CD Review: Duran Duran - A Diamond in the Mind - Live 2011

CD Review: Duran Duran – A Diamond in the Mind – Live 2011
Eagle Vision and Eagle Records
All Access Review: A-
Duran Duran - A Diamon in the Mind - Live 2011
It was the ideal marriage. Sculpted cheekbones, glamorous fashions, a cinematic sensibility equaled only by their ability to craft stylish, slickly produced disco-fied synth-pop that had all the sophisticated, intoxicating bite of a dry martini – Duran Duran was MTV’s soul mate, and the network fell hard for these international playboys.
The face of the UK’s 1980s New Romantic movement, Duran Duran’s rakish charm and obvious sex appeal steamed up arty – and sometimes erotic – music video fantasies that MTV was addicted to for years, playing them in a rotation schedule that went way beyond heavy. They needed each other – MTV providing Duran Duran the wide-ranging promotional machinery needed to sell scads of CDs, and Duran Duran’s looks and visual wiles sucking in a bigger audience for a network hungry to expand.
In recent years, however, MTV has hitched its wagon to the exploitation of unwed pregnant teenagers and the purely academic study of those primitive tribes of the “Jersey Shore.” And while the swashbuckling days of “Rio,” where a youthful Simon LeBon and all those Taylor boys were seen cavorting with leggy, swimsuit models aboard sail boats that cost more than the average factory worker makes in a lifetime, may be behind them, an older and wiser Duran Duran, always a vital and compelling force onstage, proves they still have the ability to captivate and thrill concert audiences on A Diamond in the Mind – Live 2011.
Out also on DVD and Blu-ray as visual documents of the experience, the 14-song CD version of A Diamond in the Mind is Duran Duran’s first live release since 1983’s Arena, and it is an exhilarating carnival of sound that feeds a crowd unabashedly singing along in unison when the moment calls for their full-throated, joyous participation, as it does on the flashy, delightfully debonair James Bond-theme “A View to a Kill.” Not that LeBon needs the assistance, his voice still so richly expressive and melodically agile after all these years. LeBon’s dramatic reading of the haunting “Before the Rain,” enveloped in all the mystery and wintery atmosphere of Cold War Russia, is a powerful introduction to what is a vibrant, widescreen performance from a band still bristling against the suggestion that they've always been more concerned with image than substance.
Any lingering doubts as to whether age has diminished their capacity to command a big stage are put to rest when Duran Duran launches into a full-fledged gallop on “Planet Earth,” its syncopated electronic rhythms charging ever forward through delicate little whirls of synthesizer. And when the candy-coated, lusty pop funk of “Notorious,” “Girl Panic” and “The Reflex” – all colorfully toned and percolating brilliantly, nodding ever so reverentially to Duran Duran’s heroes in Chic – come dancing in, and their stomping medley of “Wild Boys” and Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s “Relax” struts and preens about like a New Wave peacock, it feels as if Duran Duran hasn't aged a day. But, they have, and they've matured gracefully. In the quieter moments of the effervescent A Diamond in the Mind, the liquid dreaminess of “Come Undone,” with its undercurrent of rolling rhythms, spills its anguished, panoramic beauty all over MEN Arena in Manchester, where this live outing was recorded, while nostalgic longing resonates throughout the beautifully rendered “Ordinary World.”

Having slipped comfortably into adult-contemporary middle age, Duran Duran may now be hanging with the less youthful VH1 Classic, but they've lost none of their potency. A Diamond in the Mind – Live 2011 brings the down house with a rousing, energetic romp through “Rio” to close the show, and the bouncy grooves of “Blame The Machines” are undeniably infectious. On the other hand, “Hungry Like The Wolf” – which should be a highlight of the show – seems a bit off and sags exhaustedly, and it’s also hard not to notice the absence of Duran Duran favorites like “Girls on Film” or “Save a Prayer.” Nevertheless, with Nick Rhodes’ elegant keyboards assuming pleasing shapes and John Taylor’s rubbery bass serving as the strong connective sinew that ties everything together, Duran Duran appears to have found the fountain of youth. And they still know how to throw a party.
-            Peter Lindblad

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