Duran Duran still going strong at 40
Simon Le Bon, Duran Duran’s lead singer and core member from its 1980s heyday, is sitting on a couch at his home in London, watching leaves fall.
He is relaying by phone a promise, to be kept when he and the new-wave hitmakers perform in Orange County on Saturday, of a fun show featuring a set of ‘80s hits and stories behind the songs that eventually became international sensations.
At home, he already is preparing the set list for the show at Irvine Meadows Ampitheatre, and at this point it is two months away.
People, he said, want familiarity. But he can’t ignore the hunger for new songs and tries to find that balance.
With all that in mind, he and fellow British bandmates Nick Rhodes, John Taylor and Roger Taylor will fill one-third of the concert with fan favorites and two-thirds with new material.
They have plenty of songs to choose from, he says, but one in particular is an obvious choice, instantly creating energy in audiences that can reach 10,000 people: “Hungry Like the Wolf.”
Long before the song would significantly boost the group’s exposure and garner a Grammy Award for Best Short Form Music Video in 1984, Le Bon and the band members were recording their second studio album, “Rio.”
Here is how Le Bon recalled the birth of the hit: He had grabbed a taxi in Manchester Square in London for a songwriting session, and there, in the back seat, he heard a series of notes on the radio that stuck in his head.
He relayed them to keyboardist Rhodes, and the two started to create a melody.
“It was incredible. We did something different,” said Le Bon, 57. “It was like discovering a new country.”
With the sequence of single notes formalized, Le Bon began thinking of lyrics. He always liked Doors lead singer Jim Morrison and thought about tying in the late musician’s rebellious persona.
“I was thinking of that animalistic energy and a predatory relationship,” Le Bon said. “You couldn’t write that song today.”
During the ‘80s, Duran Duran became popular on the then-new music video channel MTV, and the band quickly became known for its controversial videos, which included partial nudity and strong hints of sexuality.
Their wildly popular synthesizer-driven songs were even said to be the favorite of Princess Diana.
“We were very much in tune with our time,” Le Bon said, noting that the band formed during a period in musical history that was seen as a reaction to punk music. “We offered some color and brightness in what was a pessimistic atmosphere. People wanted that. They wanted to feel good about themselves. They realized moments could never be repeated.”
Over its 40 years, Duran Duran never disbanded, and this remains a point of great pride for the band members, Le Bon said. Friendships among the bandmates, he added, caused them to return to the studio in 2013 to work on their 14th album, “Paper Gods.”
The album was released in September and debuted at No. 10 on the Billboard 200, making it the band’s highest debut in 22 years.
Several of the album tracks will be performed Saturday night, but Le Bon said he is most excited to collaborate on the show’s opening set with Chic, featuring Nile Rodgers.
Rodgers, a record producer and songwriter, is credited for his work on chart-topping hits that include Diana Ross’ “I’m Coming Out” and Sister Sledge’s “We Are Family,” as well as for remixing Duran Duran’s largest selling hit single, “The Reflex,” in 1984.
“It’s great to do something and share it with my friends,” Le Bon said. “We have had some wonderful moments together, and you know what? We all still respect and like each other.”
What: Duran Duran
When: 7 p.m. Saturday
Where: Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre, 8808 Irvine Center Drive
Cost: Tickets start at $36.50
Information: (949) 855-8095 or visit livenation.com.