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Duran Duran Turn Up the Girl Noise at Madison Square Garden

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Simon Le Bon of Duran Duran performs at Madison Square Garden.
Greg Allen / Rex Features

It's not easy typing a concert review when you have bruised nipples from your date pounding the "Wild Boys" drum solo on your rib cage. But Duran Duran put on that kind of show. The long-riding glamwave gurus have been on the road for much of 2011 behind their well-timed comeback All You Need Is Now, easily their finest album since the Eighties, when they figured out how to mix up New York disco and London punk and L.A. glitter and Euro electronics into their own style of louche jet-boy synth-whoosh. They crashed through the boundaries of rock culture all the more effectively by doing it as a way to meet girls. And they apparently met quite a few.

In a world where (as they once sang) girls keep the secrets and lonely boys make the noise, DD have always specialized in girl noise, and that was definitely the case at New York's Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night. The ladies in the house were there to scream, and the boys onstage were there to drink it in. At times they seemed awed by all the feminine screams. "Let me bathe in that noise," Simon Le Bon said, in a moment of odd humility. "It's a sound you never forget."

Simon duranned his duran around in silver-speckled space jeggings, alongside his longtime bandmates: elegantly droll keyboard aesthete Nick Rhodes, strong-and-silent drum stud Roger Taylor, and girl-panic bass rake John Taylor. Somehow, after so many years of the rock-star life, these gents look sleeker than ever, and Taylor's cheekbones are still just begging to be used as a citrus juicer press for apres-show cocktails. (What's up with that?) They played most of the new album, alongside try-not-to-bruise-it classics like "Planet Earth," "Careless Memories" and "Is There Something I Should Know?" Since they were pretending to be worldly Sinatra-style rogues when they were barely out of their teens, they can do their earliest songs without straining at all.

As befits the ever-stylish band, the set was a boutique of pop beats over the years, with the early-1990s ambience of "Come Undone" (you remember when every Brit band was biting the "Paid in Full" drum loop, right?) seguing right into the early-2000s ambience of "Safe." (You remember when every Brit band thought it was cool to snag a Scissors Sisters cameo, right? Me neither.) When it was time for Simon to change into some tighter trousers, he left the stage while a sideman took over for a sax-solo instrumental. It might have seemed ridiculous, but that's part of the point – a breezy flirtation with ridicule has always been central to the Duran Duran lifestyle.

Yet the theme of the night was girl noise, which got loudest for the hits. So the show climaxed in the encore with the punk-disco blast of "Wild Boys," a song that always sounds designed to get drowned out by wild girls, including the one who used me as a percussion device. Simon enhanced "Wild Boys" by adding his vocal interpolation of Frankie Goes To Hollywood's "Relax." (All songs get better when you add filthy lyrics about laser beams. That's just a fact.) And it all ended with "Rio," Duran Duran's greatest song; it's their tribute to the timeless dancing-girl muse who has always, through all the centuries, inspired lonely boys to make the noise.

Set list:
"Before The Rain"
"Planet Earth"
"A View To A Kill"
"All You Need Is Now"
"Blame The Machines"
"Come Undone"
"Safe"
"The Reflex"
"The Man Who Stole A Leopard"
"Girl Panic"
"Is There Something I Should Know?"
"Tiger Tiger"
"Careless Memories"
"Leave A Light On"
"Ordinary World"
"Notorious"
"Hungry Like The Wolf"
"(Reach Up For The) Sunrise"

 Encore:
"Wild Boys"
"Rio"

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ABOUT THIS BLOG

Rob Sheffield

Rob Sheffield is a contributing editor at Rolling Stone, where he writes about music, TV and pop culture. He is the author of two books, Talking To Girls About Duran Duran and Love Is a Mix Tape: Life and Loss, One Song at a Time.

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