The ultimate in new romantic chic, when Duran Duran burst onto the scene in 1981 with their debut single Planet Earth, they embodied a hedonistic glamour that could sell hundreds of thousands of extra Jackie magazines – just with the lure of a double page poster of the band.
Debates by Durannies (as fans were known) over who was coolest (or hottest) were common in school – the blond Le Bon-shell, the high-cheek-boned, high-elbowed bass-playing John Taylor, the ruffled Nick Rhodes or drummer Roger Taylor.
Love them or loathe them, these chaps helped create a generation of style awareness, when lads slapped on the lippy and boldly ventured onto UK high streets with moussed hair and frosted tips.
By the time Rio was released in 1982, Duran Duran’s superior pop tunes went hand in hand with Mediterranean cool as eyeliner made way for pastel blazers, linen shirts, Panama hats and espadrilles.
It all spoke to a lifestyle many wouldn’t come to enjoy until the advent of budget airlines. But until then we had Duran Duran.
And now we had them again, as they made a triumphant appearance at the Caledonian Stadium in Inverness in front of thousands of adoring fans.
Many of the crowd in Inverness had certainly enjoyed their teens in the 1980s, although there were a few younger faces there, perhaps engaged in the era through the current 1980s Stranger Things retro popularity.
Revisiting the 1980s as Duran Duran wow fans at Caledonian Stadium
However, the vast majority were middle-aged or more mature, and so there was a lot of expectation to live up to. Could a band that created iconic 1980s sound and style take the crowd back to its youth?
There was an air of anticipation as the fans waited to find out.
First up, Cat & Arlene from MFR2 had the audience nailed with a playlist that included ABC, Def Leppard, Deacon Blue, Blondie, Primal Scream and Guns ‘n’ Roses, among other acts.
Suitably warmed up, the crowd then welcomed the superb music of Jack Savoretti.
Warms sounds from Jack Savoretti to get the Inverness party going
The smooth funk and 70s disco of Too Much History was matched by the melodic (and aptly-titled) Dancing Through The Rain. “I see blue skies, people,” Jack assured the crowd as he made way for the main act.
And he was right. Simon le Bon brightened up the evening considerably as he bounced onto the stage in a pink pastel blazer (of course), with Nick Rhodes in a suitably stage-worthy red leather suit, and headed straight into a rousing Wild Boys – thus setting the tone for the night.
From the trademark 1980s discordant notes of The Reflex to the sharp, jarring edge of Girls on Film, the funk bass of Notorious to the slow-arm waving Ordinary World (dedicated to the people of Ukraine) no nostalgic stone was left unturned.
“The Reflex is a lonely child, who’s waiting by the park,” Simon belts out across the stadium, voice every bit as clear as the day the 3D wave emerged from the stage screen and shocked a generation of pop fans.
Remembering that I once sang along to these baffling lyrics, it now seems odd that I never questioned them. Did I have any clue what they meant? Nope. Did Simon? Probably not. But it didn’t matter to me – or everyone else who was singing along, evidently.
Good-natured glam on a grey night for Durannies at Caledonian Stadium
Hungry Like the Wolf had the entire stadium on its feet, at which point a glance around the crowd revealed the true magic of Duran Duran.
Everywhere you looked people were dancing; alone or in groups, friends with arms around each other’s shoulders, middle-aged men in air guitar gangs, couples holding hands – and a smile on absolutely every face.
With so many happy people in one space, it was total feel-good stuff from top to bottom – all this despite endless rain, sodden hats and torn ponchos.
Covers of White Lines and Acceptable in the 80s proved to be hits with a receptive crowd, well delivered and holding the distinctive Duran Duran sound.
Impenetrable lyrics aside, there’s a lot to be said for seasoned, skilled musicians. Duran Duran not only knows their audience well, but the gig revived their mega stadium heyday, bringing some of the glitz of the era to a wet and grey night in Inverness.
Sure, some mid-gig shandies or cheeky beers may have been enjoyed by the vast majority of the crowd but no amount of rain could dampen those good-natured spirits.
Seasoned performers deliver for fans as Duran Duran put smiles on faces
After a quick change into a lime jacket for Simon and a comment on the weather (“Wait till I find a bit of stage that isn’t wobbling – or wet”) the band launched into one of their latest tracks, Tonight United.
With some nice drops and a clean, modern disco sound, Tonight United saw some young people, who looked no older than 15 or 16, approach the edge of the crowd and pose for selfies before leaping into the throng – and onto each other’s shoulders – to show their elders what real dancing looked like.
These fresh sounds, plus the futuristic, highly-stylised set and screen backdrop, have a contemporary feel yet it’s still classic Duran Duran. Without aggression, sinister subtext or brash political statement, the band has crossed a generation by doing what it does best – solid melodies, classic pop and slick delivery.
There may well be a few sore heads the day after the gig in Inverness – and I’m still no closer to solving the riddle of The Reflex – but after a night like that, it hardly matters. These stadium gods have still got it. An absolutely awesome band and a fabulous night out.