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Concert Reviews:
Duran Duran, Chic deliver sweaty dance party at DTE
 

By GARY GRAFF
Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

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INDEPENDENCE TOWNSHIP -- In most concert circumstances Duran Duran would be the master of its own domain.

But on Monday, July 11, at the DTE Energy Music Theatre the long-lived group was beholden to a master whose presence made the night that much more special.

The pairing of Duran with Nile Rodgers and Chic made sense on a number of levels. The funky side of Duran's New Wave blend is a clear descendent of Rodgers' definitive disco stylings with Chic, Sister Sledge and others during the 70s. The two have also collaborated several times since the mid-80s on Duran hits such as "The Reflex" and "Notorious."

So even though Duran was Monday's headliner, Rodgers proved far more than a typical opening act -- and both acts showed their contemporary footing even if nostalgia reigned throughout their sets.

"Why did I wear a jacket?" the dreadlocked Rodgers, sporting a blue sports coat and matching beret, said as he strolled onstage with his latest version of Chic, acknowledging the sizzling sun hitting him and the band in the face. But it didn't take long for the group to turn DTE into a dance club despite the heat, grooving through a generous 65-minute set loaded with Chic favorites ("I Want Your Love," "Le Freak," an extended, slinky "Good Times") and, even more impressively, some of Rodgers' compositions and productions for others. Motown got its due with renditions of Diana Ross' "I'm Coming Out" and "Upside Down," just before a nod to Sister Sledge with "He`s the Greatest Dancer" and "We Are Family." Rodgers also nodded to his recent, Grammy Award-winning triumph with a more organic treatment of Daft Punk's Get Lucky" -- which he said was inspired by his cancer battle five years ago -- while he celebrated his landmark work with the late David Bowie via the title track from 1983's "Let's Dance" album.

And Rodgers got to play his Duran collaborations with his Padawans, following a fawning introduction from frontman Simon Le Bon to join the group for an extended and funkier take on "Notorious" as well as "Pressure Off" from Duran's latest album, "Paper Gods."

Duran, meanwhile, rose to the challenge of having a legend open during its 105 minutes on stage, blending the four tracks from "Paper Gods" -- including the title track, which opened the show -- seamlessly inside a set that reminded fans at DTE just how dominated the British group was during the 80s and how it's still managed to make relevant music more than 30 years later.

The hits came early -- and often. "Paper Gods" was followed by a blitz of "The Wild Boys," "Hungry Like the Wolf," Duran's them to the 1985 James Bond film "A View To a Kill" and "Come Undone," all rougher-edged and harder rocking than their polished recorded versions. Even with keyboardist Nick Rhodes absent due to an emergency back in England (producer/artist MDNR ably took his pace), the group looked and sounded both confident and comfortable, with bassist John Taylor and drummer Roger Taylor (no relation) propelling the muscular if sometimes noisy arrangements.

Duran cleverly sandwiched its own tribute to Bowie, "Space Oddity," inside "Planet Earth" and wove "New Moon On Monday" into a pulsing rendition of "(Reach Up For The) Sunrise." Its version of Grandmaster Flash & Melle Mel's "White Lines (Don't Do It)" surged with metallic urgency, while quieter moments -- a soaring "Ordinary World" and "Save A Prayer," the latter dedicated to the missing Rhodes -- where welcome counterpoints, not to mention breathers, that gave some extra heft to Duran's creative statement on Monday.

"Rio," meanwhile, had its rightful position closing the show, and while the song's subject was dancing on the sand the DTE crowd was dancing on the lawn and in the pavilion. Duran ruled, but not without some due and well-deserved deference to Rodgers, and the show was all the richer for it.



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