The ads for Blondie’s debut album reminded listeners, “Blondie is a group.” Twenty-eight years later (has it really been that long?), a new generation of fans blithely ignored that caveat. Although she shared the stage with original band members Chris Stein and Clem Burke (Jimmy Destri, who appears on the new Sanctuary album “The Curse of Blondie,” didn’t make the tour), the aud’s focus was squarely on lead singer Deborah Harry. She was rapturously received by a soldout crowd who chose to ignore an opening-night perf that couldn’t shake off the rust of a five-year layoff and sound problems that left half the band unheard for large portions of the nearly two-hour set.
Harry does look great, and the upturned fans blowing on the foot of the stage give her a kind of windswept glamour. But let’s be honest: Harry was never what the most graceful of performers, and she was not known for her vocal prowess; time has been less kind in those arenas.
Her stiff dancing made her look like a finger puppet; where Harry was once compared to Marilyn Monroe, her hammy facial expressions now make comparisons to Joan Crawford more apt. Her voice is thinner and less reliable than ever: She’s still able to sing the falsetto portions of “Rapture,” but more typical was the flat, disconnected “Call Me.”
But if the sound onstage was a bad as that heard in the front of the house, she may not be totally to blame. (She spent a good deal of the night gesturing to her ears, so it probably was.) The guitars were muddy and thin; a bass player was rumored to be present and Leigh Foxx held one onstage, but it was not heard in the mix. Even though only his snare, hi-hat cymbal and the occasional tom-tom were audible, Burke still sounds better than most drummers.
Blondie was one of the most musically adventurous bands of the new wave, bringing reggae, disco and electronic beats to the pop charts. Despite gamely trying to make a go of it, Friday night the band was all but unlistenable.
Band members say the title of their new album was intended to be tongue-in-cheek; for one night at least, Blondie really did seemed cursed.