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Debbie Harry slow burns through Blondie show

talent_342An interesting thing happened during the course of Blondie’s visit to Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre at Encore Park Friday night.

The more clothes that Debbie Harry shed, the more animated and vocally confident she became.

When the band first took the stage, Harry was clad in a bulky red taffeta skirt, an oddly tight top with a red tie and shades.

During the opening trio of “Union City Blue,” “Dreaming” and “Atomic,” Harry delivered her lines in an apathetic manner different than her signature cool. She often stood stoically near the drum riser when not singing – likely to cede the spotlight to hotshot young guitarist Tommy Kessler who burned though an “Atomic” solo – but moved with stilted caution.

While (original) drummer Clem Burke belied his age (56) with the frantic high-hat work and thrilling tom-tom fills that anchor nearly every Blondie song, Harry looked and sounded like she felt her 66 years, particularly on a flat rendition of “Call Me” – delivered with a smile, but a bit of detached obligation. At least the presence of a key-tar, played by Matt Katz-Bohen, projected a bit of kitschy fun.

During “Love Doesn’t Frighten Me,” a slice of glittery, throbbing pop from the band’s superlative new album, “Panic of Girls,” and the always-welcome “Maria,” Harry demonstrated she could still strike a pose with those porcelain cheekbones. But as good as the band sounded, something still felt underwhelming.

The great shift in temperature came as Kessler’s fingers danced through the cool Latin-inspired intro to “Wipe Off My Sweat” – another excellent track on “Panic” – and Harry whipped off the distracting skirt and unbuttoned her shirt, revealing a slim figure in Capri pants and tank top.

Suddenly, she moved freer, and, while she had made eye contact and waved purposefully at audience members throughout the show, she now exuded heat as she bopped across the stage during “Horizontal Twist,” a bonus song on “Panic” stocked with whizzing keyboards, a cascade of cymbals and an infectious chorus.

This was the rare concert where the new music from a veteran band was equally as enjoyable as those songs that Harry called “treasured”; she, Burke and co-founding guitarist Chris Stein seemed invigorated whenever a fresh tune arrived, but by the latter third of Blondie’s 80-minute set, Harry was firmly in icon mode.

“Rapture” was performed under dark, club-like lighting, which worked well with the song’s pulsing rhythm and Harry’s chime-like vocals. She unleashed a flawless rap while engaging in some silly-fun gyrating before segueing into a spunky rock take on a few lines of the Beastie Boys’ “(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party!)” and the criminally underrated “One Way or Another,” a song that fuses every signature element of Blondie’s sound – pop, rock, disco, New Wave — with a blast of fizz.

While the band hadn’t performed “The Tide is High” at some shows earlier in this three-week-old U.S. tour, it landed in the Atlanta set list. To some (ahem), it will always be one of those songs that should only be performed ad nauseum at karaoke nights or by Vegas casino lounge bands.

But this crowd of a few thousand – dotted with plenty of teens amid those who might actually remember Blondie’s CBGB days – was thrilled to sway to “Tide”’s Caribbean-lite groove, happy as well that “fun” Debbie had finally come out to play.

Check out our recent interview with Debbie Harry:

Follow me on Twitter: @ajclifestyle

11 comments Add your comment


September 24th, 2011
9:02 am

The show was fantastic. I don’t feel the same way as the wrtiter in this review. I was on the front row and Debbie and the band did a great job. They worked up the energy at the start of the show to a fever pitch. Debbie looked phenomenal and both her and the band sounded great. She reached out and grabbed my hand smiled and winked. Can’t wait to see them again!

Bob from account temps

September 24th, 2011
10:29 am

A WHITE woman who popularized rap, as in “rapture”. 66 years old and still going, just wow! I wish I could have been there.


September 24th, 2011
11:24 am

i had the pleasure of seeing blondie a few years ago in asheville nc and she was absolutely fantastic. i am of the age to remember her start and i was amazed at how many young kids were there (18 and on) i also was at the stage and got to hold her hand…its was a stellar night for sure.

Rock On

September 24th, 2011
11:45 am

Debbie is in new great shape, the new young band members are awesome, and the new songs add new life. Results: a rebirth of Blondie. You dont just hear the music, its not just a concert, you experience something beautiful and wonderful along with the great music.


September 24th, 2011
12:13 pm

Judging by the comments, I guess a prerequisite for a great show is if the performer touches you.


September 24th, 2011
1:26 pm

Blondie and The Romantics (surprise opening band) were fantastic last night. The new songs went over very well with the Atlanta crowd. Debbie did seem to get better as the night went on, the opener (Union City Blue) was a little stiff but still great to hear (one of my faves) Not a huge crowd, but the people there were standing up and dancing the whole time. This is the third time I’ve seen Blondie and I think it was my favorite.


September 24th, 2011
7:01 pm

I saw Blondie in the late 70’s in England. She was strung out on drugs. She still is. She’s always been propped up by the money-makers around her. It’s quite sad. Where’s the beef?


September 25th, 2011
6:50 am

This is in reply to “OldTimer” and his comments “I saw Blondie in the late 70’s in England. She was strung out on drugs. She still is.”
Can you prove these statements. It has been over 30 years ago. The woman is pushing 70. It so easy to spread rumors and lies on the internet without having to prove it. Would you be man enough to say this to her face? What have you accomplished in your life since the 70s? Fame? Fortune? If people pass by you in the street, do they take a second look or do they grab their child’s hand and flee for safety?

panagiotis pitsiougas

September 25th, 2011
6:58 am

blondie has been one of the favourite bands for us since early 80s,but i think now this ‘panic of girls’seems to be the best of all times,i live in greece and last time i saw Debbie performing live was in London in 1999,lucky you who see her live now


September 25th, 2011
9:41 am

Debbie Harry is cool. Her music still rocks.


September 25th, 2011
2:19 pm

Old Time… pffft. A crock. I’m pretty sure I would have enjoyed the show last night. Romantics opening is a nice touch. However, calling Blondie’s new album superlative makes me wonder if Melissa has heard Blondie albums from the first go-round. No comparison at all.