(seen on 26th April 2022)
First and most important, Blondie is the name of the group. Every fan knows this, but right from the start it has always been their lead singer Debbie Harry – blonde hair and red lipstick image, with unstoppable voice and attitude who springs to mind.
At the age of 76, most people would consider a night in front of the television pretty welcome, a good sing around the pub piano a real tonic. Instead, Harry and the band are up for a world tour, rocking out for 2 hours about 3 times a week in front of up to 20,000 people.
And what a crowd. The monkey was expecting mostly 1970s and 80s relics like itself – guys who worshipped Ms H as their ideal woman, girls who wanted to be her as their ideal image of what being a woman is. Turns out, us relics were in the minority. From a gaggle of excited women of Debbie Harry’s peer group to an 8-year-old girl a row ahead of the monkey, standing on her seat to see and mesmerized, the pull of Blondie appears to cross generations.
One for the record companies to ponder that the teens and twentysomethings were the majority. Not born, their parents possibly not born, when Blondie were formed, resisting what is current in the charts for the originals of proto-punk, rock and the New York underground music of that decade.
As Ms Harry says at the start of the show, we exist to tour the hits. And this is the ultimate collection. Backed by a video wall alternating animation with light show and the trademark monochrome stripes, over nearly two hours the band gave us the works.
Prior to this, support act Johnny Marr engaged the audience with a selection including “How Soon Is Now” (the theme from the original US witch series “Charmed”).
Introducing the headline attraction, a cartoon strip opened Blondie’s show with “X Offender”, before the first extended musical riffing of “Hanging on the Telephone” demonstrated the amazing abilities of drummer Clem Burke, Tommy and Andy on guitars and Matt on keyboards.
If “Sunday Girl” found Debbie Harry’s voice a little lower on the notes, it just added to the underlying melancholy. “Picture This” kept up the energy, with “Mother” (a tribute to a long-gone nightclub, with images to match) providing a bridge into a lengthy and well-animated “The Tide Is High”.
“What I Heard” gave the audience a chance to bond, while “Atomic” shrunk the vast arena down to Studio 54 New York c.1977. So close that “(I’m Always Touched by Your) Presence, Dear” felt almost literal with the intimacy created.
“Shayla” revved into a hard punching “Union City Blue” with the performers relishing the strong bass line. “Long Time” gave way to “Rapture” and Harry served up effortlessly the melting lyric form. “Maria” showed before two all-time classics, “Dreaming” and “Heart of Glass” – the latter complete with shattering crystal animations and a little “I Feel Love” mixed in.
A break for the encore quartet of “No Exit” – Andy shredding Bach’s “Toccata in D-Minor” and Grieg’s “Hall of the Mountain King” as they went.
Back to flying crystal animations for “Fragments” before a finale of “Call Me” and “One Way or Another” to send us on our way.
Unlikely to be seen live again in the UK for a long while, if ever, this slick and perfectly designed evening is a reminder of how the very best live music is timeless to fans and creators alike.