Preview: Duran Duran FUTURE PAST Tour at Vivint Arena

The core of the setlists Duran Duran will play in concert on June 3 at Vivint Arena, will be made up of songs the group made famous during the 1980s and 1990s. Those tracks by the band—including classic era members Simon Le Bon (vocals), Nick Rhodes (synths), Roger Taylor (drums) and John Taylor (bass)—provide a crowd-pleasing selection of winners, cuts that’ll be played virtually every time that the Rock & Roll Hall of Famers take the stage. 

These are the bedrocks: “Rio,” “Hungry Like the Wolf,” “Come Undone,” “Ordinary World.” And a whole passel of other tracks that are staples of new wave radio stations and streaming platforms the world over. 

But the group’s also coming off of the success of creating new work, with songs that very much fit into the band’s considerable canon. The band’s 15th album, 2021’s Future Past, is arguably the best, full work by the band in years. And those songs are being spotted into this year’s sets, allowing fans a chance to enjoy the ear candies of youth, as well as songs written and recorded by a band that’s clearly still interested in crafting new material. 

Thinking about balancing new songs and old, Taylor, in a late-May interview, said “There’re songs you’ve just got to do, they’ve got to be there. Then you start thinking about what older songs are fans really going to be delighted to hear, and be surprised. Then you start thinking about how new songs can fit. And we tend to revolve them a little bit. Maybe we do ‘Anniversary’ one night and we do ‘Invisible’ another.”

Those are among the standouts of the album Future Past. For that writing and recording session, the group assembled a dream team of producers and collaborators, including producers Giorgio Moroder and Erol Alkan; plus Graham Coxon of Blur, who added guitar and songwriting, one of several notable guests on the album. Like many an album of the past few years, the work, begun in 2019, was scuttled by Covid for a number of months, before reigniting as in-person restrictions began to loosen. 

Praised by critics and longtime fans of the band as one of their best, overall albums, the wait was rewarded. 

Taylor said that “when we make the decision to go into the studio to start working on a new batch of songs, we tend to almost feel like we’re reinventing the wheel. We always set our sights very high and inevitably you have to let go of certain ideas. I get very excited at the beginning of a writing project because when there’s not a lot to the idea—like, maybe it’s just a groove with some chords and like a melody—I mean, that’s at the point where this thing could be anything. This could become the greatest song ever written. And as the song evolves, someone else hears it differently than me and you kind of have to let go. Each song is kind of a fight in a way. You have to choose your battles. And then as a suite of songs starts to come together, then you’re asking, ‘is there a theme here?’” 

For Future Past, the title gives a decent hint as to what was on the group’s mind at that time.

Taylor suggested that “if there was a theme in the album, I think it was almost looking back to, there was a genesis to all of our careers in music. I would put it down to the punk rock revolution of 1977 in the U.K., where every kid my age decided they wanted to be in a band, whether they could play an instrument or not. We had this incredible… I mean, they called it a youthquake, you know, this incredible movement of kids that just were just jumping up on stage and singing whatever and getting their hair cut and slashing their ties and shirts. This kind of artistic revolution took place. I would say that’s at the core of this album.” 

Taylor added that the group was aware, through its management, that the band’s 40th anniversary was nigh. And though that was secretly known by all parties, suddenly some energy and light was being brought up around that fact. 

The band wanted to create an album that fit within the continuum of past albums, while not sleeping on new sonic potentials. It had to count, to matter.

‘There were like these undercurrents of the anniversary and longevity and, you know, (wondering) ‘what does that mean?’” Taylor said. “So that was probably there.” 

Though Duran Duran are the stars of the concert tour they’re embarking on, the group’s support acts aren’t to be missed. Among them is Chic, the Nile Rodgers-lead group that Taylor views as a spiritual contemporary of the band; Rodgers, himself, worked with the band way back in the mid ’80s as a producer and remixer. 

“I think fans of Duran Duran will know that our story has run parallel with Chic’s since the band’s inception,” Taylor said. “We were very, very influenced by Chic’s music as teenagers. When we finally came to America and met them, we became great friends and started to work together. Niles has been in the studio with us for some of our greatest moments and we love touring with them. They’re a super-tight band; it’s not like you’re going to see another band like them again. They’re everything you loved about the disco/funk era of music. We also have Bastille with us, who are a relatively-new band from Britain. They have more Spotify followers than we do! So I’m looking forward to having them on the bill with us, too.”

In a bio sent out by the group’s publicists, a lot of time and attention is paid to Duran Duran’s relentless incorporation of the newest toys and techniques into their career, be it in the studio or on the stage. They’ve been innovators all along the way, probably not getting enough credit for that role. For this tour, Taylor’s psyched about the blend of human and technical elements that’ll add to their thoroughly-contemporary live show. 

He said that the show will be “stunning. We always say this, but visually it’s one of the best shows we’ve ever put together. I mean we’ve reached a degree of integration with the visual and the music like we’ve never done before. This show has evolved out of the shows we did last year. Rather than having to build a completely new show from scratch, we’ve taken elements of what we developed last year and made it better. It’s a very dramatic show, it’s a very sexy show. For me, it’s cerebral but also poptastic, you know?” 

Unlike a number of bands of its generation, Duran Duran are not calling this a farewell tour and there is new music in the works. So this year’s tour is a part of the overall career path, not a finale. And for Taylor, it’s being seen as the band working at a peak level of satisfaction.

“This is a privilege,” he said. “There’s a deeper level of pride, I think, In what we’re doing today.”

Get your tickets to the Vivint Arena show this weekend here!

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Thomas Crone
Thomas Crone
A freshly-minted transplant to Salt Lake City, arriving here in January of 2022, Thomas Crone serves as the Music Editor of City Weekly, while also contributing online coverage of the local music, arts and food/beverage communities to Salt Lake magazine. Unlike many of his new kinfolk, he prefers the indoors.

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