Friday, 15 January 2010

636 BLONDIE, Bristol Colston Hall, Tuesday 8 June 2004

Yup, that's Blondie! The retro gig shtick continues, this time with New Wave pop mainstays Blondie, the epitome of New York cool back in the 70's, back to show the young uns how it's done, perhaps! So, I sorted out tix for Rachel (who remembered her dad playing their breakthrough 1978 album "Parallel Lines" to her in the car), my brother (who had pix of Debbie Harry plastered on his bedroom wall whilst growing up) and myself (who just liked their music), and did some research, picking up a couple of recent post-reformation Blondie albums. But whoops, they both turned out to be crap!

No matter, "Budlet" picked us up in his new motor, and we set off with excitement tinged with trepidation. This could either be a triumph, a la David Bowie's magnificence last Autumn, or it could be bowling-shoe ugly...

Queued to park, then hit the venue bar, looking out for CBGB's t-shirts sported by the mainly middle aged audience. Amazingly, we saw just one! I however was outcooling them all with my "Max's Kansas City" shirt, the true birthplace of US New Wave...

Repaired to the hall and stood stage right, where support turned out to be a guy playing some old punk rock tunes! Eventually the lights dimmed at 8.30 and the boys came on to whip through an instrumental opener, before the cymbal clash and staccato keyboard pattern heralded the start of "Atomic". Then Debs appeared - late 50's now but still feisty, looking her age but caring not a whit, all in black pirate queen chic and diamante. The voice took a few numbers to warm up, but the band certainly didn't - the classic disco-Goth of "Atomic" was followed by another classic, "Dreaming", with Clem Burke's relentless tumbling drumming pattern a feature, then "Hanging On The Telephone", all rampant punk rock pop collision. Then, amazingly, my favourite Blondie number, their first single, the brilliant, sleazy "X Offender"!

Unsurprisingly, they couldn't keep up the pace - the mid-set section, drawn mainly from recent CD, the poor "The Curse Of Blondie", sagged, but still featured a punked-up "Accidents Never Happen". It also demonstrated Blondie's capacity to veer from the sublime (the understated cool of "Presence Dear", one of the best pure pop singles of all time. No, really) to the ridiculous (the rubbish weak ska of "The Tide Is High") in moments. But that was Blondie all over; a mix of the brilliant and the banal, rooted in NYC New Wave punk rock, but never afraid to chuck in pop, disco, rap or even Japanese influences ("Magic") into their mixture. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't, but hey, they always tried.

A very strong finish and excellent encores (especially the epic "Union City Blue"), with Debbie energetic and teasing, and Burke rubber-limbed and brilliant, ended the evening on a high. Overall, definitely more triumph than tragedy from Blondie!

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