REVIEW: For those of us free falling through middle age, it was inspiring to see that at 71, Debbie Harry is still rocking new music.
Blondie’s show at Horncastle Arena on Saturday night was not a tired nostalgia fest but a commanding display of ageless female power from both Blondie and Cyndi Lauper.
The New York post-punk veterans opened with the snarling threat of 1978’s One Way or Another and never took their foot off the pedal for the whole set.
Just three songs in, they launched into the lead single off their new album Pollinator, which is to be released next month.
Fun was a stomping slab of new wave disco with an anthemic, sing-along chorus. Joining Harry on vocals was Lauper, who later told us that getting to sing with Blondie was a “bucket list” event.
Harry returned the favour on the second song of Lauper’s set, She Bop. It was a blast to hear the pair of one-time New York downtown divas singing Lauper’s infamous ode to self-pleasure, even if Harry had to refer to a piece of paper for the lyrics.
Original Blondie drummer Clem Burke opened Call Me with a powerful solo, and the other foundation member, guitarist Chris Stein, punctuated their new wave classics with spiky jabs.
The set list ranged from their first ever hit, the 60s girl group sound of In The Flesh (it became a hit after it was played by accident on Australia’s Countdown, making it to No 2 on the charts), to unreleased tracks from Pollinator such as My Monster, written by The Smith’s Johnny Marr, and Gravity, written by Charli XCX.
The band’s biggest hits got muscular workouts, with Rapture sounding as spacey yet current as it ever did and Atomic ending with a shredding guitar solo from Tommy Kessler, who threw in enough rock solo cliches to show that he was self-aware and yet still committed to taking the audience along with him.
The most unexpected song of the night was Blondie’s rocking cover of the Beastie Boys’ (You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (to Party!) and their set closed with 1979’s disco-inspired Heart of Glass.
After a very long break, Cyndi Lauper took the stage with the country twang of Wanda Jackson’s Funnel of Love, the lead single off her 2016 album Detour.
She detoured, as she was prone to doing, into a long anecdote about going to Nashville to record that country album and staying in a motel room that featured a large mural of Dolly Parton with the slogan, What Would Dolly Do?
After an encounter with a cockroach in the bathroom, Lauper concluded that Dolly would get the hell out of that motel.
Lauper was in fine voice, and by mid-set she was not holding back. Lauper’s nasal New York accent always made her voice distinctive but it was amazing how much power could come from such a tiny frame.
She gave her all, from singing upside down while lying on a speaker stack, to manic dancing, Broadway belting and even a recorder solo.
She often turned her back on the audience to whip her band into shape, leading them through the rockabilly/reggae of Witness and, seemingly on the spur of the moment, transforming the opening of Girls Just Wanna Have Fun into a swampy blues number.
Her band matched her lick for lick, from steel pedal grace notes to a beautiful duet with her Blondie T-shirt wearing guitarist on Time after Time, which kicked off her encore.
Right on 11pm, she closed the show with a tender a cappella version of True Colours that had the whole arena singing along and spilling out into the night on an 80s-inspired high.