Duran Duran Continues Its Revival In NYC
Beatrice de Gea for The New York Times
From left, Nick Rhodes, Roger Taylor, Simon Le Bon and John Taylor of Duran Duran.
On Sunday Duran Duran had its first
off-Broadway tryout, in Wallingford, Conn. There were the usual
technical difficulties — the show started an hour late — and not all
the critics were kind. (“The group tested lighting schemes, video cues
and fans’ patience,” Kenneth Partridge wrote in The Hartford Courant.)
The band during its heyday in the ’80s. Its new album is “Red Carpet Massacre.”
Still, on Thursday more than 1,000 fans streamed into the Ethel Barrymore
Theater on West 47th Street, where the 1980s pop dandies are now in the
midst of a nine-night stand. Their first Broadway run comes complete
with the usual theatrical trappings, like Playbills, intermission and
marquee billing promoting the band’s about-to-be-released album, “Red
Carpet Massacre” (Epic).
“We just wanted to see it up there in
big letters,” Nick Rhodes, the keyboardist, said earlier this week in a
group interview in Epic’s Midtown offices. John Taylor, the bassist,
added that a Broadway show was such a long-held Duran dream that even
the program was exciting; Simon Le Bon, the lead singer, wondered what
they would do for intermission. (Order drinks, said Roger Taylor, the
Admittedly, they’re a little old to be Broadway babies. Early MTV
darlings whose videos for “Girls on Film” and “Hungry Like the Wolf”
were in near-constant rotation, Duran Duran has performed in various
incarnations almost continuously since 1980; the five-piece original
lineup reunited in 2003 for a successful tour, just in time for the
’80s revival in music and fashion.
Like most rock veterans, the
group has also suffered from excess and infighting. Andy Taylor, the
guitarist, defected just before “Red Carpet Massacre” was made. (None
of the Taylors are related.)
But the four remaining members’
excitement about their New York residency and their new album is as
palpable as any ingénue’s. Though the Broadway run doesn’t have a
director, the record did: Timbaland co-produced three tracks. His
signature sound was also brought to more songs by a protégé, the
producer Nate Hills, known as Danja. And Justin Timberlake,
another Timbaland acolyte, co-wrote and helped produce the
“SexyBack”-ish “Nite Runner.” That song, and the single “Falling Down,”
about public humiliation, combine synthy new-wave pop with Timbaland’s
head-bobbing beats. The album goes on sale Nov. 13, the day of the
group’s final show at the Barrymore.
“We feel that our audience,
who have been on this four-year-reunion, greatest-hits ride, were
really ready for something kind of experimentalist,” John Taylor said.
“Even if they didn’t know it,” Mr. Le Bon said.
group met Timbaland several years ago at the music industry’s version
of a trade conference, an awards show. “We’d been courting each other
for years,” John Taylor said.
In 2003, when Duran Duran
received a lifetime achievement honor at the Brit Awards, Timbaland
showed up unexpectedly at a party after the show. “He came with all
these bodyguards, and I think that was a statement of intent” that he
wanted to get together, Roger Taylor said.
In an e-mail
message, Timbaland said he had been a fan of the band since its early
days and welcomed the chance to “vibe with them.”
will perform the new album in its entirety every night of the Broadway
run. The title and theme — the perils of celebrity life — are
underscored by a red carpet, complete with paparazzi-style
photographers, outside the theater. The second half of the show
features what the band calls an “electro set” (like an acoustic set,
but plugged in) and, finally, a delayed-gratification retro section,
with hits like “Rio” and “Ordinary World.” (Piping obscure covers of
these ’80s staples into the theater pre-show is the band’s way of
teasing its especially obsessive fans.)
“The idea that
celebrity seems to be the holy grail now for so many young people is
quite frightening and sad,” Mr. Le Bon said, adding that the
inspiration for the celebrities-gone-wild concept was easy to find,
both in popular culture and in the group’s own experiences. (“Do you
want me to list all the times” he’s messed up, he asked, though he used
a word more attuned to a rock star.) A video for “Falling Down” riffs
on the idea of model types in rehab. One version caused a small stir in
Britain because it showed bare breasts.
Known as pretty boys
even among the flouncy ’80s Brit-pop set, Duran Duran favors skinny
jeans and mussed hair; Mr. Rhodes still wears eye makeup. But the men,
most of whom are now married with children, have also mellowed into
middle age. Mr. Le Bon’s shirts are tucked in. John Taylor sometimes
takes a back seat to his wife, Gela Nash-Taylor, a founder of the Los
Angeles fashion line Juicy Couture. They all make a lot of puns.
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