Debbie Harry

Blondie review – the platinum-clad hits just keep on coming

Debbie Harry and her new-lineup new wavers belatedly kick off a UK tour with this effervescent arena show, a blitz of bubblegum pop, thrashing guitars and pop art imagery

Against the Odds proves an apt title for Blondie’s first UK tour in five years. Rearranged from November due to Covid, it finally begins with an excitedly accelerated airing of the quintessential New York new wavers’ clattering 1976 debut single X Offender – yet without guitarist and co-founder Chris Stein, who announced a week before that he would miss the shows due to ill health. Andee Blacksugar is parachuted in as replacement, with ex-Sex Pistol Glen Matlock added on bass, making an even split in the six-piece line-up between young whippersnappers and august punks of yore.

Neither personnel changes nor the passage of time can wash the colour out of Blondie’s bubblegum blitz fare, its mix of Manhattan trash and flash complimented by bursts of bright pop art imagery. The 76-year-old Debbie Harry – still cool as beans in big black shades, with her peroxide hair in a permanent state of wind-machine whipped voluminous distress – atonally bellows the opening lines of Hanging on the Telephone with the jerky mania of vintage Iggy Pop.

‘I barely took notice of my lucky escapes’ … Harry.

It’s tricky to reconcile the one-time arthouse hipster stars of weirdo public access television show TV Party – scenes from which are broadcast on the arena’s screens – with a band who today see fit to spritz up The Tide Is High’s reggae lite with a punk-pop thrash. Mohawked lead guitarist Tommy Kessler’s OTT showpiece playing – during Atomic he tosses plectrums into the crowd mid screaming solo, and performs licks behind his head – are reason to wonder if Stein isn’t really sick but rather away playing with the Offspring in some strange cosmic mix-up. But chaos and contradictions have always reigned in Blondie, and the hits just keep coming, from Union City Blue to rousing 1999 comeback single Maria and a shattering Heart of Glass.

Against the odds …
Against the odds … Blondie. Photograph: Stuart Westwood/Shutterstock
Debbie Harry in 1979.

Starting with the spooky organ of Bach’s Toccata in D Minor as Harry returns for the encore in a luminous yellow cape, the frightful gothic hip-hop of No Exit is more heebie-jeebies than CBGBs. We could probably live without Clem Burke’s second drum solo of the night. But Blondie’s store of ice-cold classics has far from run out and the show stomps to culmination with Call Me and One Way or Another – an effervescent final reminder of Blondie’s titanium-clad talent for keeping on keeping on, whatever it takes.

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