I’ve seen Duran Duran live a number of times in various line-ups — with Warren Cuccurullo, without John Taylor, with the original line-up, without Andy Taylor. Their set list hasn’t deviated much since 1999, and even the inclusion of "Friends of Mine" dates as far back as 2000.
So no, I can’t say I was much surprised to hear straight-forward interpretations of "Hungry Like the Wolf", "Wild Boys", "A View to a Kill" or "Notorious", crowd-pleasers all and songs that got the audience at Stubb’s BBQ jumping. Duran Duran is at a point where even they are respectful of their own canon. There’s no messing with what works, and they dash of their classics with an effortlessness that comes with three decades of experience.
Sometimes, I wish they would shake things up, similar to the way they drastically remodeled their oeuvre in the mid-90s. Track down the Gemini bootleg to understand what I’m saying.
The new songs didn’t exert a strong presence, not the way "Come Undone" or "Ordinary World" did back in 1993. If anything, they camouflaged themselves too well, sounding like the missing Rio b-sides that never accompanied "Like an Angel"
But I’m just a picky long-time lapsed fan. Duran Duran on a bad day could school the thousands of young bands at SXSW on their best day. Roger Taylor flubbed early in the set, and Simon Le Bon asked for a do-over on a new song. Neither incident impeded the live juggernaut that is Duran Duran.
Raphael Saadiq didn’t make it easy for Duran Duran to follow. Saadiq and his live band played the hell out of a set meant to sound like a classic soul revue. I can’t say I’m much into soul, and frankly, the antiquated sound felt more like performance practice, albeit fiery and incredibly energetic performance practice.
The Smith Westerns sure do like their Doors a lot, and I think the Strongbow Cider in which I indulged left a more favorable impression than I was willing to accommodate.
James Blake performed the most fascinating music of the evening, an avant-garde mix of white noise and deep soul. At times, I wished he was a 70-year-old diva. Or Boy George. But for all of Blake’s experimentalism, he was boring as fuck to watch. I probably would have enjoyed his music more in front of my computer.
Yuck opened the evening, but the fuzzy guitars and post-grunge gestures weren’t enough to mitigate the long arms of Johnny Marr and Steven Patrick Morrissey reaching all the way from Thatcher-era Mordor. They struck me as a band that should have made a more prominent spot for Sonic Youth on their sleeves.