Duran Duran/ Daniel Bedingfield/ The Bravery, Birmingham City Football Club, Birmingham

Return of the playboy five

Who are this year's Beatles? Ten years ago it was, er, The Beatles. In 1995, if you didn't try to sound like Lennon and McCartney, nobody wanted to know. If you dared take your inspiration instead from Le Bon, Rhodes, Taylor, Taylor and Taylor (as a handful of acts from the RoMo scene did), you were a laughing stock.

Ten years on, things couldn't be more different. As unsold Cast and Proud Mary CDs languish in the bargain bins, many of this decade's finest acts (The Killers, The Faint), with more on the rise (The Departure, VHS Or Beta), are living proof that 2005's Beatles are none other than Duran Duran themselves. The reunion of the classic five-piece, then, couldn't be better timed, and it makes perfect sense that their huge homecoming gig is opened by perhaps the most blatant Duran disciples of all.

The Bravery's "An Honest Mistake" is looking like a good shout for one of the singles of the year, and it hasn't escaped this part-time DJ's attention that it segues exquisitely into "Girls On Film" or "Planet Earth". I've really warmed to The Bravery, and their Duran-esque desire to live the high life: shameless tarts, party boys, shrugging off those inkie stories about their dodgy ska pasts and rampaging around the planet like the Even Newer York Dolls. They even have Duran's inbuilt Variety Box factor. Which one do you fancy most: the one who looks like a male Cher, or the one who looks like a more handsome Morrissey? It's difficult to look suave at 6pm British summertime, especially with your suntanned arms in wife-beater vests, but somehow the Bravery carry it off, despite this being one of three gigs in a one-day, private chopper-stop dash around Britain. Last summer, The Scissor Sisters managed a similar feat, and look at them now...

If The Bravery are Duran Duran juniors, what does that make Daniel Bedingfield? God only knows... (a song that plays before his entrance), but he seems to have come as a casually-suited bank clerk on dress-down Friday. Then he whips it off, revealing a pink T-shirt adorned with a voodoo glow skull, and starts leaping around like a Butlins redcoat having a nervous breakdown.

"I wanna hear you scream!" he pleads hopefully, blatantly playing to the gallery with Eighties-retro snatches of "Sweet Dreams" and "Pump Up The Jam", and later adds, with embarrassing desperation, "My new single's out on Monday - PLEASE buy it." During his finale, the admittedly brilliant "Gotta Get Through This", a helicopter rises behind the Railway Stand. That'll be The Bravery, living the high life we can only dream of.

So, when the cameraman catches Simon Le Bon silhouetted against a billboard ad reading "www.flybe.com: Low Fares On Your Doorstep", it's all wrong. Duran never travelled cattle class. VIP only.

Walking through Small Heath to the stadium, I understood why Duran Duran could only have come from what Le Bon hails as "Planet Brum": neither the affluent flash of the South, nor the noble grittiness of the North. No wonder they longed to be posing on yachts, marrying supermodels and hacking through the jungles of the Far East.

There's one Duran song I've been obsessing over lately. "Hold Back the Rain", from the Rio album, was the high point of their champagne exuberance ("the clouds all scatter, and we ride the outside lane", although I originally believed it to be "crowds", which would be even better). Sadly it goes unplayed tonight, but "Hungry Like the Wolf", "The Reflex" and "Notorious" more than compensate.

There was also an admirably preposterous side to Duran (those arty Polaroid exhibitions, that pained refrain from "The Chauffeur", "sing, blue silver!"), and it survives in the brilliant (and very bloody) Manga cartoon which accompanies "Careless Memories", featuring Roger Taylor decapitating ninjas with cymbals, and Nick Rhodes wasting Godzilla with a hairdryer.

During the songs from current album Astronaut, somewhat inevitably, the bar queue extends to one and a half hours. Duran's demographic largely consists of people who had their first snog to "Save a Prayer", and who can afford tour programmes which are actually £22 coffee table volumes.

To the glee of the thirtysomething ladies, John Taylor can still get away with leather trousers, Simon Le Bon still looks like a white-jacketed Monte Carlo playboy, and Andy Taylor still looks like a one-headed Zaphod Beeblebrox.

The coolest of all, of course, is still Nick Rhodes, the aloof keyboard mannequin, Duran's miniature Warhol, and an inspirational icon to me. When I run into him in afterwards, I can only blurt out "Hello Nick Rhodes". Not "Hello" or "Hello Nick", or "Pleased to meet you", but "Hellonickrhodes". As I leave, I notice an official tour poster, on which all five Durannies pose with guitars. I prefer to believe it is the only time Nick Rhodes has ever done something so vulgar as touch a guitar. Leave that to the bootleg Beatles.

s.price@independent.co.uk

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