If you had asked a random person one year ago to name a musical act that would have one of the most anticipated tours of 2016, it’s a safe bet that Duran Duran wouldn’t have been their first answer.
But while so many bands who came along on the coattails of Duran Duran’s ’80s glam-rock success have fallen to the wayside of pop culture, this UK-based group has continued to foster a large following 38 years after their debut.
And here we are months after the September release of “Paper Gods,” the band’s 14th full-length album – their first to land in the Top 10 of Billboard’s album charts in over two decades. With that album’s incredible commercial success comes a world tour that opens in the U.S. Monday night at the Durham Performing Arts Center. Shows are selling out across the country, and tickets are all but gone for the Durham event.
Ask Roger Taylor what has led to the band’s longevity, and Duran Duran’s longtime drummer doesn’t have many answers at the ready.
“I don’t know, really,” Taylor admits. “It’s not something that we particularly analyze. We just try to continue producing new music that we love. We tend not to over-analyze what keeps our audience with us, but I do know that we are all very grateful to be one of very few bands still out there attracting an audience. We are very grateful to still be able to fill the buildings.
“It’s possible that one of the things that keeps our fans interested in our new output is that we have never been afraid to change. Every record has been different, and we’ve never really tried to just remake the same album over and over. We all grew up with – the unfortunately late, now – David Bowie, and he kind of taught us that lesson, to never be afraid of change and never make the same album twice.”
Upon the release of the band’s new album, Rolling Stone magazine raved that “if ‘Paper Gods’ were a debut from some upstart band, the buzz would be insane.” Taylor says all “legacy” acts may experience this issue, but it is one that Duran Duran has had to deal with since first coming to the attention of critics.
“The fact that we have such a long history, it can be tougher to release new music and have it accepted; it would almost be easier to attempt to put it out under a new name, for people to accept the record,” he says. “I think it has taken some time for people to really ‘get’ the album, because I think there is generally some prejudice against older artists, and those of us who have been around for a significant amount of time. The proof is in the pudding with this record, and I think the more of our fans that listen to it, the more that like it.”
Taylor says the band – even on its early albums – has never been afraid to get “quite deep.”
“We’ve always had a dark side to our albums,” Tayor says. “But I think that is something that fans have come to appreciate more as the years go on. It was kind of hard to see through the candy floss early on. We just had so much icing on the cake – the videos, the clothes, the makeup – almost always overshadowed the music. The time has come where we have finally begun to receive some recognition for actually crafting great songs, especially for our early work.”
Great songs, and a reputation for great concerts, have kept Duran Duran on the radar of record companies for nearly four decades. (The band still includes original members lead singer Simon Le Bon, keyboardist Nick Rhodes and bassist John Taylor; guitarist Dom Brown joined in 2006.) The group has watched the music industry change over the past several years, with one of the biggest recent changes being the emergence of music festivals as a major marketing tool. While many bands see them more as a necessary evil than something to embrace, Taylor says it’s just one more way for Duran Duran to stay current.
“It’s something that we have begun to enjoy,” Taylor says. “The festival circuit is something that really has never been a part of our history, but it’s become such a huge thing that you can’t ignore as a musician. If you have a band, you kind of have to be a part of that world. The big thing when we came out in the ’80s was MTV, where if you wanted to be a big success you had to be a part of that scene, so we jumped on board and ran with it. I think anyone wanting to be successful now has to go along with festivals. ...
“The great thing about it is that it’s all about the live show. People can illegally download and take your music for free, but the live show is the only thing left that can’t be stolen.”
Who: Duran Duran
When: 8 p.m. Monday
Where: Durham Performing Arts Center, 123 Vivian St., Durham
Info: 919-680-2787 or dpacnc.com