Reviews

Duran Duran at Its Best: 'Duran Duran Live 2011: A Diamond In the Mind'

Thirty years on, this band of New Romantics is still new, still romantic.


Duran Duran

Live 2011: A Diamond In The Mind

Label: Eagle
US Release date: 2012-07-10
UK Release date: 2012-07-02
Amazon
iTunes

There’s an adage that all handsome young British men eventually wind up looking like their mothers. The members of Duran Duran, all of them now at that all-critical half-century mark, do resemble this statement, but many of their fans aren’t that far behind. What’s that all mean? Well, basically, for a group that some wanted to write off as a flash in the pan, this outfit has done remarkably well for itself and managed to find––and maintain––an audience that’s as smart, serious, and as good looking as it is.

Duran Duran has displayed a remarkable tenacity over the last 30-plus years. There have been major shifts in the lineup (at one point all three Taylors––Roger, John, and Andy––were gone) and what might qualify as a few missteps here and there but no one can say that––or at least no one can and get away with it––that Duran Duran has tarnished its imaged, lost its integrity, or ever done less than the best it could do at any given time.

This DVD is evidence of that.

Shot in Manchester, England in the twilight of 2011, A Diamond In the Mind finds the boys from Birmingham in fine, fine form. No small feat given that front Duran Simon LeBon had lost his voice earlier in the year, forcing the cancellation of numerous dates.

LeBon fought hard to find his voice again and he’s in fighting form across this outing, sounding as fine as he ever has.

Derided as––among other things––mere pinups in the early ‘80s Duran Duran was never just about good looks. The quintet evolved rather quickly, moving from its oft-forgotten (at least in North America) 1981 self-titled debut to its hook-laden sophomore release Rio (1982) to the dark, heavy, and vastly more interesting Seven and the Ragged Tiger (1983) before fracturing into The Power Station (John Taylor and Andy Taylor) and Arcadia (LeBon, Nick Rhodes, and Roger Taylor), which is either a.) a temporary split from which the band never recovered or b.) the best thing that ever happened to Duran Duran, leading to a much creative and imaginative period in the band’s evolution. (See 1986’s Notorious with LeBon, Rhodes, and John Taylor.)

(And, it should be noted, those side projects were unusual in that they were at least as good as anything the band itself did––that’s a rarity to be sure.)

All You Need Is Now (2011) is easily the best and most coherent––if at times less ambitious––record from this lot in some time the renewed energy and focus shows across the 17 tracks performed here. Not too many veteran bands are willing to slip in more than, say, two tunes from their current outing. There are no fewer than six present here. Stopping at virtually every major point in the band’s history, A Diamond In the Mind doesn’t disappoint those of us who got hooked on the band then and those of who are just finding it now.

The 1985 James Bond theme “A View to a Kill” may have seemed like one of the worst Bond themes at the time of its release but it’s aged remarkably well, sounding more in tune with today’s aesthetics than it did nearly 20 years ago. “The Man Who Stole A Leopard” and “Safe (In The Heat of the Moment)” (both from All You Need) would not have been out of place on Rio while “The Reflex” (this writer’s personal favorite––OK, that and “Wild Boys”) remains one of the group’s most exciting moments.

Duran Duran has never been above a sense of humo(u)r and the video clips which accompany the music demonstrate that especially those that accompany “Girl Panic!”, a track that would not have been out of place on the dark Seven and the Ragged Tiger but which is very much its own piece––and a welcome one at that––and very much a part of Duran Duran 2011.

Other truths also emerge: First, John Taylor is a far better bass player than he’s probably ever received credit for and, when coupled with drummer Roger Taylor, he forms one of the best pop rhythm sections around. Nick Rhodes can’t possibly be a fulltime curmudgeon, though it’s far more interesting to have someone who seems so serious hanging about. And Simon LeBon sounding as he does––as mentioned earlier––as young as ever, is also one of the most underrated rock vocalists to have emerged in the '80s.

The group also remains in touch with its roots––there are obvious (and perhaps obligatory) nods to Bowie (“White Lines”) and contemporaries Frankie Goes To Hollywood (via “Relax”, performed with the equally audacious––and aforementioned––“Wild Boys”). There is also the predictable late-show nod to the hits beginning with 1993’s “Ordinary World”, traveling to “Hungry Like The Wolf” and 2004’s “(Reach Up For The) Sunrise”. (OK, admit, you didn’t know that one did you?) The show closes out with a rousing version of “Rio”, serving once and for all as evidence that Duran Duran remains as relevant today as it was 30 years ago.

A word about the auxiliary players: Guitarist Dominic Brown is a fitting replacement for Warren Cuccurullo, the man who, along with Rhodes and LeBon, helped hold the group together for much of the '90s while percussionist Dawne Adams and backing vocalist Anna Ross all have their moments to shine (as does saxophonist Simon Willescroft).

As for extras there’s a fairly in-depth behind-the-scenes documentary about the year that was 2011 for the Durans––from a spot at Coachella to LeBon’s vocal troubles to working with director David Lynch and various points in between. There are also bonus versions of “Come Undone” and “Is There Something I Should Know?”, two tracks that clearly would not have fit in the standard running order but are welcome all the same.

To the credit of Duran Duran, there has not been a flood of greatest hits and live packages from the camp in recent years, unlike other bands that seem to issue live recordings every other week. It’s one of the many things that lend extra credibility to a release that stands free and clear on its own merits. (You can, if you wish, also purchase a CD version of A Diamond.)

Now, where’s that video retrospective? It seems like it’s time to watch “Girls On Film” again. And again.

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