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Duran Duran thrill rain-drenched fans at Hollywood Bowl during wet LA concert

Midway through Duran Duran‘s night at the Hollywood Bowl, singer Simon Le Bon paused to tease all of us spoiled Southern California music fans forced – horrors! – to stand outside in the ever-so-rare rain.

“You’re lucky, this is just a shower,” the English singer said Friday, the first of three nights for the band at the Bowl. “Where we come from, it’s (bleepin’) biblical. And horizontal. And cold. You lucky, lucky people.”

Which is true in the context of a little rain – OK, a lot of rain – but truer still in how fortunate and fun it was to see Duran Duran deliver such a terrific show some four decades into its career.

After all, how many other acts who broke out of the New Wave and MTV scenes of the early ’80s are still filling the Hollywood Bowl for one night – much less three?

So yeah, it rained, and Simon had his fun with us, but with 19 songs over an hour and 40 minutes, the fans got more than their share of fun, too, with hit after hit alongside strong new songs, too.

The show opened with “The Wild Boys,” or it did after a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II, taken by photographer Cecil Beaton on her coronation day, flashed onscreen with a message that the show on Friday would be performed in memory of Her Majesty. (Was the Queen a Durannie? Lady Di was, for sure.)

“Wild Boys” quickly set aside that somber note, racing through its rapid rhythms as the crowd cheered loudly for the four longtime core members of the band: Singer Le Bon, bassist John Taylor, keyboardist Nick Rhodes, and drummer Roger Taylor.

The lyric, “And your telephone’s been ringing while you’re dancing in the rain” also got a big response because, duh, we’re Southern Californians, and OMG, it was literally happening – what are the odds?

And the even bigger hit, “Hungry Like The Wolf” followed, one of three songs in the set from the 1982 album “Rio,” which, thanks to some of the first cinematic music videos and the then-new MTV, broke the band into the big time.

But this 40th Anniversary Tour wasn’t just about the nostalgia for this band and these songs, though certainly that was a big part of the draw.

Duran Duran’s most recent album, “Future Past,” released in 2021, features strong new songs such as “Invisible” and “All Of You,” both of which were slotted near the top of the set, and while they might not have been as familiar, they sounded like they should or could be classic Duran.

Other highlights in the first half of the show included “Notorious,” for which opening act Nile Rodgers of Chic came out to play the tune’s funky riff, and the band’s James Bond theme song, “A View to a Kill.”

We should also note that Duran Duran remain a very colorful and stylishly dressed band. Le Bon wore a pink jacket and sparkly silver pants. John Taylor matched him in a slightly different shade of pink jacket and black skinny jeans. Rhodes might have been the winner, though, in a turquoise suit that glittered in the stage lights.

The band’s self-titled 1981 debut provided four songs in the set, with a pair of them – “Friends of Mine” and “Careless Memories” – somewhat deeper cuts.

Ukraine, which is currently fighting a war against Russia, got a nod when Le Bon dedicated the lovely ballad “Ordinary World” to its people while the blue and yellow flag of that nation fluttered on the video screens on stage.

The final run of the main set took off with “Planet Earth,” the band’s debut single in 1981, and then “The Reflex,” the first of its two No. 1 singles in the United States.

A cover of Grandmaster Flash and Melle Mel’s “White Lines (Don’t Do It) had the now-drenched fans dancing enthusiastically, before “Girls On Film,” mashed up here with Calvin Harris’s “Acceptable in the ’80s,” closed out the main set.

The slick funk-disco of Chic was an important early influence on Duran Duran – Rodgers and Chic delivered a terrific opening set of songs he’s been part of with that band – “Le Freak,” “Good Times” – and on his own – “Modern Love,” by David Bowie, another of Duran’s inspirations.

For the encore, Duran Duran were joined by Bowie’s longtime pianist Mike Garson to cover Bowie’s “Five Years,” a lovely treat.

Garson stuck around for the rest of the encore, too. Le Bon dedicated “Save a Prayer” to the Queen, and asked the audience to light up the Bowl with their camera lights, a sight that might have produced chills, or maybe it was just the rain.

Then “Rio,” perhaps the band’s signature tune, wrapped it all up, as fireworks lit the night sky, or more accurately the cloudy drizzle, and the happy crowd shuffled through puddles on the soggy march home.

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