“Don’t worry if you don’t know the words, because it doesn’t matter – as I have already proved,” Duran Duran frontman Simon Le Bon joked with fans in Manchester's AO Arena last night, before the opening of Save A Prayer. A few songs earlier, he’d forgotten the words to Anniversary – a standout from their excellent last album, Future Past. “I need an autocue,” he laughed. “I think I got away with it.”
Few in the 21,000-strong crowd cared as they filled the gaps anyway, singing along as passionately to this as to the stone-cold classics and deep cuts in what was an expansive, hit-packed celebration of 40 years in music. This was one for the fans.
And what a celebration it was. As Nick Rhodes’s still-futuristic-sounding-synths played the opening bars to Save a Prayer, phones lit up the arena “like the Milky Way”, as Le Bon put it, while a rendition of debut Planet Earth saw the Durannies erupt. Brilliant Bond song A View to a Kill showcased Le Bon’s note-perfect voice and was placed amid a run that included Wild Boys, Hungry like the Wolf and Notorious. It was as decadent and bombastic as you’d hope from the band who soundtracked the Eighties.
During Is There Something I Should Know?, poppy throwbacks to early magazine covers filled the screens. It may have been four decades ago, but their New Romantic style of old showed no signs of waning: Rhodes donned his trademark gothy eyeliner, dramatic black suit and silver boots, while Le Bon wore sparkling white.
Their love of performing – and each other – was evident throughout, like Le Bon frequently singing face-to-face with bassist John Taylor. Le Bon regularly twirled and stomped camply around the stage, even theatrically spraying water on to the front row at one point. He was having the time of his life.
The soaring Ordinary World was an emotive moment. “It saved the life of this band,” Le Bon said, adding that different audience interpretations of the song over the years have contributed to its longevity. Other songs still full of life were Girls on Film and joyous closer, Rio. Deep-cut Last Chance on the Stairway proved a surprise, as did opener Nightboat.
The band pleasingly ventured into newer territory too via Invisible and Give it all Up. “It’s a song about when one thing ends, another begins,” Le Bon said of the latter, in a set that was ultimately a celebration of their past, but a knowing nod to their future too, with work on their next album well underway. Here’s to the next 40 years.
Duran Duran tour the UK until May 9