Concert Review: Blondie | October 5, 2011 | Club Nokia | Los Angeles, CA

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Review by Shawn Perry
Photos by Marc Harting

Club Nokia, in the heart of L.A. Live, the West Coast’s answer to Times Square, is the perfect venue for a band like Blondie. It’s got a glossy, high-class atmosphere (especially the VIP lounge), the floor is big and wide for fans to act out their appreciation, and the stage is more than adequate for any major, top-shelf artist. And as one of the more credible acts in the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, Blondie is most definitely top shelf.

After a low-key, yet enticing 45-minute set from the three-piece L.A. outfit Nico Vega, Blondie hit the stage just after nine with “Union City Blue” from 1979’s Eat To The Beat album. With a bouquet of roses at the foot of the front center floor wedge, Debbie Harry came out in a wild, bright-red wedding tutu, a blue top, a red scarf and sparkling dark shades — as cool as a cupcake fresh from the ice box, her assured demeanor and presence never in question or doubt.

Somehow, the fact that Harry and her band have been around for over 30 years is irrelevant. The crowd was mostly young, modern-day hipsters of one kind or another, a few old souls sprinkled in for good times’ sake. And while Blondie held little back from the days of yore, they were also anxious to play a few selections from their latest album, Panic Of Girls.

After warming the SRO crowd up with a couple more classics — “Dreaming” and “Atomic,” with a heavy guitar solo from Tommy Kessler, Harry thanked everyone for the roses (apparently, it’s a tradition that fans deliver roses to the foot of the stage for her) and dedicated the next song to the recently departed Steve Jobs. The hip-shaking “D Day,” the first of six new ones played tonight, was driven by an irresistible, reeling n’ rolling tempo that kept the party in check and on track.

By the time “Call Me” was rolled out, things had become much more relaxed. Harry’s tutu and dark glasses were sidelined and keyboardist Matt Katz-Bohen, replacing longtime member Jimmy Destri (for the time being), hung a Roland around his neck and joined the lead singer out front. Meanwhile drummer Clem Burke, shielded by a glass partition, defied gravity and reasonable doubt by beating his drums with incredible finesse and dexterity.

Things mellowed out for a pair off Panic Of Girls: “China Shoes” and “Wipe Off My Sweat,” another platform for Kessler, who strummed the acoustic as masterfully as he had been hammering out leads on his Schroeder Chopper. It wasn’t hard to notice that Harry was now in charge, exuding a sort of sensual deportment that you look for in women half her age. Indeed, at 66, the singer is sounding and looking as good as she did at the dawn of the 80s. She sang “Mother,” the single from Panic Of Girls, without too much effort and blazed through “Rapture” without skipping a syllable before dovetailing into a totally uncharacteristic chorus of the Beastie Boys’ “Fight For Your Right.”

The main set ended with “One Way Another,” a zinger with an enlightening extended jam. The mariachi-flavored “The Tide Is High” began the encore before the band pulled another fast one and suddenly we’re hearing the familiar strains of ZZ Top’s “Sharp- Dressed Man.” Never in a million years would I have thought I’d see Debbie Harry singing a number by “That Little Ol’ Band from Texas”. Then again, the night was full of pleasant surprises. As they finished up with “Heart Of Glass,” Blondie was the only thing that mattered on this Tuesday night, resonating with musical marksmanship, dripping with a timeless sheen — a vintage rock show with all the trimmings.

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