thu 23/05/2024

Duran Duran, Utilita Arena, Birmingham review - New Romantic veterans return home | reviews, news & interviews

Duran Duran, Utilita Arena, Birmingham review - New Romantic veterans return home

Duran Duran, Utilita Arena, Birmingham review - New Romantic veterans return home

Local megastars create a very unordinary world with mind-blowing visuals in this arena show

Simon Le Bon: the only Pinner-born Brummie around

Duran Duran were back in their hometown of Birmingham this weekend for the first time since performing as part of the open ceremony of the 2022 Commonwealth Games and were justly forthright in trumpeting their local history. Even Pinner-born Simon Le Bon was keen to claim his stake, telling the audience a long and convoluted tale about being dubbed an honorary Brummie by UB40’s Ali Campbell 25 years ago.

“Ordinary World”, for instance, was introduced by Le Bon stating, “It’s been quite a year. For Duran Duran and Birmingham. The high point was playing the opening of the Commonwealth Games and we are proud of being a Birmingham band.” He really didn’t need to labour the point though, as some 15,000 locals were eating out of his hand from the opening salvo of “Night Boat”, “Wild Boys” and “Hungry Like the Wolf” from their over 40-year repertoire, all the way through to the barnstorming “Rio” that eventually closed the show.

The last time that Duran Duran played a headline set on home turf was almost two years ago for a couple of intimate shows in the rather smaller 1,500 capacity O2 Institute. Tonight, however, they were in a venue that was a bit more telling of their status in the music world. The Utilita Arena was completely sold out, even if it had been converted into an all-seated area for the evening. Then again, there didn’t seem to be many under the age of 50 in attendance and so, maybe being expected to stand up and even dance for the whole of their intoxicating set was a bit much to expect.

Nevertheless, pretty much everyone was on their feet to welcome the band’s entry onto the stage of Birmingham’s largest city-centre venue, which was ushered in by an extravagant film beamed onto the array of huge screens above the performance space that was more reminiscent of astronauts climbing into a rocket in advance of blasting off into the Great Unknown than a group of Dorian Gray-like 60-somethings with more than a few catchy tunes to their name. In fact, throughout the show, the screens provided much of the concert’s spectacle with Hammer House of House excerpts for the storming “Friends of Mine”, pop art spacemen for the excellent “Planet Earth” and a shark gliding backwards and forwards for the more laidback “Come Undone”. It really was a feast for the eyes and camouflaged the fact that Le Bon and John Taylor stayed relatively static throughout the show – but then, they aren’t getting any younger either.

The set list was also quite a tonic for long-time fans and didn’t just stick to the hits, even taking in covers of Rick James’ “Super Freak” and an almost rap-metal version of “White Lines”, as well as tweaking some of their own tunes, like their almost Billy Idol-ish take on “Careless Memory”. Needless to say, it was the old favourites that stole the show though, but when they’ve got crackers like “Girls on Film”, “Notorious” and the inevitable “Rio” in their armoury, it would be churlish not to give credit where it’s due.

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