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Duran Duran plots return, carefully

Band launches abbreviated tour with mix of old, new music
/ Source: Billboard

Despite touring with all its original members for the first time in 18 years, Duran Duran is playing just 17 theater dates on its 2003 road trip, which began Nov. 8.The band is not crazy, organizers insist. It is grossly underplaying the market on purpose.

They say a truncated tour — for which each date has sold out almost immediately — will create enough buzz that Duran Duran avoids being labeled “a nostalgia act.”

Before this tour, the original five members of the band played a few one-off warm-up shows during the summer in Los Angeles, New York and Las Vegas. Those sell-outs, combined with November’s projections, led keyboardist Nick Rhodes to believe that “the chemistry is intact.”

“Everyone is excited about playing the shows, and the audiences have been electric,” he observes. “Never, ever in our career have we played to audiences like this. I have to say that it’s been a real shock.”

Drummer Roger Taylor left the group in 1986 for personal reasons. Guitarist Andy Taylor exited at the same time to work solo. Bassist John Taylor split in 1996 and also embarked on a solo project. But all three Taylors (who are not related) have reteamed with Rhodes and vocalist Simon LeBon, who have continued to perform as Duran Duran. And 2003 also marks the 25th anniversary of the band’s formation in 1978.

On Nov. 4, EMI rolled out the DVD anthology “Greatest.” It contains the group’s classic videos, including previously unreleased versions.

Rhodes says that the band’s past required it to lay down new material before setting out on a full-fledged tour.

“That was the first priority,” Rhodes says of the new album, targeted for release in early 2004. (Management currently is negotiating a label deal.) “That’s really the center of it all to us. We had to make sure we could get that right. We didn’t just want to get together and play the old songs.”

He continues, “This year has been very much about reintroducing Duran Duran as this lineup and trying to let people know that ’Yep, we’re back.”’

To accomplish that, Laister and Rhodes say the number of dates and the venue sizes had to be limited. Both promise that Duran Duran will launch a 2004 world tour that will stop at arenas and amphitheaters. It will intersperse new material with old favorites.

The band’s glory days were during the 1980s, with such albums as “Rio” (1982). Its last major success came a decade ago with “Duran Duran (The Wedding Album),” which sold 1.5 million copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

“We kind of hoped that there would be an audience out there who would want to come and see us — but you never really know,” says Rhodes, who’s taken aback by the quick sell-outs of the shows.

By carefully mapping out its comeback, Rhodes believes Duran Duran has a strong shot at a lasting reunion.

“If we’re going to do it, let’s do it properly,” he says, noting that the group’s new songs feel as satisfying as anything it has written before.

What is interesting about playing together after so long, Rhodes, observes, “is that we’ve become a little more graceful with each other, allowing the space for each person to do what they are best at.”

He describes the new material as a mix of edgy rock and dark, electronic synth pop. Others, he says, have described the sound as “Duran Duran, but what we should sound like now.”