September 4, 2022
Photos by Raymond Ahner
Fans attending the Duran Duran show at the Chase Center in San Francisco had a lot to be excited for. This was the band’s first performance in the Bay Area since 2017, when they played the far smaller Masonic Auditorium. The band was riding high off of the release of last year’s album Future Past, and I for one was excited to see what songs they would play from their new album.
But therein lies one of my issues with this particular show: if you went to this show expecting to see deep cuts or rarities in the band’s extensive back catalogue, this was not the show for you. Only a handful of songs were performed from the aforementioned Future Past, while the entirety of the rest of the setlist was comprised almost entirely of just the band’s biggest hits. Granted, I would argue that the band’s performances of the new songs were some of the best of the evening; Simon, Nick, John, and Roger can play “Girls On Film” and “A View To A Kill” in their sleep, while songs like “Invisible” and “Tonight United” still have a sense of not being fully polished. Personally, I found those moments to be the highlights of the show.
Simon Le Bon, Nick Rhodes, John Taylor, Roger Taylor, touring guitarist Dominic Brown, their two backing singers, and their saxophonist (unfortunately the last three member’s names escape me) took to the stage as the instrumental “Velvet Newton” played through the massive PA system before launching headfirst into “The Wild Boys” as the crowd erupted into a frenzy. Once the song ended, the band roared through a performance of one of their most well-known songs, “Hungry Like The Wolf.” While it seemed the audience welcomed the song so early in the show, to me it felt like there was no build-up to it, like the catharsis that that song gives you wasn’t truly earned by the band up to that point.
And unfortunately that was a recurring theme throughout the night for me. A band with the legacy of Duran Duran has every right to stick to the hits if that’s what they want to play. If you’re a casual fan in the audience, you’re definitely going to get your money’s worth. However, the flow of the setlist felt incredibly off, like it was based off of a playlist of the band’s most-streamed songs but not sequenced in a way that made complete sense. “Ordinary World” being performed immediately after “Careless Memories” felt off, as did pairing “Hold Back The Rain” with “The Reflex.”
When I’ve seen bands or artists that have a lengthy output, such as Depeche Mode or Gary Numan, it’s always felt like they still have a reverence and respect for their recent material, making sure to play some songs from later in the career besides ones from whatever new album they may be touring for. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case with Duran Duran. Not a single song was performed from their six albums that span from 1997 through 2015, a run that constitutes nearly half of their entire recorded output. The absence of any material from those nearly two decades of the band’s career felt like an oversight on the band’s part, as songs like “(Reach Up For The) Sunrise” and “Falling Down” would have been welcome inclusions in the evening’s setlist.
At the end of the day, all I can say is that the band felt like they were going through the motions. The somewhat sinister “Friends Of Mine” felt lifeless, the emotional plea of “Save A Prayer” had no weight behind it, and even the bombastic fun of “Rio” felt like it was a chore for the band to get through. I left the Chase Center initially wowed by the band, but as I drove home and reflected on the show that I just saw, I couldn’t help but feel like Duran Duran were just phoning it in, which is a shame because I know that the band is capable of delivering a phenomenal show. This just wasn’t one of them.
Opening the evening was the legendary Nile Rodgers & Chic, who immediately had the entire crowd on their feet and dancing to their opening number “Chic Cheer.” Arguably the most impressive band of the disco era, this current lineup of the band is on fire, with Nile Rodgers and singers Kimberly Davis and Audrey Martells dancing across the stage in unison at multiple points throughout their set. In a pleasant surprise, halfway through the set Rodgers took to the microphone to talk about other success he’s had outside of the band before they began playing songs that he had produced or co-written such as Madonna’s “Material Girl,” Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky,” and David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance.” Nile Rodgers and Chic did what a great support band should do, which is not just get the energy of the crowd up, but to also convert the audience into fans. Nile Rodgers is arguably one of the most influential and important individuals in the world of popular music and has been for the last five decades. There will never be another person like him. And closing their set with a one-two punch of “Le Freak” and “Good Times,” Nile Rodgers and Chic truly proved that he’s one of a kind.
Here’s a slideshow with more photos of Duran Duran and Nile Rodgers and Chic by Raymond Ahner: