A View to a Kill.” The show did feature several of the best tracks from the new album, including, “Last Night in the City”, a song with an EDM vibe that played well in the city that hosted Ultra the week before.
The band did a great job incorporating a few lesser known tracks in with the new music and big hits. Long time fans often disappointed with tours relying too heavily on songs they’ve heard many times before will be thrilled to know Duran Duran has pulled out minor singles such as “Too Much Information, “I Don’t Want Your Love,” and a brief bit of “New Moon on Monday.” A tribute to David Bowie came in the form of a mashup of “Planet Earth” and “Space Oddity”. It was a touching, if not somewhat predictable, nod to another one of the band’s most important influences.
In one of the highlights of the show, Nile Rodgers joined the band on stage to play guitar on “Notorious” and the 2015 single, “Pressure Off,” which ended in thousands of pieces of confetti filling the air and getting stuck to the sweaty bodies of the dancing crowd.
The encore was a little predictable, but it was hard to fault the band for ending with the two songs that always play well as closers. The ballad, “Save a Prayer,” was introduced with a story about it having been released as a cover version by The Eagles of Death Metal as a tribute to the victims of the Paris bombing last fall. But the band best known for great dance songs didn’t let the audience go home on a down note. The ended the show with the perennial crowd-pleaser, “Rio”.
Both bands used the same set lists for the next date on the tour, at Tampa’s Midflorida Amphitheatre, but fans who attended both concerts seemed just as excited to watch the show a second time as they were the night before. Considering the engaging and energetic performances from the two acts, it was no surprise people came back for more.
Duran Duran and Chic continue their tour this spring and summer with dates throughout the US and Europe.