Duran Duran, The Lyceum, London
Daggers, Purple Turtle, London

More than 25 years after they burst on to the scene, Duran Duran show that they haven't lost the art of making great pop songs

'The name's Bon. Simon Le Bon." I don't know about you, but I was never convinced by that moment in the "View to a Kill" video. The singer was simply too smooth-skinned and shrill, and hadn't yet acquired the gravel or gravitas necessary to play Bond.

Now, however, it's a different matter: Simon Le Bon is looking quite revoltingly healthy and suave, and so are the rest of Duran Duran, who are arguably making an even better fist of the boyband-manband transition than Take That.

Speaking of which, I've said it before and I'll say it again: no matter how much derision Duran Duran may have drawn from "proper music" bores in their Eighties pomp, and however much they've been written out of post-punk discourse by serious journalists since, in the modern age we'd surely sacrifice at least one metaphorical limb for teen pop pin-ups as interesting as Le Bon, Rhodes and the assorted Taylors: arcane lyrics, angular, avant garde-inflected disco-rock tunes, art-house sci-fi videos, they were essentially a chart-friendly Japan (and, in the troublingly beautiful Nick Rhodes, even had their own pocket Sylvian).

Duran, unlike their main rivals Spandau Ballet and Wham!, were always unafraid to push things to the limits: witness their hiatus year, in which Le Bon, Rhodes and Roger Taylor recorded an album under the name Arcadia which the singer has since called "the most pretentious record ever made", while John and Andy Taylor combined with Robert Palmer and the drummer from Chic as the rock-funk monstrosity The Power Station to make what is widely considered to be the most cocainey-sounding music in pop history.

It was after that lunatic interlude that they hooked up with Nile Rodgers, the superstar producer of the decade, for "Notorious", exhibiting a canny willingness to surrender a certain amount of autonomy in the interests of making great pop. And, two decades later, they've done it again: Red Carpet Massacre, the Brummies' best album since the Eighties, is basically Duran going up to Timbaland (and his extended team, including Nate "Danja" Hills and Justin Timberlake) and saying, "OK, make us cool again."

The first half of this one-off show at their old stomping ground, the Lyceum Theatre "It's great to be back!" beams John Taylor in an accent that's Sutton Coldfield via southern California consists of the cutting-edge R&B and electro-soul of Red Carpet Massacre, and nothing but. The show is being filmed for VH1, and consequently the entire crowd is blinded by the glare of floodlight beams, which are presumably intended to show what a great time we're having, but actually have the opposite effect: we're too self-conscious and, like roadkill rabbits, we can't move. (It doesn't help that the crowd is packed with too-cool-to-party showbiz types: just glancing around the immediate vicinity, I spot Bob Geldof, Chanelle from Big Brother and, er, Tamara Beckwith.)

"Timbaland!" shouts Le Bon, causing a brief flurry of excitement, but the studio superstar is present only in the form of a life-size projection on a hi-tech screen. An even more puzzling announcement is made by John Taylor, who says, "Like all good punk songs, this is dedicated to the dream of transcendence"... before an entirely instrumental track.

Now that Andy Taylor has quit again, the stand-in role once fulfilled by porn legend Warren Cuccurullo is now taken by a random Bryan Adams lookalike, and a girl singer and additional keyboardist (making three, since JT also has a synth with a giant glittering "D" on the front) pad out the line-up, but any unfamiliarity vanishes as soon Le Bon rhymes "massacre" with "hassle ya": yes, no doubt about it, Simon still finds songwriting about as easy as a nuclear war.

After an interval, something extraordinary happens. This time it's the stage, not the stalls, that is bathed in an unearthly white glow, as the four remaining members of Duran, dressed now in black satin suits and ties, line up sans backing band behind four synths on closely aligned stands (well, three synths and one synth drum rack), exactly like a Kraftwerk concert.

In case we miss the point, they launch into a cover of Kraftwerk's "Showroom Dummies", with Le Bon declaiming deadpan through a vocoder, which slowly transforms into a medley involving The Normal's J G Ballardesque "Warm Leatherette" and their own "All She Wants Is" and "Skin Trade". Hearing Simon Le Bon intone "A tear of petrol/Is in your eye/The handbrake/Penetrates your thigh/Quick, let's make love/Before you die" is truly bizarre.

There's some serious wish-fulfilment going on here: you get the impression that Rhodes, in particular, is living out a lifelong fantasy of being in Kraftwerk. It's also a statement. Following on from the Rhodes/Taylor-curated Only After Dark compilation, which compiled the type of New Wave sounds the band used to play as DJs in their Rum Runner days, this little gig-within-a-gig is saying to the world: "This stuff, not the bloody Bay City Rollers, is our heritage."

It's absolutely superb, an utterly unexpected and more than generous reward for sitting through the new material, and it's the sort of thing one hopes they attempt more often when they get around to touring Red Carpet Massacre.

At that point, the curtain drops, the band are back, and the full-on hits encore begins: "Rio"", "Planet Earth", "The Reflex", "Ordinary World", "Notorious" and "View to a Kill" itself, by which time even grumpy Geldof taps his feet, and even uptight Chanelle is out of her seat.

The last time I reviewed Duran, I wrote about them alongside an up-and-coming Duran-inspired band called The Bravery, who looked to be in with a decent shout of emulating the Eighties legends' success. The way in which they've fallen by the wayside illustrates that, like Le Bon's aforementioned nuclear war, it ain't easy at all.

Time for someone else to have a shot. Enter, from the recently revived city of Manchester, another young quintet with a self-evident love of the Eighties and a synthesiser or two up their sleeves.

Well, I say "sleeves", but in reality, singer Theo, who performs bare-chested in the shredded remains of a ripped-open T-shirt, has none. Daggers treat small club shows as if they were stadiums, and I love that. (The last time I saw a band play a pub gig with that kind of spirit, it was The Darkness, and their self-belief became a self-fulfilling prophecy.)

Before the show, Theo confided to me that after being on the receiving end of a savage beating in Manchester, he spent his recovery in hospital reading Simon Reynolds' Rip It Up and Start Again, a book that charts the way in which the post-punk generation viewed the scorched-earth that punk had left behind as a tabula rasa to redesign pop from scratch.

It shows. Daggers have digested the theory that there is no necessary divide between art and populism, and they're already putting it into practice. Their debut single "Money", which has been widely compared to The Human League, but which personally reminds me of Heaven 17 circa Penthouse and Pavement, is the sort of song that, with every listen, sounds like a potential modern classic.

If you want to gauge Daggers' potential, you aren't just looking at the Manchester scene, or the indie scene, or anything so irrelevant. You're looking at Planet Earth.

Further browsing From Duran Duran to dirty dirty on en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/Warren/Cuccurullo

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Hewer is to leave The Apprentice after 10 years

TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice

Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says

film George RR Martin owns a cinema in Santa Fe

Arts and Entertainment
Clued up: John Lynch and Gillian Anderson in ‘The Fall’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Shenaz Treasurywala
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump


Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
    The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

    The 12 ways of Christmas

    We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
    Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

    The male exhibits strange behaviour

    A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
    Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

    Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

    Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

    The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
    Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

    Marian Keyes

    The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

    Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

    Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
    Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

    Rodgers fights for his reputation

    Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
    Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

    Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

    'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
    Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick