As a band with near-100 percent name recognition — but which very few Outside Lands attendees have likely ever seen live — Duran Duran is in a unusual position.
Sacrificing a two-hour performance and "your own production" is difficult for Simon Le Bon, the band's singer-songwriter, but "the positive side of festivals is that you get to play to people who wouldn't normally come and see Duran Duran."
Their 80-minute set on the Lands End stage Friday night stacks them against Grimes and Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats on other stages, but it also presents a thorny problem for lots of OSL wristband-holders: See a contemporary artist you love dearly, or skip them for an act you might not have the opportunity to see again? Le Bon promises to do his best to woo you with a mix of classics and new material.
"We tend to work on the premise of two old to one new, so that's about right," he says. "That's what keeps the fans happy, and you've got to keep your fans happy. We're pleased that our songs aren't long — well Paper Gods' title track is quite epic, really — but it's a nice one to throw in there, reach into people's hearts and minds."
That song, a seven-minute rampage of contrapuntal synths and melodies, comes from Duran Duran's 14th studio album, released last year. Although the '90s saw the band plummet about as far out of fashion as possible, "Paper Gods" whisks that fallow period off the band's shoulders like a mote of dust and sounds like a seamless continuation of vintage Duran Duran without resorting to self-plagiarism.
Le Bon is proud that Duran Duran is one of the few bands of its era to continue putting out new records. He mentions The Cure as "the only band you can compare to us, 'cause they're still making new music as well."
With all due respect to Robert Smith and company — whose hypothetical presence in Golden Gate Park would drive thousands of people wild — Le Bon's is certainly more of a festival-friendly act, is it not?
"Absolutely," he says. "Duran Duran is — the phrase my manager hates — a band designed to make you party."
"If you had to choose between making people happy and making people down," Le Bon adds, "which would you choose?"
And when you think of Duran Duran's connections to San Francisco, one thing jumps out: A View to a Kill. The 1985 James Bond film's climactic scene involves Roger Moore hanging by a rope from a blimp piloted by Christopher Walken, who moors it on the Golden Gate Bridge after failing to smash Moore against the top of the Transamerica Pyramid. And Duran Duran performed the theme song.
"We're very lucky," Le Bon says. "It's a very exclusive club, the Bond theme club. We're members of it, and I'm sure we'll be exercising our rights to play an originally written Bond theme. We're very proud of that song. We love playing it; it's great on stage."