Twice on Tuesday at the new Fillmore at Harrah’s New Orleans, Duran Duran vocalist Simon LeBon remarked on how the show seemed to be flying by. “This is going quickly,” he said near the end of the regular set. “Somebody slow it down.”
Minutes later, at the encore’s outset, he repeated, “It’s going really quickly, isn’t it? We’ll try stretching it out.”
Here’s a suggestion: Play more songs.
During 80 minutes onstage for the first of Duran Duran’s two nights at the Fillmore, LeBon and company showcased a scant 15 songs.
The glaring omissions included “Save A Prayer,” “The Reflex,” “New Moon On Monday,” “Is There Something I Should Know,” “Planet Earth” and “Union of the Snake.”
If their maximum was 15 songs, they might have substituted any of those six classics for one of the lesser numbers they did play – say, “Pressure Off,” “Tempted” or “Friends of Mine” – and few fans would have complained.
Duran Duran performed to a sold-out crowd at the Fillmore New Orleans in New Orleans, La. Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2019.
At the Smoothie King Center in April 2016 during the “Paper Gods” tour, they managed 19 songs despite LeBon’s struggles with a cold. The rest of the band, and the audience, rallied around him, and the show crackled with energy.
This week’s return to New Orleans, by contrast, was not part of a full-fledged tour. The band was booked at the KAABOO festival in the Cayman Islands last weekend, then padded the schedule with five more dates – one at the Fillmore in Miami Beach, two in New Orleans and two at the Cosmopolitan Hotel in Las Vegas.
The New Orleans stopover was a rare opportunity to see Duran Duran anywhere in 2019, and an even rarer opportunity to see LeBon and fellow cofounders John Taylor, Roger Taylor and Nick Rhodes in such an intimate setting.
On the flipside, Tuesday felt at times like a convention gig – a scaled-down, bare minimum, smile-and-do-what’s-required sort of show. Like the Fillmore’s automated wine dispensers, they served up a precisely calibrated amount, and no more.
The Fillmore opened Monday with progressive rock band Coheed and Cambria playing to approximately 1,200 fans. Duran Duran’s sell-out on Tuesday numbered closer to 2,200. The Fillmore’s music hall accommodated the larger, mostly standing-room-only crowd comfortably. It was tightly packed near the stage, but loosened up considerably toward the back.
That crowd skewed heavily to nostalgic fans in their 40s and 50s. Though not of the cell phone generation, many still felt entitled to film the show, impeding the view of those standing behind them.
LeBon – at 60, he still cuts a stylish figure in a white suit – is a fan of the venue. “Welcome to the beautiful Fillmore,” he enthused. “What a lovely room this is.”
Having just played the Miami Beach Fillmore, he noted that the chain’s signature chandeliers “make it feel just a little bit classy.”
As the poster boys of MTV’s 1980s heyday, Duran Duran headlined stadiums. This is a band built for big stages. They don’t gain much, and may actually lose something, when confined to smaller spaces. Compounding that dynamic, LeBon’s vocals sometimes sounded muddy, even when he was speaking.
They generated sparks nonetheless. Bassist John Taylor, as lean as ever, relished his role and urged on the audience. Drummer Roger Taylor was solid. Dominic “Dom” Brown, the replacement for ex-Duran guitarist Andy Taylor since the mid-2000s, goosed “Hungry Like the Wolf” with squalling riffs, sculpted the critical “Ordinary World” solo and replicated the slinky Nile Rodgers funk of “Notorious.”
The ballad “Come Undone” retained its brooding undercurrent. The Fillmore was baptized by its first confetti cannons during “Pressure Off.”
In the show’s most clever moment, vintage concert footage of the much younger musicians performing “Seventh Stranger” synced up with the live performance. It was a far better use of the screen than the vintage horror film clips during “Friends of Mine” and the gory imagery that accompanied “A View to a Kill.”
Ahead of “Tempted,” LeBon shouted, “Are you ready for this?” Following a false start courtesy of Rhodes’ keyboard, he sheepishly cracked, “Are you ready for that?”
A final reboot of the pop-tastic “Rio” was a reminder of how much fun Duran Duran can be. More such fun was needed.
Note: Duran Duran's Wednesday night show at the Fillmore featured the same set list as Tuesday, but with two additional songs: "The Chauffeur" and "Planet Earth."
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