Even when you're excited to see Debbie Harry, you're never really prepared to see Debbie Harry. She falls out of the sky and lifts you off the ground.
She's a warrior of peace. Of rock and roll. Of cool.
The frontwoman for Blondie landed with such a bang Tuesday night at Artpark under a starry sky. The legendary band co-headlined with 1990s pop-punk band Garbage on this, their Rage and Rapture Tour. And that it was.
If Blondie is a timeless act, Garbage is nostalgia in its best form. Shirley Manson and band brought every bit of '90s flair and grunge that pop can channel, and reminded us how electric, raw and depressing that decade was.
Manson is not pure punk, but she is punky. There's something too polished here. That's evident in their greatest hits "Stupid Girl" and "I'm Only Happy When It Rains," two great songs when you've never heard them before. The driving "Push It" performed better on stage in the setting sun, helped by Duke Erikson's lush electric guitar and a brief nod to The Beach Boys.
Manson's a provocateur, however—not in her candy orange hair or drippy eyeliner, but in her brazen political tongue. Read any interview with her and you'll get it. Or not. Somewhere, someone said to their other, "I didn't know I was coming to a political rally." And everyone else kept dancing.
When Blondie took the stage, everything fell into place. Mama's here.
Opening with "One Way or Another," Harry and her five guys, including co-founder Chris Stein on guitar, played it as cool as it gets. Harry never had to try. She's The Cool. At 72, she's earned it.
They landed all the big hits, but wasted no time enjoying their new tunes, too.
"Fun," from their latest release "Pollinator" is fresh and evocative, with a signature disco beat and whiff of space-themed exploration.
Harry and Stein have always been a bit otherworldly. Wearing a beehive cone hat dubbed "my pollinator," and glittered sunglasses, Harry looked like an exhibit at Hallwalls.
Turns out, Harry is a beekeeper these days.
Clem Burke's drum solo to open "Call Me" was met on screen with vintage black and white video footage of his early drumming. One of many visual references to their new wave origins.
There's maybe no cooler record to come out of Blondie's heyday than the genre-crossing "Rapture," which melted funk and rock into a rap crawl. The song stands up today. This particular lineup of the band is especially firm in the band's native sound, adding reinforcement for extra verve and punch. This felt new and exciting.
So did a quick and jumpy cover of "Rainy Day Women #12 & 35," Bob Dylan's ode to the green weed. The crowd handily approved.
A dramatic cover of the Unkindness song "Fragments" was just shy of performance art, the rhetorical refrain "Do you love me now" receiving rapturous applause. The song's theatrical leanings were well-paced, in this otherwise carefree set.
Classics "Atomic" and "Heart of Glass" rounded out their main set before encores. And just like that, Harry and Co. were gone, like a short pass by the moon or beyond.
The stars never looked so good.
Blondie & Garbage
Tuesday night at Artpark