See also: An Interview With Debbie Freaking Harry!
October 5, 2011
Better than … expected. Far better than we could have imagined, actually.
When new wave erupted on the back end of punk, there was Blondie, with great hooks, crisp beats and a sultry peroxide beauty who became one of the most famous and innovative female stars of the era. Fronted by Deborah Harry, a former Playboy Bunny, and anchored by guitarist and then-boyfriend Chris Stein, Blondie became the most commercially successful of the survivors of the New York punk scene.
The band reformed in 1997 after a fifteen-year hiatus, and last night, the latest incarnation of the groups — featuring original members Harry, Stein, drummer Clem Burke and new guitarist Tommy Kessler and keyboardist Matt Katz-Bohen — played Club Nokia with rock trio Nico Vega.
Last month, Blondie released Panic of Girls, the band's ninth studio album and the first in eight years, self-released in America via Amazon due to complications with record labels.
On Panic of Girls, Blondie's exploration of the more melodic side of punk continues, Harry's voice is as sharply sculpted as ever, and elements of pop, disco, and reggae are infused throughout.
Last night, the new material blended well with the old. Harry came on stage wearing diamond-rimmed sunglasses, a cropped double-breasted coat, and a densely layered tulle skirt, which she later ripped off to reveal a skin-tight black tank dress. At 66, she's still quite beautiful; there's something about her that's completely timeless, and she looked like a porcelain doll.
After dedicating the show to Steve Jobs, who passed away yesterday, Blondie opened with “Union City Blue,” “Dreaming,” and “Atomic,” three hits from their fourth album Eat to the Beat, released in 1979. By the time the band hit “Atomic,” they'd warmed up a bit, and Harry stepped back into the shadows to allow her band mates some time in the spotlight. Newcomer Tommy Kessler — who joined the group in April 2010, replacing guitarist Paul Carbonara — proved to be a great showman as well as a skilled guitar player. He showed off his lightning-fast finger-picking skills and ended the song by playing his guitar backwards behind his head.
1980 classic “Call Me” followed. Harry, who'd been been pretty stoic for the first few songs of the set, finally let loose and danced, and masked keyboardist Katz-Bohen stepped out of the background for a keytar solo. A block of new material came next: “Love Doesn't Frighten Me,”
“Things I Heard,” “What I Heard,” “China Shoes,” and “Wipe Off My Sweat.”
Harry charmed the crowd with an extended version of genre-bending “Rapture,” from 1980's Autoamerican. We got her famous rap, delivered against funky Parliament-esque keys, and a roar of approval from the audience as she spat, “Do the punk rock!” As the song neared its end, it bled into a brief, raucous rendition of the Beastie Boys' “You Gotta Fight For Your Right (To Party!),” which faded into “One Way Or Another” from the band's third album Parallel Lines. “I know where you work and I know where you live and I'm gonna getcha,” Harry said during the tail end of the song. “And I know your Facebook password too.”
They ended on “Heart of Glass,” one of the greatest love-scorned songs of all time. As the band left the stage, Harry thanked the audience, and blew kisses.
Random notebook dump: Where was “Rip Her to Shreds”? What about “Hanging On the Telephone”?
Critical bias: Debbie Harry is one of my favorite female singers.
The crowd: Obsessive life-long Blondie fans, new followers, and a bunch of bored guys who were dragged their by their girlfriends.
Overheard in the crowd: “Holy shit, is Blondie covering the Beastie Boys?”
Set list below.
Union City Blue
Love Doesn't Frighten Me
Things I HeardWhat I Heard
Wipe Off My Sweat
You Gotta Fight For Your Right (To Party)
One Way or Another
The Tide is High
Sharp Dressed Man
Heart of Glass