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Sunday, August 6, 2017

Daily Boom Exclusive: 'The Rage and Rapture Tour' Review: Blondie


Monday morning. It's like a curse if you work as an entertainment reporter. Deadlines never feel more pressing and the close of another weekend inevitably opens up to a day full of catching up on who is fighting, dating, divorcing and dropping new music while trying to curtail a potential scandal. From my perspective, life for celebs would be a whole lot easier if they took a page from the life playbook of an average Joe and kept their clothes on, paid their bills and remembered that the Cloud makes everything accessible. Monday morning and here I sit buried beneath work and unsure of where to start. While I figure it out I decide to go back in time and listen to a few old tracks that will prepare me for a show that I'll be reviewing tomorrow night. The Rage and Rapture Tour which is co-headlined by Garbage and Blondie.

A few lines in and I'm standing in my parents very first apartment where my love of music all began. It's a few days before Halloween and my parents were throwing a party for all of their friends. The night before was my kiddie party in our basement. I wore a Wonder Woman costume that was so NOT a Wonder Woman costume because it had a skirt and no lasso. I remember a punch bowl and bobbing for apples and little else. But my parents party, well that was the real deal. There was neat lighting, a table full of sweets that I was never allowed to have and all of our doorways had beads hanging from them that you were supposed to walk through.

I was 7 years old and beginning to develop my own taste and thanks to my dad's music obsession disco was a big part of it. When I was about five dad started to train as a DJ at a local radio station and his little record collection on a tiny cart with wheels suddenly took over a whole wall of our living room. Even in that small apartment dads stereo was front and center. His love of music turned into an educated love of stereo equipment. He spent two hours without fail every night cranking out tunes, everything from Pink Floyd to Blue Oyster Cult to ABBA and all the while he was fiddling with levers on all sorts of boxes that were supposed to somehow enhance the sound. I didn't know if the “woofers and tweeters” did any good but the day that he played Chic'sLe Freak” my life immediately changed.


The last song of every evening was picked out by me and by the time 1978 rolled around I was choosing things like “Ring My Bell”, “The Hustle” and “Disco Inferno”. I also waited anxiously for Saturday afternoons to roll around because, thanks to cable television and WPIX in NYC I had discovered The Soap Factory, a weekly dance show. A few weeks before my parents party we were all watching as Blondie performed a song called “Heart of Glass”. I was mesmerized by her blonde hair, bright lip stick and her turquoise pants suit. My dad always watched The Soap Factory with me but this time even my mom stopped to check out Debbie Harry. I mean, how could you not?

My mom spent the next week or so in party planning mode. She would fill the bathroom sink with water and bubbles and I'd spend an hour in there playing with all of my Fisher Price Little People. I loved having them swim and ride in their boats every night after dinner and I can remember my mom on the phone in the next room on the phone night-after-night making plans for this bash. My dad was always the laid back one and seemed to have little involvement. She hung sparklie decorations, made food and spiked the punch all while dad was engrossed in his albums. Neither of us realized what he
was actually up to and as it turned out, dads involvement was actually monumental because he was preparing to put all of those newfound DJ skills to good use.

My mom had a surprise or two up her sleeve as well. The creativity was always flowing in that little apartment and so for the week leading up to the party when dad and his music was taking over the living room, mom was in her studio. It was a small room with her easel and mountain of art supplies on one side and her Singer sewing machine on the other. Beneath a window was a big cushion with built in pillows to nap on. That was my spot to read or draw when mom was busy drawing advertisements for our local newspaper. Dad had thought that mom was working on extra assignments for art school when in fact she had been busy at her sewing machine making a turquoise satin pants suit just like Debbie Harry's. She had decided to put her blonde wavy hair and 100 pound frame to good use and transform into his new favorite singer, gold cuff bracelet and all, for their Halloween party. An hour or so into the party dad pulled out a surprise record that he was really excited about. It was Blondie's “Heart of Glass”, an extended dance mix that wasn't available in the states yet. When he ordered music for the station he would also add a few import records from the UK for his own collection and Blondie had just become available. It was a song that no one else knew until he played it that night but everyone loved it. Everyone was dancing, even the guys that had been downing their Michelob beer on the floor in front of the stereo all night. One spin of that record led to about 20 more before the night was over.


I might have been the only one not in costume and that was because there was no way that I was going to put that fake Wonder Woman thing on again. My aunt (moms younger sister) decided in the middle of what looked like a Soul Train line dance that I needed some makeup at least. She grabbed me and her purse and hauled us both into the bathroom. There aunt Elaine pulled out her black eyeliner and within a few minutes had transformed me into “Cleopatra”. I wasn't sure exactly who that was but my eyes looked like I belonged on The Soap Factory so that kinda sorta made me Debbie Harry for the night too, right?

Everyone left after midnight. I remember my dad explaining the concept of time to me and how the digital clock turning to !2:01 am meant that it was Sunday morning even though it still felt like Saturday night. Truth be told it was far later than that and somehow I was still awake. My mom tried to make me go to bed but when I begged for one more spin of “Heart of Glass” my dad put the record on before she could even bother to protest. My room needed to be cleaned up anyway because my bed was where everyone left their belongings upon arrival. They and their coats might have been gone but my toys were all over the place and my precious Little People were scattered all over the room.

I swore that I would help clean up if they let me stay up but instead I climbed into the green recliner that had been temporarily moved into my room during the party. The French doors to my room were open and I curled up there, watching as my parents dragged garbage bags around to help clean up the wreckage. My mom told me that I had 5 minutes until she was putting me to bed and so I closed my eyes as Debbie Harry sang.




My love affair with Blondie and their music has spanned nearly four decades and yet I've never had a chance to see them live, until now. Debbie Harry is still completely in a league of her own. While she many not have been slithering across the stage on her back like Shirley Manson of Garbage did in the set before, she still had her own unique vibe going on. Harry first took the stage at The Mann Center in good old Philadelphia on Aug. 2nd looking fairly inconspicuous in khaki's and a white button down shirt. But once the lights hit her you saw the bee glasses and a black cape with the words, “Stop Fucking The Planet” scrawled across the back of it. Perhaps the best part is how normal she made it all look.

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Part of the reason that I've hesitated in seeing Blondie up until now was the fear that they wouldn't live up to the memories that I have of their earliest hits. Their opening to “One Way Or Another” quickly put those fears of mine at ease. They cruised through classics like “Atomic” totally on point, with the captive crowd singing along. It's pretty hard for me to believe that Harry is 72 because she can still rock out with the best of them. Oh and her voice? Well, that's just fine too. Blondie swept through several songs off of their new Pollinator album and it was cool to hear the audience singing along with songs like, “Long Time” because it proved that they were still into whatever new stuff the band dreams up.

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For me, the highlight came in the form of “Rapture”. The crowd was singing along and dancing to the little ditty about eating cars and bars. This song is legendary because it features the very first rap verse to make it to the top of Billboard's Hot 100 and Harry nailed that verse as the audience cheered her on.


 “Call Me”, “The Tide Is High” and of course, “Heart Of Glass” were all served up with flair before Blondie closed out a fantastic set with “Dreaming”. Leave it to the iconic Harry to send us on our way with the reminder that “dreaming is free”. I could attest to that on the spot because this band on this particular night lived up to forty years worth of hope and expectation.





Setlist:

One Way or Another
Hanging on the Telephone
Fun
Call Me
My Monster
Rapture
Rainy Day Women #12 & 35
Fragments
Too Much
Long Time
Atomic
Heart of Glass
Encore:
The Tide Is High

Dreaming




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