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Blondie - Barrowlands Glasgow November 19th 1998

  by John Clarkson

published: 13 / 1 / 2002

Blondie - Barrowlands Glasgow November 19th 1998


It is sixteen years since Blondie-for many people the best act of the late seventies and early eighties-broke up. Now they are back.... A new album, 'No Exit', will be released on Beyond Records in

It is sixteen years since Blondie-for many people the best act of the late seventies and early eighties-broke up. Now they are back.... A new album, 'No Exit', will be released on Beyond Records in February, and a world tour has already started. The band, at the time of writing, are currently completing the European leg of it, including fourteen dates in Britain. They will go on to spend New Year in Australia , before the tour culminates with some as yet unannounced dates in their native America next year. Four of the band's original line-up remain-vocalist Debbie (or Deborah, as she now likes to be called) Harry, guitarist Chris Stein, keyboardist Jimmy Destri and drummer Clem Burke. Bassist Frank Infante, who joined the band in time for their second album 'Plastic Letters', and additional guitarist Nigel Harrison, who was with them from 'Parallel Lines', their biggest twenty million selling third album, have since fallen out with the rest of the group and have not been invited.Their places have been taken on the tour by session men, Leigh Foxx on bass, and Paul Carbonari on guitar. Band reformations are a notoriously dodgy business ,and often damage rather than heighten reputations. While some bands come back and are able to take off from where they left off, the pressure proves too great for many others. Often hyped up beyond any sensible proportion by the media, and forced back together in charged emotional and financial circumstances, they are, not surprisingly really, unable to reach their previous heights and glories either in the studio or onstage. Blondie, however , are as good as they ever were.... Their only Scottish date is at the Barrowlands in Glasgow. The crowd is about as mixed as any I have seen at a rock concert. There are predictably a lot of older fans there, people in their thirties, forties and fifties, one or two older still perhaps. Some have brought along their grown-up kids making it a family occasion. Some others are yuppie types who, clad in Barbour jackets, and with mobile phones switched off in handbags and strapped to belts, look faintly uncomfortable and out-of place in the spit and sawdust atmosphere of the Barrowlands. Punk and spiked hair are back too, for the night anyway, like it is the late nineteen seventies all over again. There are several Deborah lookalikes. Some Mohicans bob and weave through the crowd, and there is a lot of brightly-dyed hair. What is most surprising, however, are the large hoards of young people present , gangs of both sexes, couples too, in their teens and early twenties (Barrowlands have an over 18s door policy. Not that this has stopped some of them !), who would have been little more than babies or toddlers if they were even born when Blondie were at the height of their fame. This is a concert that really encompasses all ranges and all ages. The show itself proves to be equally diverse. While the majority of the show is rightly nostalgic and retrospective, the band, of course, have a new album to promote too, and take the time to throw in a few of the songs off this. Of the old songs they play, some stick to a tried and tested formula ; others sound completely different than ever before. The band begin with 'Dreaming' and 'Hanging on the Telephone'. Both these songs are carbon copies, note-perfect versions of the originals. 'Union City Blue' and 'Picture This', one of the first singles I ever bought, also will keep any purists in the audience happy and remain very close to their source. The band are, however, too good a group to keep playing it safe, and to keep simply regurgitating exactly-as-was renditions of their 'Greatest Hits'.By their third number, 'Atomic', they are beginning to take risks. This latter song turns into an extended romp, with a break for a bass solo, and a brief foray into Ennio Morricone territory with 'Fistful of Dollars' guitars and keyboards. It is tongue-in-cheek enough to work beautifully. 'Call Me', their biggest hit in America, in contrast, is meanwhile stripped to the bone without the Giorgio Morodor embellishments, and has a rawer and punchier sound. On other tracks like 'Sunday Girl' and the seminal 'Rapture', the first ever white rap record, Harry adds and improvises vocals seemingly at will. Much of the material off 'No Exit' also proves to be very good. One song at the beginning of the set leaves no lasting impression on me, but'Maria', their new single, a neatily chugging rock 'n' roll number, is both powerful and instantly catchy. Another tune, the wacky and jazzy 'Boom Boom in the Zoom Zoom Room', over which Harry babbles her vocals Laurie-Anderson style, is also promising. A four-track sample tape of the new album, given away to everyone as they enter the concert hall, again proves to be very strong when listened to after the concert. There is 'Maria' again ; 'Night Wind Sent', a gentle, floaty ballad with breezy, tingly keyboards from Destri ; the title track from the album which combines Hammer Horror organ noises with a raunchy sounding duet from Harry and guest vocalist, Coolio ; and lastly 'Dig Up the Congo', a jokey number on which Harry elongates her vocals over a heavy, thundering guitar backing. The band come across on stage as very much a group unit, each of its six members working hard to complement each other and to fit into the overall sound. To many people the striking-looking and very blonde Debbie Harry, as the singer and sole girl member in an otherwise all dark-haired and male group, is Blondie. She, however, works hard at the Barrowlands show to ensure that the rest of the band get their share of any credit, introducing most of its members twice, and , when there is a break in the vocals, wandering several times across to the side of the stage so that the crowd can focus more fully on the band's exertions. I never saw Blondie first time round, and wonder if she is doing this to try to pour oil over troubled waters. The 'Debbie is Blondie' school of thought caused acrimony in the band originally, with some members of the act feeling that their songwriting credits and other contributions to the group were being ignored by both the media and their fans, and in part this eventually lead to the band's demise. My girlfriend, who is with me, and saw them twice, however, remembers Harry as always recognising the rest of the group on stage in this way. The enthusiastic Burke, who is seen by some critics as the band's cheerleader, too joins in the general sense of bonhomie, at one point leaping onto his drum stool and getting the whole audience to clap and applaud even more wildly than ever for the rest of the band. At the start of the show, all the boys in the band come on wearing identical leather suits, except for Stein who is wearing grey jacket and trousers, and Harry is dressed in a tight blue suit. As they start to move the set towards an end, all the men's jackets have long since been discarded, and they are stripped down to T-shirts which, under the lights of the stage and with all their activity, are becoming increasingly moist and damp. Harry's suit, which she keeps on, is crumpled with sweat and her hair is wired and woolly. They bring the show towards a conclusion with a volley of perfectly-executed songs from their punk roots. There is the spiky 'Rip to Her Shreds' ; 'In the Flesh' which Harry and Stein debatewhether it was the first or the second song that Blondie ever wrote and conclude that it was the second, and also the bubblegum sound of 'X Offender'. They finish with what seems an all too short 'I'm Not Living in the Real World', and then with a brief farewell are gone. The show started fifteen minutes late. There are encores, but after the first few bars of the reggae cover 'The Tide is the High',we have to leave to get the last train back to Edinburgh. It is a slightly disappointing end to what has otherwise been a brilliant evening.

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Blondie - Barrowlands Glasgow November 19th 1998

Blondie - Barrowlands Glasgow November 19th 1998

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