Duran Duran’s Funk Rock Reflexes Are Strong: PPG Paints Arena Concert Review
There are punk rock bands, but are there funk rock bands? After attending the Duran Duran concert Saturday night at PPG Paints Arena the answer is definitely yes. Always one of my favorites, Duran Duran, on many of their songs, feature the bass guitar as the lead instrument. And even if it’s not at the top of the mix, it’s often right there featuring steady support. The funky, popping of the bass and powerful drum grooves, got many of the packed house up and moving.
Duran Duran’s bass player is John Taylor and the drummer is Roger Taylor. John Taylor has cited the late Bernard Edwards of Chic as one of his bass guitar influences. Chic has been on tour with Duran Duran and was supposed to appear with Duran Duran, but Chic’s leader, Nile Rodgers, had a last minute scheduling conflict and had to cancel. Duran Duran is also known for its slick keyboard sound (Nick Rhodes) and that takes the lead in many songs too. And none of this minimizes the lead guitar (Dominic Brown) part of the band’s sound equation; it has very fine moments of prominence as well. The other main musical element is the crystalline, melodic lead vocals of Simon Le Bon. He is a very charismatic frontman for the band and engages in a lot of friendly banter with the audience.
Le Bon and band took the stage to start the concert. Le Bon said, “Alright Pittsburgh! Looking good.” After opening with “Night Boat,” the band got the party started with “Wild Boys,” complete with on-screen imagery from the song’s original music video. That was followed by “Hungry Like the Wolf,” with a fun video effect of a wolf’s head superimposed live on the heads of various audience members. Duran Duran rolled into another big hit for the band—their James Bond theme song, “A View to a Kill.” It is the only Bond movie theme song to reach no. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The song’s striking synth sounds and pounding bass and drum beat elicited strong applause from the audience. During the song the video screen showed an animated red devil woman dancing.”No.No..No..” gave everyone the clue that up next was “Notorious.”
“Give it All Up,” a new song from Duran Duran’s 2021’s Future Past album featured backup singer Rachael O’Connor on co-lead vocals. It was followed by “Lonely in Your Nightmare” with the band playing a portion of Rick James’ “Super Freak.” The sax player (Simon Willescroft) had a great part in the song. The popular “Is There Something I Should Know,” with the great line, “You’re about as easy as a nuclear war,” continued the funk rock fest. Le Bon played a harmonica for a portion of the song.
The stage was set with Le Bon at center stage flanked on his right by John Taylor, and on his left by Brown. Roger Taylor and Nick Rhodes each had their own drum and keyboard stations set up on risers behind Le Bon. The two backup singers had their own platform at stage left.
Two video screens were displayed behind the stage that showed colorful contemporary art imagery and other avant garde designs. Special effects were often used on the other two screens that showed live video of the concert. Lights above and behind the stage added to the show’s brilliance. “Anniversary,” “Friends of Mine,” and “Careless Memory” followed.
Le Bon said the next song was from their 1993 album about self redemption, settling for the life you have, and not giving up. He dedicated “Ordinary World” to the people of Ukraine. Blue and gold colored lights were displayed behind the stage and lead guitarist Brown’s lead guitar work propelled the song forward.
For “Come Undone” the other backup singer, Anna Ross, came forward to sing a featured part with Le Bon. “Planet Earth” opens with strong keyboards and drums. Duran Duran played a cover of the Melle Mel song “White Lines (Don’t Don’t Do It).” The song had several great musical parts, the whole band contributed to it and were having a great time. It also has the fun lyric, “Rang dang diggedy dang di-dang / Diggedy dang di-dang diggedy dang di-dang.” Duran Duran’s first set concluded with mega hits, “The Reflex” and “Girls on Film.”
When Le Bon came out for the encore he said that they would do two more songs if the audience would sing certain parts of the first song. The audience enthusiastically agreed, lighting up many smartphone lights, and the song was revealed to be “Save a Prayer.” Le Bon beautifully sang and played acoustic guitar on it. Superimposed doves flying were on the live concert feed. After the song, Le Bon, wearing a Warhol screen printed Marilyn Monroe T-shirt, asked who had been to the Andy Warhol Museum. He said he had visited the museum the day before and it was wonderful.
Duran Duran’s last song of the night was one of their early big hits, “Rio.” It was a splendid way to end a fantastic concert. I had never seen Duran Duran before and now I can’t wait to see them again. Special guest Bastille started the funk rock fest with their lively bass kicking music and played their hit song “Pompeii” as their finale.
Rick Handler is the executive producer of Entertainment Central.