August 4, 2010
@ The Fillmore
Better than: forever wondering what it would be like.
Way back in the late '70s and early '80s, Blondie singer Debbie Harry was every boy's masturbation fantasy. Whenever her pouty lips, high cheekbones, and perfect hair to match her perfect body graced a new cover of Creem
or Rolling Stone
, the premier pop rags of the day, adolescent males across the nation would revel in the Playboy-ready photo spreads, sanctioned for the suburbs by Top 40 hits like "Heart of Glass," "One Way or Another," and "Call Me." The music, of course, was incidental, negligible by 1982 when the band first broke up. But those images were seared into the collective amygdala of testosterone-crazed American teens, many of whom never got the chance to see Harry in the flesh.
Fast-forward to 2010. It's now two years since Blondie's 30-year anniversary tour for the breakthrough album Parallel Lines, and a couple months before the release of Panic of Girls, the group's first studio album since 2003's forgettable The Curse of Blondie. Having seen Harry's unfortunate solo show on Cyndi Lauper's True Colors tour a few years back -- where she didn't do a single Blondie song -- we were cautiously optimistic that she might still bring our middle-school disco dreams to life. So what if she's more GILF than MILF these days? At 65, Harry's still got undeniable ILF appeal. At least that's what we told ourselves before last night's concert.
For a singer whose stardom was largely built on her looks -- a hipster combo of arty-art street fashion and DIY attitude that was quirky, sexy, and stylish -- Harry appeared rather ridiculous last night in a layered getup consisting of a tutu skirt, oversized studded belt (a la early Madonna), and a wide-collared tuxedo jacket. She seemed kind of stuffed into this unchic outfit, which somehow came across as both tight-fitting and frumpy. Gone was the svelte New Wave pinup of yesteryear. Harry was our sweet-toothed fairy grandmother on a binge for the ice cream bar. It didn't matter, though. She had come to rock the mic.
In a curious reversal of fate, Harry sang much better than she looked. While she couldn't hit all the high notes on, for example, "Picture This," for the most part, she did manage to nail the anthemic choruses of our other favorites like "Atomic" ("Your hair is beauuuuutiful...") and "Call Me." The new tunes on the forthcoming album were fine but rather pointless, far from memorable. However, Harry's vocal stylin' on "Rapture," a pioneering hip-hop amalgam three decades ago, was spot-on, and her teasing melody on "The Tide Is High," arguably the lamest of the band's most popular tunes, was enchanting.
The band's high-energy, well-rehearsed performance supported Harry well, despite some goofy stage antics, like the (young) lead guitarist playing to the crowd on both sides of the stage with his fiery solos, the keyboardist busting out the keytar and hitting those keys behind his back (wow!), and the drummer in a CBGB T-shirt (for too-legit cred) flipping his drum sticks in the air and dropping them on the return flight more often than not. Whatever. Blondie hit a deep groove throughout the set of equal parts dreamy disco, peppy New Wave, pumped-up guitar rock, and skanky reggae. And we loved every minute of it because we love Debbie Harry, now as then, forever and ever.