If fellow Sunfest headliner Meghan Trainor could be considered the typical pop phenomenon, this ‘80s New Wave band from Birmingham, England is the rare case of former teen idols being able to maintain their career long after the aging of their original fans past adolescence. Few witnessing the initial chart ascent of this MTV favourite could have predicted that thirty-five years later the group would still be going strong.
But going strong it is, despite the absence of original guitarist Andy Taylor. September 2015 saw the release of the band’s fourteenth studio album, Paper Gods, the title track for which kicked off its Sunfest performance.
Clad in a white jumpsuit, front-man Simon Le Bon roamed around the stage, belting out classic Duran hits such as “Wild Boys”, “Hungry Like The Wolf” and the theme song for the 1985 James Bond film A View to A Kill. But the new album was also represented by tracks such as “Pressure Off” and “Last Night In The City.”
Bassist (and fan favourite) John Taylor seemed to have more energy than anyone else on stage, spending his time either running around, slapping his bass, singing backup or playing alongside tour guitarist Dominic Brown.
But even when stationary, he still had a presence, as if he were some sort of rock-star superhero.
As a contrast, keyboardist Nick Rhodes remained true to his introspective self, spending much of the performance in his typical pose, looking down at his synthesizers.
And drummer Roger Taylor laid down the beat whilst being hidden by his cymbals.
Throughout the show, the band honoured its influences, both living and dead. One of the songs performed was the title track for the 1986 album Notorious, produced by legendary funk guitarist Nile Rodgers, who was also involved in the group’s current album. Also played was the band’s version of the rap classic “White Lines (Don’t Do It)” by Grandmaster Flash & Melle Mal.
But perhaps the cleverest tribute was to one of the group’s biggest influences, the late David Bowie. In the middle of performing one of its earliest hits “Planet Earth”, the band segued into Bowie’s first hit, the extra-terrestial rock classic “Space Oddity.”
Also, at the beginning of the encore, Simon talked about how influenced they were by the late great funk/pop/rock superstar Prince, who had just passed away the previous week. Simon then dedicated the introspective ballad “Save A Prayer” to the Minnesota music legend, exhorting the crowd to hold up their cellphones to light up the night. The band then ended their career-spanning performance with one of their earliest smashes, the title track to 1982’s Rio. This up-tempo Duran classic featured saxophonist Andy Hamilton, who did the solo for the song’s recording.
Certainly a great ending to a great festival beginning.