Before Wednesday’s sold out Blondie show I had heard that some in the Red Butte concert series’ back office thought it might be one of the best this year.
It very well may have been especially if your markers include an audience heavy on the low back chairs that make the lawn seating more comfortable, who made no use of them once Debbie Harry and company took the stage.
From opening number “One Way or Another,” Harry, striking in two-tone blue and white, was animated and energetic from the moment she grabbed the mic. Her exuberance caught up to her a bit in “Rave” from the band’s 2014 release Ghosts of Download, when her vocals were heavily backed up by keyboardist Matt Katz-Bohen.
She recovered quickly with “Hanging on the Telephone” and owned up to it before playing “Mile High” by asking, “There’s some altitude here right? I can’t breathe.”
If the altitude got to her early she recovered just as quickly. Her breathy falsetto and sultry rapping were flawless the rest of the night.
After again revving up the crowd with “Call Me,” the band played three more from recent releases, “What I heard,” “Euphoria” and “A Rose by Any Name,” all very electronic dance focused and probably the night’s best example of how the band’s abilities coupled and Harry’s voice were able to keep the crowd on their feet even during lesser known songs.
If Harry has a hard time remembering ” a lot of stuff” from the past as she admitted earlier in the evening it wasn’t apparent during her rap in the middle of “Rapture,” the first number one song in the united states to feature rapping. Harry strutted around the stage not missing a beat. It was also the song that featured the best solo of the night from guitarist, and Blondie co-founder, Chris Stein. Guitarist Tommy Kessler wailed on most of the other solos. The band’s other original member, drummer Clem Burke, and bassist Leigh Foxx, who joined the group when they re-formed in the mid-90s, kept the rhythm pounding.
“Rapture” bled into “Kiss” a tribute to the late, great Prince and then a cheeky version of the Beastie Boys “(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party.)
It’s easy to forget while dancing to hits like “The Tide Is High” and “Heart of Glass” that Blondie are not just a group with a handful of pop hits (kudos to the teenagers who were up front in the dancing pit singing every word all night) but a seminal band that blended the dynamic influences of New York’s late 70s dance, rap and punk scene into new-wave gold.
Harry reminded the crowd that “Heart of Glass” is the back beat sample in Missy Elliott’s 2002 hit “Work It,” before an encore of a Misfits cover, “Hollywood Babylon,” and “Dreaming.”
Dreaming is free. Blondie is not, but the Red Butte crowd appeared to think they were worth every penny.
Opener Desi Valentine’s “Eyes on Me” the first number of the night did just that, commanding the crowds’ attention quickly and getting people on their feet early. In case you needed reminding, Valentine showed the British are still doing 60s soul as well as anyone. A point driven home by his cover of Amy Winehouse’s “Valerie.”