If nothing else, Deborah Harry’s Friday night concert at Hollywood’s Music Box — her first solo show in 15 years — proves that, at 62, she can still pull off the rock diva pose with aplomb. She looks great and sounds better, beckoning the sold-out aud with open arms while singing “I can see clearly/now that you’re near me.” But that’s different from putting on a show that can interest more than just fans willing to put up with anything to spend 90 minutes in her presence.
For anyone else, Harry is done no favors by either her new material or band. The new songs from “Necessary Evil” (Five Seven Music/Tenth Street Entertainment), written and produced by the Williamsburg duo Super Buddha, attempt to refresh the classic Blondie sound, but the job is botched, the songs stiff and unpersuasive — Botox with a backbeat. Harry has never been afraid to try new rhythms and sounds (she was one of the first rockers to attempt a rap song); she is a performer who rises and falls with her collaborators.
“Whiteout” and the embarrassing “You’re Too Hot” thrash along charmlessly, while “Two Times Blue” and “School for Scandal” lack the requisite hooks to overcome the weak grooves. And the young four-piece band she’s assembled is competent but heavy-handed. The instruments are heavily compressed and buttressed with cheesy, canned backing vocals. They slammed away at the music as if the songs were something to be vanquished.
Slower songs such as “What Is Love” were a slight improvement, if only because the band lightened up the attack, but a midset pair of Blondie songs tossed off with acoustic guitar and percussion — “The Tide Is High” and a misconceived, campfire version of “Heart of Glass” stripped of any sexuality or rhythm — leaves you wondering if Harry has a clear grasp of her strengths.