Blondie – London

Blondie, Brixton Academy, London, November 2017

On the final night of their 2017 European tour at Brixton Academy in London, Blonide come on stage just before 9pm, moments after a bloke is overheard in the crowd saying he had “waited 38 years for this.” Debbie Harry takes to the centre, wearing a white cape, like the superhero she is to many. She stands with her back to the crowd, so they can clearly see the advice written on there, with lettering in the style of a boxer’s nickname on a robe, saying “Stop fucking the planet.”

And then she turns rounds, the band get into One Way or Another, and the Academy starts to rock.

The mix of the classic yet still fresh electric sounds continue to merge with striking visuals, not least when the band later break for an encore, and multiple screens on the black drop play a new Blondie video, Doom or Destiny, that is politically topical while still quintessentially the Blondie that first came into the public domain five decades ago.

The theme is present throughout the evening as a number of Blondie’s all-time great songs are punctuated by occasional new tunes from their Pollinator album. Hanging on the Telephone comes straight on the back of One Way or Another before the first new song. And the set is a few songs in before Debbie Harry eventually disrobes the cape, occasionally talking to crowd and reminding us it is the bees that need help.

But to plenty in the packed Friday night crowd she is the bees knees and that feeling is fuelled as other classics come thick and fast. The wonderful intro of Call Me is perfect as back stage footage from their old punk days play on the screen behind, while Debbie Harry, now in her seventies, has Brixton in the right hand she is clicking her fingers with.

She is soon rapping in Rapture and then breaking into the Beastie Boys, urging us on – “it’s Friday night you fuckers” – while fighting for the right to party. The trusted Chris Stein, white haired and in dark sunglasses, meanwhile occasionally releases his black guitar to take photos; his Rock’n’Roll Retrograde exhibition in London in 2014/15 displayed a great set of iconic images he captured years before many more of us were liberated with camera phones and Instagram, developments he wrote in his exhibition notes, he really liked as “Photography is of the masses.”

And Blondie’s music is for the masses too. By the the time the band play Atomic, Brixton Academy is jumping in the glow of neon red lights while Debbie Harry, in a black tie and white shirt, dances centre stage. Heart of Glass, which segues perfectly into Donna Summer’s I Feel Love, then ends a great set.

After the Doom or Destiny video the band return with Debbie Harry now in gold, and three more songs: Fade Away and Radiate from Parallel Lines, Union City Blues and finishing the night with Dreaming. A cracking set from a band who give sights and sounds to last through the years.

MG

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