Celebrating 40 years as recording artists, DURAN DURAN’s 15th studio album ‘Future Past’ was a live for the moment statement of how a something today can become a cherished memory in times to come.

It was to a large extent, a return to form and on two of the album’s best tracks ‘Beautiful Lies’ and ‘Tonight United’, Simon Le Bon, Nick Rhodes, John Taylor and Roger Taylor connected up with one of their biggest influences Giorgio Moroder to deliver what was largely expected but that was no bad thing. There was also ‘Anniversary’ where the quartet wrote a song that specifically referenced earlier material such as ‘Wild Boys’, ‘Is There Something I Should Know?’ and ‘The Reflex’.

Nick Rhodes refers to ‘Future Past’ as having the strongest material from DURAN DURAN for quite some time, while Roger Taylor affirms the spirit of the album’s title, by having “one foot in the past, one in the future”.

Still enjoying just being DURAN DURAN, ‘A Hollywood High’ is a feature-length docu-concert film that acknowledges a four decade plus career. Recorded in March 2022 on an intimate rooftop set at The Aster in Los Angeles with the iconic Capitol Records building as a backdrop, this was their first post-pandemic US show. Encapsulating the band’s fascination with the city, the film also features new interviews with the band, as well as archive footage from their previous US tours which will largely be familiar to owners of ‘Sing Blue Silver’.

As it all starts, drummer Roger Taylor remembers “sunshine was in real short supply” as he reflected on his childhood in Birmingham. “New York was punk, but LA is rock n roll” added London-born Simon Le Bon while Nick Rhodes’ reaction to that first 1981 visit to LA was “I feel like I’m in a film noir”.

This was to be the last time that DURAN DURAN were largely unrecognised with John Taylor recollecting “it was a terrific learning experience… I really did enjoy those early tours” before musing that the Capitol building (also known as “the house that Frank built”) was round like the Rotunda in Birmingham!

Buoyed by their first American jaunt, the song ‘Rio’ was written on their return to UK, inspired by the lure of fame. Los Angeles was like a totally different country, even compared to New York where DURAN DURAN were also making waves. It was in 1982 that Capitol Records made the bold decision to commission FM radio friendly remixes for the US market by David Kershenbaum of ‘Rio’, ‘Hungry Like The Wolf’, ‘Hold Back The Rain’ and ‘My Own Way’ which as Nick Rhodes puts it, “ignited America”.

Opening with the 1985 James Bond theme ‘A View To A Kill’, over the pounding drums and orchestra stabs, Le Bon adopts a bizarre mockney accent in his delivery. Continuing with newer numbers from ‘Future Past’, ‘Invisible’ sounds more rounded than its harsher studio recording while ‘All Of You’ is a rousing declaration of desire.

‘Notorious’ is enjoyable with Le Bon’s characteristically strained vocal over the funk, although also in the set, the similarly Nile Rodgers connected ‘Pressure Off’ is the slightly less convincing cousin. Meanwhile backing singer Anna Ross soulfully duets on ‘Come Undone’ with Le Bon coping well by not exerting himself too much by abstaining from attempts to hold the any of the end notes.

The serene Scandipop of ‘Give It All Up’ was one of the nice surprises on ‘Future Past’ and with the Swedish songstress Tove Lo’s vocal taken by the very capable Erin Stevenson on ‘A Hollywood High’, this uplifting number is now a regular fixture in the current live sets. However, the less said about the cover of ‘White Lines (Don’t Do It)’, the better, as it has been an irritating waste of time at DURAN DURAN concerts since 1999. The matter is all the more frustrating as the band have superior songs of their own that deserve airing; ‘Anyone Out There’ and ‘New Moon On Monday’ being just two often overlooked examples.

Despite references to nuclear war in songs like ‘Is There Something I Should Know?’ and ‘Friends Of Mine’, DURAN DURAN have never been a political band, much to the chagrin of NME and Paul Weller, but they show support to Ukraine. As traders in entertainment, they incorporate concern into their escapist music and as darkness falls, ‘Ordinary World’ comes as a song of peace with the Capitol Building lit up in the colours of the Ukrainian flag as a poignant symbol.

A Moroder production with another worldwide clarion call but also classic DURAN DURAN in its throbbing electronic disco backbone, ‘Tonight United’ finds a place in ‘A Hollywood High’. Ending with 12 song set with ‘Hungry Like The Wolf’, bubbly synths and rocked up guitar from Dom Brown provide futurism and power in equal measures while Le Bon really hams it up for the yanks with even more mockney.

With high production values and superb sound, although ‘A Hollywood High’ does not boast a full concert setlist and omits a number of some of DURAN DURAN’s best known songs like ‘Planet Earth’, ‘Girls On Film’, ‘Save A Prayer’, ‘Rio’, ‘Wild Boys’ and ‘The Reflex’, it does provide a fitting souvenir of the ‘Future Past’ period and will delight Duranies. The smaller stage restricts Le Bon’s more outlandish moves but his polarising vocal style remains as honest an ever, while all the band are quite visibly enjoying the occasion from seeing the whites of the eyes of the audience.

On their recent UK arena tour, DURAN DURAN played their best shows since the 2004 reunion of the classic-line up. With four fifths of that band still together and playing album evergreens such as ‘Night Boat’, Friends Of Mine, ‘Last Chance On The Stairway’ and ‘Lonely In Your Nightmare’ alongside new material and the big hits, they showed were still great.

Now if they could finally kick ‘White Lies (Don’t Do It)’ into touch, the remainder of their current tour could be even greater.

‘A Hollywood High’ is released as a Bluray + DVD by Cherry Red Records, combined bundle with limited edition Flexi Disc companion piece available from https://www.cherryred.co.uk/product/duran-duran-a-hollywood-high-dvd-blu-ray-flexi-disc-bundle/





Text and Photos by Chi Ming Lai
21 August 2023