5 things you missed from Duran Duran's ACL Fest headliner set
Birds of paradise, and those with cherry ice cream smiles, face front. Duran Duran, those British pop heartthrobs from back when Maggie Thatcher darkened a door on Downing Street, headlined their second night of Austin City Limits Music Festival on Sunday. Here's what you need to know about a night with Simon Le Bon, Nick Rhodes, John Taylor and Roger Taylor.
From ACL Fest Weekend 1:Simon Le Bon reminds us we all want to live in Duran Duran's 'Ordinary World'
1. Neon under the moon
The set's art direction was a synthwave paradise. Before the guys came out, green beams of light streaked across the Honda Stage. If your 1980s pop idols don't emerge from a laser tag arena erected in a public park, is it even a music festival? From where we were standing, some generous soul (or menace to anti-littering efforts) flung glowsticks in the air, like two ravers just got married and they decided against throwing rice.
Were the strobes too intense, especially for "Girls On Film"? Yes, but when in Rome ...
2. Hits, hits, hits
Look, the collection of atoms that would one day become me had not quite coalesced yet during Duran Duran's heyday. (I am trying to be nice and not say that I wasn't alive.) But when I finally decided to be born and had access to file-sharing programs, I burned CDs of the greatest hits of yesteryear, and I'll tell you, 13-year-old me really loved "Rio."
Le Bon and the gang hit the ground running with "Hungry Like the Wolf." Doo doo doo doo, doo doo doo, doo doo doo, doo doo doo doo dooooo. From there, the night got "Notorious" quick, and I immediately resumed my commitment to Sparkle Motion. "Donnie Darko"? No? OK. Well it's a great movie.
"A View to a Kill," which still slaps, reminded me that I need to go see "No Time to Die" now that ACL Fest is over. "Come Undone" still sounds like a perfume commercial. "Save a Prayer" still unlocked something primal in the crowd.
And because Duran Duran went over their set time, which was supposed to end at 9:30 p.m., I experienced genuine panic that Rio would not dance on the sand, and I would not dance on the discarded beer cans strewn across Zilker Park. I was wrong to doubt. When in the land of the Rio Grande, needs must.
3. Oh no Simon Le Bon don't say that
In an otherwise pleasant night, international pop icon Le Bon decided to do that spacey, vague pontificating that international pop icons like to do in concert. Before "Ordinary World," he bemoaned that the pandemic lockdowns had sent people into digital spaces and taken them to extremes on two sides of the ideological spectrum, but that music — specifically, the 1992 Duran Duran power ballad "Ordinary World" — had the power to bring us together.
But the rise of extremism as fueled by social media is not just a matter of disagreeing about politics, bruv. And we all know how "on both sides" usually works out; one side is made up people fighting for rights, and the other side is literal Nazis. You cannot dance with Nazis, Simon!
Suddenly, I missed Miley Cyrus and her story about a moth leading her to enlightenment.
4. People who love Duran Duran? They love Duran Duran
The band drew a healthy headliner crowd for a Sunday night, but it thinned out considerably over the course of the hour-plus slot. The hazards of top-loading a set with the singalongs.
The people who remained, though, were getting their life. Not for nothing, Duran Duran never lost a large, dedicated crowd up front. Farther out, the fans had the words down, and they had the energy at the end of three days to prance around in a field like it's 1985.
Considering Stevie Nicks was the original headliner for Sunday (still sad about that one), not bad.
5. You get what you came for
If you told a friend you were going to see Duran Duran in concert in 2021, I think it would conjure something pretty similar to what happened at ACL Fest.
Le Bon strutted and jumped into a starfish formation. His voice still has that crybaby wail.
John Taylor just grooved and his hair had decent altitude.
"Hungry Like the Wolf" and "Rio" bookended the night. There's your price of admission.