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"It's rather like driving along a very fast road, along a landscape with buildings and tall trees, with shadows and then bits of light, and you get that flashing of light. In terms of light, I would describe the album in a word as 'flicker.'"
That's the Le Bon we all know and love: overly poetic, unintentionally pretentious. The man who once wrote, "I light the torch and wave it for the new moon on Monday/And a firedance through the night/I stayed the cold day with a lonely satellite."
To this day teens around the world pore over Le Bon's words. "I don't know if I like to be analyzed like that," Le Bon admits. "I'm glad the interest is there. The songs, they're meant to be with music. I'm not sure whether my lyrics stand up to scrutiny as poetry. I feel a little bit inadequate." Scores of Duran Duran-related home pages dot the World Wide Web, with countless gigabytes devoted to Le Bon's cryptic lyrics. There are sites from Australia, from Italy, and, of course, from Rio de Janeiro.
The U.S., amazingly enough, has never been Duran Duran's strongest market, despite the fact that the band was once guaranteed to pack arenas when touring stateside. These days the venues aren't as big, but they're sizeable. The band will perform in South Florida this week at the 4000-seat Sunrise Musical Theatre.
Who's buying these tickets? Nostalgic ex-cheerleaders eager to relive their high-school days in the Eighties? Teenyboppers who are just now discovering the Duran Duran mystique? Open-minded indie-rockers? Can it be that Duran Duran is attracting a whole new audience? "I don't know," confesses Le Bon. "It's been over two years since we played a live show."
These days when Duran Duran takes the stage, there is no question of merely passing gas. "Not at all," says Le Bon. "I'm sure there are other groups who could go on-stage and fart, and they'd be screamed at. But not us. People have come to expect something from us. Our fans -- whoever they are now -- have come to expect a certain level of communication. They come to hear the music."
While Duran Duran may have a large fan base, it has yet to make many converts among critics. That "electronic sound" Le Bon mentions has been interpreted by some critics as a late bid to cash in on the electronica trend. Le Bon's heard the accusation plenty of times in recent weeks. His initial reaction was hostile -- one interviewer who posed the electronica question received a sharp retort that included a four-letter word -- but now Le Bon has a more sophisticated answer at the ready.
"We were always an electronica thing," he contends. "Maybe the electronica thing is trying to do Duran Duran. It's true. Funny hairdos and electronic dance music was Duran Duran -- now it's Prodigy. That's what we were when we started. What else would we be apart from a dance-rock-pop band?"
It's worth noting that Duran Duran has done little to alter its sound or its image over the years. Rhodes has commented that Medazzaland is not too dissimilar from that 1982 gem Rio -- which is as good as saying that Duran Duran hasn't radically departed from the mildly funky British pop it's been creating for more than fifteen years. As for its image, Duran Duran still looks like a group of jet-setting playboys, sporting sleek blazers and colorful shirts (and, for Rhodes, a little bit of makeup). Rhodes now looks a little gaunt and Le Bon a little hefty, but they've retained their aura of rock-star glamour.
This might mean the band has stayed true to its vision. Or it might mean that Duran Duran gathered dust while the rest of the world tuned in to hip-hop, trip-hop, ambient, and grunge. In either case the ragged tiger that is Duran Duran has stayed on its feet far longer than anyone ever expected. Le Bon chalks up the group's endurance to "the fact that we still manage to thrill ourselves, musically." Whether they can keep it up for another decade is anyone's guess.
"Fuck knows, man, I haven't got a clue," allows Le Bon, letting out a kind of sigh. "This is the same question people asked me ten years ago, and I hadn't a clue then. If we're here in another two years, I'll think myself lucky."
But suddenly the singer grows passionate. "Having said that, I love the music we make. We've stuck together. We owe it to each other to carry on, to keep our morale up and to continue. It's become a real challenge to us to survive. Because we have been knocked, we've been knocked by the critics, and we've been knocked by a lot of people. It's difficult. And to prove them wrong is a great satisfaction to us."
Duran Duran performs at 8:00 p.m. on Wednesday, November 26, at the Sunrise Musical Theatre, 555 NW 95th Ave. in Sunrise. Tickets cost $25 and $32. Call 954-741-7300 for more information.