Newspapers and calendars might say it's 2003, but in L.A. last night (July 15th), it was 1983 all over again -- the five original members of Duran Duran, playing together for the first time in over fifteen years, caused pandemonium on the Sunset Strip.
Fans mobbed the tiny Roxy, where twenty years ago the band gave their first U.S. performance; last night they kicked off brief American tour to, in the words of keyboardist Nick Rhodes, "test out new material."
The combination of the five original members -- singer Simon Lebon, Rhodes, bassist John Taylor, guitarist Andy Taylor and drummer Roger Taylor -- and the intimate venue (which holds about 450 people), drove ticket prices outside to a staggering $1,500.
The lucky few who got in -- including Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale, Gwen's No Doubt bandmates Adrian Young and Tony Kanal, Sugar Ray frontman Mark McGrath, Beck, actress Christina Applegate, and Beck -- saw the quintet revisit their entire breadth of their catalogue.
The opener was "Friends of Mine," from their 1981 self-titled debut, and the band drew heavily on that album, playing "Girls on Film," "Planet Earth," and "Is There Something I Should Know."
While there were a number of hits in the set -- "Come Undone," "Ordinary World," "Hungry Like the Wolf," and "Rio," -- as well as obscure old tracks like "(Waiting for the) Night Boat," the band completely ignored the album Seven and the Ragged Tiger (including the hits "The Reflex" and "Union of the Snake").
Duran Duran, at work on the first record with the full classic lineup in twenty years, showed off only two new songs, the mid-tempo "What Happens Tomorrow," and the melodic "Virus," a pop song with an ominous vibe built around driving guitar and a omni-present bass line.
"Once we made the decision to get back together, we started writing," Rhodes said at an after party at the Chateau Marmont. "Duran Duran has always been about the songs."
Lebon, seated in a corner of the lobby with Stefani, Rossdale, Applegate, Donovan Leitch, Andy Taylor, and John Taylor, said that once the original line-up got back together, they immediately rediscovered the magic. "The chemistry came back within thirty seconds of the writing process," Lebon said. "It's surprising at first, but it's very easy to slip back into it."
Rhodes estimated that the new album will be out next year -- and he and Lebon agreed that it wouldn't come out until it was ready. "We'll throw more and more tracks into the live show," Lebon said, "and see how they work. It's a good way of testing things."