It was a fitting match. Duran Duran, the 1980s band that championed champagne, leggy women and fast cars with their mix of rock and disco, played the Formula 1 Singapore Grand Prix 2017, twice over the weekend.
Now in their mid and late 50s, band members Simon Le Bon (vocals), John Taylor (bassist), Roger Taylor (drummer) and Nick Rhodes (keyboardist), reminded us that youth is just an attitude when it took to the stage as part of the entertainment near the Marina Bay Circuit, Singapore.
The crowd of racing fans, who mostly immersed themselves in Singapore GP culture with a vintage car display and a photo exhibition by day, had a choice to watch either Ariana Grande or Duran Duran play in the open air on Sept 16. No prizes for guessing which show the greying Generation X-ers attended.
On the first night at the Village Stage, Duran Duran gave a fiery, take-no-prisoners performance.
It was obvious from the opening number Notorious, that the band – that has been at it for almost four decades – refuses to go gently into the night. The band was an unstoppable funk-rock juggernaut, delivering hit-after-hit with enviable vigour.
Le Bon was a commanding front man, working the stage and singing with gusto, interacting with the crowd, getting call-and-response participation on Wild Boys and the cover version of Grandmaster Melle Mel’s rap song White Lines.
It was a largely crowd-pleasing set with hits like A View To A Kill, Hungry Like The Wolf and Come Undone.
In between the hits, Le Bon spoke to the audience. “Some people said that there wouldn’t be much of a crowd when we hit the stage. F*** that. Look at you! You look great and you smell better!” he said, savouring the 5,000 strong crowd.
Fans lapped up the hits, one by one as the band maintained a momentum that didn’t let up, even on lesser known hits like I Don’t Want Your Love, (Reach Up For The) Sunrise and the more recent Pressure Off (from the 2015 release Paper Gods).
The night also showed a softer, more soulful side to Duran Duran when it played the soaring 1990s comeback hit, Ordinary World, which Le Bon dedicated to “absent friends”.
On stage, Le Bon, 58, moved like someone half his age, interacting mostly with the equally energetic John Taylor, 57, who at times was beaming ear-to-ear, looking as if he was enjoying every minute.
Most of the band members wore T-shirts and casual jackets except the 55-year-old Rhodes, the clothes horse of the band, who looked the most dapper in a striped suit and still looked dignified after all these erm …decades.
He too looked contented and smiled every now and then as the band galloped through a show that celebrated its legacy.
Roger, 57, kept the driving beat going while the guest musicians were no pushovers either.
Guitarist Dom Brown (who has been touring with the band since replacing original guitarist Andy Taylor in 2007), saxophone player Simon Cox and two female back-up singers (Erin Stevenson and Anna Ross) stepped up to the challenge.
To top it off, there was a large video screen that displayed images from the band’s past. Confetti and beach-balls heightened the exuberant, party mood, bringing the band’s first evening at the Singapore GP to a crescendo with its signature tune Rio, a song that ex-Beatle Paul McCartney predicted would be a hit.
“If you want to see us again, we will be at the Padang stage tomorrow,” said Le Bon, after the one-hour performance.
The Padang stage performance was another winner. The more elaborate 90-minute set saw the band add both newer songs and classics to the set list. Girls On Film and Save A Prayer proved to be hits with the crowd as with Le Bon’s nasi goreng reference before launching into Hungry Like The Wolf.
Duran Duran shows at Singapore GP weren’t just exercises in nostalgia, with the band just turning up and merely playing acceptable versions of its songs.
There were dynamic performances that showed a well weathered band that could groove as well as rock.
With the band still able to get thousands of people to singalong to its songs, the dinner-show and holiday camp circuits will just have to wait.