Last night (April 11), Duran Duran brought their trademark synth-pop fantasy to the Bell Centre in Montreal, splashing sonic and visual splendour from the stage as the enthusiastic crowd roared and danced at their feet. The iconic pop band became enormously popular in the 1980s, when they were some of the grandest and most influential players around, and they brought that arsenal with them last night, along with quad confetti canons, as they toured in support of their latest album, 2015's Paper Gods.
Chic, featuring Nile Rodgers, opened for Duran Duran, and brought their titanic disco funk sound to entice and enthuse the rabid audience. They were far beyond impressive, pelting the booty-shaking crowd with eight tight, stellar songs. Bathed in red and white light, and backed with a horns and keys ensemble, the band opened with classic hits "Everybody Dance," "Dance, Dance, Dance (Yowsah, Yowsah, Yowsah)" and "I Want Your Love."
Rodgers, who was breathtaking on guitar as per usual, talked about his recent battle with cancer, with which he was diagnosed five years ago, but was determined to fight through the illness by keeping busy and continuing to pursue what he loves. Now back to a clean bill of health, he wanted to play the first song he wrote during that darker time, and the crowd erupted when they powered into the track, performing a tantalizing, soul-funk jam of Daft Punk's "Get Lucky."
Chic closed their set with "Good Times," a wicked disco frenzy in which they were joined by about 25 onstage dancers — lucky chosen fans, apparently. The band and their guests danced, writhing beneath lights jutting out around them like giant disco ball beams as they prepared for Duran Duran to perform.
A virtual storm of crashing lights and booming thunder receded from the stage as Duran Duran crept out from the darkness. They quickly got to business with the title track from their latest album, followed by four choice cuts from the front end of their career: the bombastic and rebellious "The Wild Boys" from 1984's Arena, 1982's smash hit "Hungry like the Wolf," 1985's James Bond anthem "A View to a Kill" and 1993's vibrant "Come Undone."
By that point, the audience were already swooning for the band, and it felt as though lead singer Simon Le Bon could topple the entire crowd with a single breath if he so chose. There was palpable anticipation between each song for what was to come next, and to recognize each song as it began, and each moment they did was accompanied by a sharp, collective intake of breath and widening eyes before an eruption of cheers.
Iconic guitarist and producer Nile Rodgers, from opening act Chic, joined the band on stage for two songs, including the title track from their 1986 release, Notorious. Le Bon checked in with the crowd: "Have you got your dancing shoes on?" He didn't really need to ask; the arena had already been swirling as people jumped out of their seats to dance.
The material from Paper Gods was strong. "Last Night in the City" provided an anthemic dance club diversion, and the band gave a mesmerizing performance of "What Are the Chances," a well-paced piece with ambient synth that could have comfortably lived on a classic album like 1982's double-platinum Rio.
"Planet Earth," their 1981 breakthrough single, was another standout track, showcasing spacey, desolate lyrics set over a clicking drum track and soaring synths. Fittingly, they used this song to lead into a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity," in a nice tribute to the legendary performer.
Flickering like time travelers trapped between dimensions, the band dished out vintage candy intermingled with their newer work. 1993's "Ordinary World," their 1988 Big Thing track "I Don't Want your Love" and 1981's "Girls on Film" were all incredibly well received, and when the roaring crowd called for an encore, the band stepped back out to deliver 1982's smash hit "Rio" and the absolute standout performance of the night, "Save a Prayer," which had the entire arena singing in unison.
As a rare treat, the band returned to the stage for a second encore and elected to perform their 1984 hit "The Reflex," from Seven and the Ragged Tiger. Duran Duran showed that not only does their music stand the test of time, but that much of their material is as relevant today as ever before. It was a terrific night for pop fans young and old in Montreal.