About a half hour into Duran Duran’s first of two highly anticipated shows at Ravinia, Simon Le Bon and the boys debuted “Last Night In The City,” which was met by such an infectious synthesizer surge it kept the packed pavilion and surely the several thousand on the lawn dancing just like they were during “The Wild Boys,” “Hungry Like The Wolf” and “A View To A Kill.” It may take some time for the new tune to reach similar status, but it and all the others presented from the group’s latest long player “Paper Gods” have the elements of both classic D2 and anything today’s electronic pop/rock resurgence has to offer, since after all, the “Fab Five” built the bedrock on which the entire movement stands.
Duran Duran dedicated the ballad “Save A Prayer” to Rhodes as concerned fans waved their cell phone lights in the air, though the party picked right back up as the sax-soaked “Rio” kicked into gear and found the guys justifiably basking in the glow of their renewed relevance.
These days, the quartet consists of Le Bon, keyboard player Nick Rhodes, bassist John Taylor, drummer Roger Taylor and their long time supporting cast, but on Friday, Rhodes was unusually absent after being forced to fly to London for a “very urgent matter.” No further explanation was given, and while he was most certainly missed, the band and stand-in MNDR (a previous Mark Ronson collaborator) soldiered on for nearly two hours filled with the funky “Notorious” and “Pressure Off” (accompanied by longtime producer and support act Nile Rodgers on guitar), a mash-up of “Planet Earth” with David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” and the less frequently performed “Big Thing” throwback “I Don’t Want Your Love.”
The groove continued to ascend throughout a back half that included the group’s take on Grandmaster Flash & Melle Mel’s “White Lines (Don’t Do It),” plus fellow crowd pleasers “The Reflex” and “Girls On Film” (remixed with a modern edge). For the encore, Duran Duran dedicated the ballad “Save A Prayer” to Rhodes as concerned fans waved their cell phone lights in the air, though the party picked right back up as the sax-soaked “Rio” kicked into gear and found the guys justifiably basking in the glow of their renewed relevance.
Speaking of a creative and commercial resurgence, Rodgers and Chic warmed up the night with a jubilant, hour-plus set encompassing the best of their disco days with the famed leader’s top songwriting and production collaborations spanning Motown through right here and now. The 300 million album seller and his highly talented cast soared through “I Want Your Love,” Diana Ross’ “Upside Down,” Madonna’s “Like A Virgin,” Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” and David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance,” all adorned with a dose of extra soul.
Rodgers also shared a deeply personal story about being diagnosed with cancer a few years back, and though he was told to get his affairs in order, is now miraculously cured and recommitted to writing, recording and performing more than ever before. That thankfulness and exuberance was contagious, especially as Chic tore into “Le Freak” and “Good Times,” rescuing them both from the ‘70s and beefing up the unforgettable rhythms with an entirely fresh lease on life.
Upcoming concert highlights at Ravinia include Duran Duran with Chic featuring Nile Rodgers (July 9); Phillip Phillips and Matt Nathanson (July 10); Ladysmith Black Mambazo (July 11); Lyle Lovett and Emmylou Harris (July 18); Kenny Rogers (July 24); Diana Ross (July 27); “Titanic” Live (July 29-30), plus Buddy Guy and Jeff Beck (July 31). For additional details, visit Ravinia.org.