Monday 16 October 2017


John Meagher

John Meagher



Since reforming more than a decade ago, Blondie have been regular visitors to these shores and, truth be told, have sometimes given a good impression of a band going through the motions. Nobody could accuse them of that tonight.

Debbie Harry turns 68 next week, but she commands the stage in the manner of someone a third of her age. She has also dispensed with the aging garb of a few years back and sports a short, short skirt, tight top and high heels in a matching shade of lurid orange. The look is offset by asymmetrically shaped peroxide hair – which may or may not be a wig. She also adopts that classic pose from her late '70s heyday – hands on the hips, staring defiantly into the audience.

Her band – with former partner Chris Stein at the centre of it all – sound utterly energised, with guitars and synths colliding thrillingly and a rhythm section that is both lean and muscular. Perhaps their revitalisation has come with the knowledge that they have excellent new material to play with, and don't have to rely entirely on greatest hits.

A handful of songs from forthcoming album Ghosts of Download are aired, and appear to offer a smart update of the classic new wave sound the band patented more than 30 years ago. Of the newbies, 'A Rose By Any Name' sounds especially fine – and it is applauded with the sort of enthusiasm one might reserve for the band's older material. And, happily, there is no shortage of such songs.

'Atomic' is brilliantly captured with the guitars cranking out that glorious riff and Harry's vocals drowned out by the crowd's fervent singing. Similar euphoria greets faithful versions of 'The Tide Is High' – a song originally released in the 1960s, but essentially 'owned' by Blondie thanks to their definitive cod-reggae version – and comparatively recent hit, 'Maria'.

Elsewhere, Harry struggles to hit the high notes on 'Heart of Glass' and the band, for once, feel a little flat. But it's an entirely different story for 'Call Me', which is delivered with the sort of thrilling urgency that one might expect from a brand new band riding the crest of a hype wave. Towards the end of a 90-minute set, they cover Frankie Goes to Hollywood's 'Relax', although their version is surprisingly muted.

Things pick up spectacularly for the finale, however, thanks to a quite sublime rendition of one of their most underappreciated songs, 'Dreaming'. Once more, every single word is sung back and Harry, with her hands clamped on hips, drops the aloof rock-star stare and beams broadly. It's been quite a night – and she knows it.

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