Pop: Giant friendly mice on stage and screen

Save your prayers till the decade after. Then visit Duran Duran's hometown to watch them prance around a large white blob.
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The Independent Culture
DURAN DURAN had a problem with their balls. After a deafening tectonic rumble, accompanied by luminous shafts piercing a starry black cloth, the drapery fell to reveal an oddly themed stage set, with a giant clam shell for the drummer and two enormous white balls on either flank. It turned out that these albino spheres were perfect for projecting blinky eyeballs and fun-loving amoebas on to, until one of them started deflating during a hideously messy version of "The Reflex", and after some desultory attempt to restore the ball to its plump splendour, it was dragged off the stage in sorry detumescence.

It would be invidious to make of this a metaphor for Duran Duran's performance, however, because this opening night of their Christmas arena tour was a triumph. Le Bon, dapper in suit and collar, did start off slightly nervously. At one point, after mopping his brow with his forearm, he regarded the lofted limb as if it were an alien extrusion and half-heartedly decided to run it through a New Romantic dance gesture: jerking it out to the side at three different angles, cocking his wrist at the end. It wasn't done with real feeling. He complained about a "little black fish" in his glass of water. But the old camp fluency gradually returned, until Le Bon was prancing round in rosy swirls of light, doing that turn-around-and-look- surprised-to-see-the-audience-over-your-other-shoulder thing with aplomb. Nick Rhodes, meanwhile, remains demonically good at standing still behind his synthesisers, only bending occasionally to show off his celebrated blond fringe at fetching angles.

And the music? So beautifully modern, so lovingly unmodernised. The glamorous future-funk of "Girls On Film" or "Planet Earth", the surreal poetry of "Hungry Like the Wolf" ("I smell like I sound"; discuss), the stupidly thrilling nonsense of "Wild Boys" - all pumped out with glorious abandon, with Le Bon's muscular yowl in perfect tune. The only problem was little Warren, the bald, sunglassed guitarist who seemed to have mistakenly stretched a pair of opaque black tights over his swollen torso, and insisted on covering lots of songs in childish, heavy-metal scrawls, like someone painting window frames very badly, leaving brush-strokes all over the glass.

But the kids didn't mind. That's partly, of course, because there were no kids, apart from the odd vomiting teenager. When the lighters came out for "Save a Prayer", they undulated thinly, like a critically endangered species of firefly. Most ex-Durannies clearly gave up smoking a long time ago, after dropping babies and moving to the suburbs.

Duran have had so many comebacks that to ask for another might seem greedy. They played a few new songs, which tried to be spiky, but the Metallica-noise breakbeats and scarily barked verses couldn't stop the the singalong choruses breaking through, like giant, friendly mice darting through a skirting-board made up of dodgy old samples.

They ended with "Careless Memory" and "Rio". Simon Le Bon did a crazy underwater swimming-dance, Nick Rhodes mysteriously controlled his synthesiser by manipulating thin air, and suddenly Duran Duran were back, songs once more had tunes of sublime, wilful grandeur, and Christmas had come to Birmingham.