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Blondie At The Greek Theatre, Wednesday April 19 2023

Debbie Harry

Blondie is the name of a band but, as far as I can remember, Bondie has always been Debbie Harry first, the punk rock goddess who looked like the sexiest woman ever in the video for ”Heart of Glass” that I watched at 15-16. That’s how I remember her, with shiny blonde hair and perfect silhouette singing and dancing like no other over a punk-disco track. Shamefully, I had never seen Blondie live till Wednesday night, and Debbie Harry still has unique stardom and incredible sex appeal, even at 77. Her voluminous platinum blonde hair is in a permanent air-blowing machine state, she still wears a leather mink skirt, and she still can hit the high notes even though you can expect a few missteps with the lyrics here and there. But who cares? It was a punk show after all.

The Linda Lindas, an upcoming all-female teenage punk band, opened the night with familiar energy and electrifying riffs… these young girls have certainly made their marks in just a few years. Not only did I see them opening for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs at the Hollywood Bowl last year, but they also managed to have a spot at Coachella this year. And here they were, opening for the quintessential New York punk new wavers! Although most of the audience had probably never heard of them, they did a great job. As before, they played with astonishing confidence, and an assurance way beyond their young age; I heard fervent supporters screaming the girls’ names all set long.

Blondie didn’t lose any time and took the stage with the boisterous and beloved “One Way or Another,” making quite an entrance! You know the lyrics: “One way, or another, I’m gonna win ya/I’m gonna get ya, get ya, get ya, get ya…” and there was no coming back after that. We knew we were there for a cool ride.

I certainly don’t know all of Blondie’s songs, but everything was in the delivery and the execution. There’s no doubt that Debbie Harry was the front woman of the night and if nobody could stop starring at her, the entire band was excellent – even though Chris Stein called it sick for this tour. Andee Blacksugar filled in for him and there was also the pleasing addition of former Sex Pistols Glen Matlock on bass. Everything was played with invigorating energy and many songs were expanded to great length with a new creative instrumental freedom, even reimagined into another sonic dimension with roaring guitar solos and instrumental breakdowns that were there to remind you that Blondie is not a thing of the past.

Of course, there was Clem Burke, who was effortlessly drumming with his usual powerhouse energy and a flashy drumstick flow, while sitting behind a cage of glass. I didn’t spend too much time watching him as Debbie was the center of attention, but his unique style is always something to admire.

When they played the hits (“Call Me,” “Rapture,” “Heart of Glass”), the good surprise is that they didn’t seem dated at all. After “Hanging on the Telephone” (The Nerves cover), they immediately did “Call Me” and Debbie joked by saying: “Are you ready for another song about phones? We love our phones, we keep them close, close!” It was a very good way to remind us how current their repertoire still is. Debbie also saluted the young generation: “Linda Lindas! Wow!” and alluded to the present-day culture a few times: “You know we have to be careful with our language, but Clem is a transplant, so he has a little of “trans,” she joked after one of Burke’s brilliant drum solos. “I used to say we do this song for girls,” she also said after singing “Long Time.” “I mean, sometimes I want to be a girl and sometimes I don’t,” she added. “I think it’s natural, you can be whatever you want to be!” Debbie definitively knows how to keep up with our times.

The set was by no means a McCartney or Springsteen marathon, just an hour and a half with barely any interruption, but Debbie was constantly acting like a concentrated ball of energy. With a vibrant punk bite and fast moves, she even kicked the air with a leg a few times. Iggy Pop once described her as “Barbarella on speed” and I can understand why.

I have seen the Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, Paul Simon, and Iggy Pop play shows in their seventies, and I suppose that you are not a rock icon until you have toured in old age. However, it bothers me to use ‘old age’ and ‘Debbie Harry’ in the same sentence because there was barely any sign of aging. I can’t help it, I have a profound admiration for people who can defy age and death, for people who dare to take the stage after 70! Rock and roll is a youth game for a good reason and, let’s not lie to ourselves, it is 100 times more difficult for a woman. But Debbie pulled it with bravado and sex appeal. As for the band as a whole, touring at this point could become a risk that many groups don’t want to take: why would they risk tarnishing a 50-year-old legacy? But it was a risk taken with success!

By the end of the show, a surprise guest got on stage: Dani Miller of Surfbort ecstatically duetted with Debbie during “Heart of Glass” for the joy of generations of punks in the audience. Dani even jumped in the crowd as she always does, adding a wild card to an already satisfying spectacle.

I certainly regret never having witnessed Blondie at the top of their glory but watching them last night was neither a relic of the past nor a nostalgia act. Blondie sounded like a band very well alive and kicking in the present.

One Way or Another
Hanging on the Telephone (The Nerves cover)
Call Me
Fade Away and Radiate
The Tide Is High (The Paragons cover)
Fragments (an Unkindness cover)
Long Time
Heart of Glass


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