What happens when two of the best-selling artists of all time join forces for a concert? An embarrassment of riches that was almost too much to handle.
Friday night at Bayfront Park, Miami was spoiled rotten by headliners Duran Duran, who not only played damned near all of its hits but invited the legendary Chic with Nile Rodgers along as openers.
Disco fans know Nile Rodgers as cofounder and frontman of Chic, writer of '70s earworms “Le Freak” and “Good Times.” But that’s just the tip of a mighty iceberg set to destroy the shallowest understanding of Chic's influence on music, Rodgers in particular.
He is not only the Godfather of Disco but a freight train of production and songwriting talent. At 63 years old, Rodgers is still the first man so many superstars have on speed dial: Avicii, Daft Punk, Lady Gaga, and Sam Smith have all phoned him over the past couple of years to make things happen.
Alone, a Chic with Nile Rodgers concert is a dance-worthy history lesson in funk, hip-hop, R&B, and even EDM. Rodgers and his pop symphony funked their way through a checklist of our favorite songs, so many of which Rodgers produced or helped compose.
From Sister Sledge’s “We Are Family” to David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance” (a fine tribute to the late singer and Rodgers collaborator) and the ubiquitous 2013 comeback hit for Daft Punk, “Get Lucky,” Rodgers illustrated how he’s helped shaped the state of pop music for the past 30 plus years. During the final number, “Good Times,” Chic sidestepped into Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight,” which heavily sampled 1979’s number-one song.
Later, during Duran Duran’s set, Rodgers reappeared to guest on “Notorious,” the foundation of Notorious B.I.G.’s posthumous hit single in 1999.
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But Duran Duran was not to be outdone. Although it was an older crowd, the group's songs are so iconic that age is only relative. No one exemplified that more than lead singer Simon Le Bon, now in his mid-50s, whose voice has aged remarkably well, as in not at all.
While Duran's biggest hits – “Girls on Film,” “Hungry Like the Wolf” and “Rio” – all appeared during their dominance of MTV in the '80s, over the past decade, Duran Duran has crafted and released three excellent modern pop albums. Red Carpet Massacre (2007), All You Need Is Now (2010), and their most recent, Paper Gods (2015), have all garnered critical acclaim.
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Considering how many bands these days mimic both the style and substance of new romantic-era Duran Duran, it’s no wonder that the band's music remains relevant and relatable. Furthermore, on Paper Gods, the English outfit hired some of the brightest minds in the business — including producer Mark Ronson, Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist John Frusciante, vocalist Janelle Monáe, and their old friend and current touring partner, Nile Rodgers — to flesh out the record’s sound.
For example, the titular “Paper Gods” could be off of an album by Hurts; “Last Night in the City” and its thumping club beats would’ve been happily at home during Ultra just two weeks earlier; and “Pressure Off” sounds like a mashup of Bruno Mars and Icona Pop. As if to solidify the connection between them and the mega-festival antics of EDM, they unloaded a mountain of confetti on the crowd during the latter. The irony here is that Duran Duran doesn't sound like those all of those newer artists; those newer artists sound like Duran Duran.
Throughout, whether playing the new stuff, the classics, or the almost classics, these veterans were absolutely inspired, oftentimes by their own past. Appropriately enough, for “A View to a Kill,” Duran opened with the James Bond theme. During several of the older tracks, the band intercut video of its performance with grainy clips of shows from yesteryear. They paired their sultry, early '90s hit “Come Undone,” a precursor to today’s electro-R&B, with GIFs of women in various states of undress.
Duran Duran also did its part educating the crowd by knocking out two tremendous covers. One was a tribute to David Bowie that combined its own “Planet Earth” with Bowie’s “Space Oddity,” and the other was “White Lines” by Grandmaster Flash, taken from its underrated covers album, Thank You.
That being said, it was Duran Duran's own work, new and old, that made the show so special. Those who dismiss the band as an '80s relics are doing themselves a disservice. One live listen is all it would take to win over even the most cynical of music snobs. Le Bon hit all the lows and especially the highs, working the stage like a man half his age. Their upcoming set at SunFest in downtown West Palm Beach will most likely be much shorter, but if it’s anything like the Miami show, Duran Duran all on its own is worth the price of a five-day admission.