Blondie At Ridgefield Playhouse, CT, Friday, September 28th, 2018, Reviewed
During Blondie’s heyday, Lester Bangs wrote that if the average male fan could get Deborah Harry alone they would not have sex with her, they would beat her up. An awful and somewhat accurate assessment of the phenomenally unattainable woman. At this precise moment, the USA’s reassessment of the relationship between men and women has reached a plateau where the attempted nomination of a Supreme Court Justice has derailed as #WhyIDidntReport goes viral, Deborah Harry remains an emblem of female superiority. There was an iciness to her sexuality, a rock star cool that closed us down, we could picture this, sure, but that is all we could ever do. As these past two years makes abundantly clear, what men can’t share with women through seduction, they will steal through force. Last night, the years may have mellowed Debbie Harry a little but even standing first row there was something hidden and mysterious, still, always, about this beautiful woman who at 73 years of age has zero of the matron about her. She remains astoundingly unattainable whatever she does and whatever we do.
Ancient history but Debbie was a waitress at Max’s Kansas City and a singer with the Stilettos when she met Chris Stein, formed Blondie (is a group, though Chris wasn’t with her last night). In the eclectic world of CBGB’s, Blondie began as a sci-fi vision of 50s pop, became a 60s style doo wop European style chronicaller of life on the Lower East Side, and finally a disco pop band who took over the world. And all the way through there was something opaque about Blondie, it is like they were a satire of 1950s sexuality that nobody got at all. I saw them very early in their career and from day one I didn’t think them a great live band, Debbie was so hard that she couldn’t get close to us. even then she was dealing in self-preservation. A couple of years ago I went to a book publication party with my friend Michael Malone in the West Village and Debbie showed up. People, people who should know better, lost their minds. She had to leave.
Blondie had that huge break from 1982 till 1999 and the 1999 tour found a much better live band. The band I caught last night put a bee in the ear of the old “Blondie Is A Group” as Debbie ruled the stage and while she was friendlier, touching the hand of a fan who knew the words to her (epochal) rap on “Rapture,” she looked as cool as ever even dressed as a bee.
The Ridgefield Playhouse, a 500 seat auditorium and the not for profit arts center, had its annual Gala and Fundraiser, Sohojohhny lives half an hour from the room and is a philanthropist always. He bought a table and invited his childhood friend Tim “Pretty Boy” Cinnante and myself to the event. Cinnate was given the sobriquet by the late Muhammad Ali (yes, it was one of those nights), and the former bar owner was so personable, people flock to him. Not to me. I was suffering from a terrible cold and half dead.
The Ridgefield Playhouse was opened in December 2000, remodeled from the old Ridgefield High School’s auditorium and maintained much of its High School charm. If they would move it to Manhattan it would be my local as well. Dinner and the silent auction took place in the gym. Sohojohhny made winning bids on a Rolling Stones poster signed by Keith Richards, an electric guitar signed by Todd Rundgren, and a bat and ball signed by the great Yankee Outfielder Bernie Williams. This is a realm of money and privilege that has little to do with my own white collar life, though it is a pleasure to take a peek inside. After the show Sohojohnny and Pretty Boy made their way backstage but I was long gone by then, on my heels on a two hour Uber ride home.
After the gala we made our way to the Playhouse where we had front row center aisle seats secured. For the Live Auction Executive Director Allison Stockley and the astounding Christine O’Leary had the upper middle class reaching for their Black Amex. I was hoping somebody would buy me the autographed by the members of the Heartbreakers including Tom Petty electric guitar… sadly, it was not to be. I would bet that being a not for profit allows Ridgefield to book somebody like Petty, who could have filled a 20K Arena with ease. Debbie was charmed by the venue. The auction was followed by a half hour of Woodstock’s “The Rock Academy” where teens go to learn how to become, well, Debbie Harry. Lead by percussion teacher at the musical camp Jason Bowman, the band went on and off stage dependent upon the need of the song, and killed it a number of time. ELO’s “Turn To Stone” was a frigidaire take, and Queen’s “Somebody To Love” stopped the show, a daring vocal more Bryan Ferry than John Lennon on “Jealous Guy” was revelatory. Then there was also a girl, and I can’t for the life of me remember what she sang, but dressed in a black boiler suit and green hair, and she creamed it, the audience roared and the other members of the band hugged her. With Cars and X covers, new wave must have been on Jason’s mind and I bet they all got “A’s’ on their finals.
I’ve seen Blondie countless times and this wasn’t one of the best but it wasn’t bad at all. I missed Chris Stein’s stoical visage, though was pleased to view Clem Burke behind the drums. I guess I was wrong when I claimed Blondie wasn’t a band earlier. The best time I ever saw Blondie was in 2011 at Highline Ballroom (my review here), no reason for it to be such a great set… it just was. Second best time, Debbie solo at the Beacon Theatre, Radiohead opened, Big Audio Dynamite followed, the third the “No Exit” tour at The Theatre At MSG. Last night Debbie performed Blondie songs, a mix of old and new though I can see why she still does “Call Me” and “Heart Of Glass,” I sure don’t see (though I love em) why we keep getting “One Way Or Another” and “Hanging On The Telephone”. The good news is Blondie have never released a bad album so the newer material, especially “Fragments” isn’t a downer. The thing is, Debbie is a sex symbol without being a doormat for male fantasy, none of believe for a moment we can get close to her, we can’t, she is beyond the scope of we mere mortals, she is the poster child for how to achieve greatness without compromise.
Though really sick I stood up and boogied to “Call Me” and at the end of the song Debbie blew me a kiss. At least I think it was me she blew it to. If it wasn’t don’t tell me, I don’t want to know. Believe me, I never dreamed of anything but honoring the great woman.