“Bow to the paper gods in a world that is paper thin,” sings Simon Le Bon in the broadside against modern celebrity that forms the title track of Duran Duran’s 14th album and opens their show at Leeds’s First Direct Arena.
Back in the Eighties when Le Bon and his band ruled the airwaves, selling 100 million records in the process, there did indeed seem to be more point to the kind of frenzy their appearances generated than the clickbait hoopla of today.
The next two hours prove to be an object lesson in how good songs performed with gusto endure way beyond the era in which they were created.
It’s not faultless – Le Bon does momentarily forget which city he’s in, hailing the people of Newcastle, rather than Leeds, before wryly recovering with the line, “Ah yes, you’re the ones with the really good football team”, then recounting how once he’d greeted an Australian crowd with “Good evening, America”.
And it has to be said the audience do get a bit fidgety when a fifth number is rolled out from their latest album, but those really are minor cons when you set them against the rich pros of Wild Boys, Hungry Like The Wolf, Girls On Film and Planet Earth.
The band – augmented by guitarist Dominic Brown, Simon Willescroft on saxophone and additional keyboards, and backing singers Anna Ross and Jessie Wagner as well as busy video projections and a spectacular light show – still look the part in leathers and keyboard player Nick Rhodes’ dapper black suit and skinny tie.
Le Bon and bass player John Taylor strut the stage with the energy of old, whipping their middle-aged audience to their feet.
Interestingly they don’t play either of their UK Number Ones – Is There Something I Should Know? and The Reflex – but nor do they need to when they have Ordinary World, A View To A Kill and Notorious up their sleeves instead. And the segment of New Moon On Monday that they slip into the middle of (Reach Up For The) Sunrise is particularly well received.
Even a rendition of Melle Mel’s rap anthem White Lines seems to rock rather more convincingly live than it did when Duran Duran recorded it on an album of cover versions in the 1990s.
Before they encore with Save A Prayer, Le Bon poignantly explains how the band’s new friends the Eagles of Death Metal have released their own version of the ballad in the wake of the murderous attacks during their concert at the Bataclan in Paris two weeks ago. He urges fans to stream or download it, declaring that the proceeds will go towards “something that’s peaceful, something that helps people” in memory of the victims of the shootings.
“It’s music that’s under attack, the idea of going out, enjoying yourself and having fun. We have to stand up to that,” he says. “It might be a challenge but we don’t give in. Never give up and never give in.”
The band end on an upbeat note with with the crowdpleasing Rio. Tonight music’s ability to lift communal spirits in dark times was powerfully affirmed.