Words and photos by Dave Lawrence
FEW bands need less introduction than Blondie, the punk and new-wave band fronted by Debbie Harry, an icon of male adolescence whose image adorned countless bedroom walls.
Across their career the band have racked up an impressive 19 top forty singles , six of them number ones, including some of the most radio-friendly tunes you will ever hear.
And there they were last night at Scarborough’s Open Air Theatre for one of a couple of provincial shows sandwiched between appearances at the Isle of Wight, Lytham and Glastonbury festivals.
After a run of shows of the Mamma Mia musical, it fell to Blondie to kick off the theatre’s summer season of music that will see a host of top artists including Rag ‘n’ Bone Man, Sting, Pulp, Paul Heaton, The Cult, Tom Grennan and Olly Murs performing in the town helping bring a bonanza to local businesses.
There will even be a touch of Hollywood glamour when movie star Johnny Depp takes to the stage playing guitar alongside rock legends Alice Cooper and Aerosmith’s Joe Perry during The Hollywood Vampires visit in early July.
Aside from the aforementioned Debbie Harry, Blondie featured in their line-up their long-time drummer Clem Burke alongside former Sex Pistol bassist Glen Matlock, keyboardist Matt Katz-Bohen and young gun guitarists Andee Blacksugar and Tommy Kessler.
It made for a formidable mix of experience and youth with the band delivering a cracking set of iconic pop songs.
The classic tunes came at us thick and fast but for an opening triple salvo it was hard to imagine anything finer than One Way Or Another, Hanging On The Telephone and Call Me.
Plenty of other hits were also included but the band ensured they dug out some deeper material such as Detroit 442, Fade Away And Radiate and a few tracks from their last studio album, 2017’s Pollinator including Long Time and Doom Or Destiny.
While Debbie Harry of course was the focus of attention for many audience members I confess it was an absolute joy to witness the rhythm section of Burke and Matlock working in tandem, especially their powerful playing during Rapture which was further enlivened with an excellent guitar solo from Blacksugar.
Kessler too shone throughout cutting loose on several occasions with some terrific playing particularly on The Tide Is High and Atomic. Indeed, the two guitarists helped make this quite a raucous show throughout with their contributions.
Incredibly, Harry turns 78 in around a week’s time and still possesses an effortless New York cool. Her voice – one minute a sultry purr, the next a gutsy growl – is still strong enough to deliver a hugely enjoyable show.
Harry introduced Maria – their last number one hit – by telling us the song is usually dedicated to the girls in the audience but acknowledged that these are different times and that: “anyone who feels like they want to be a girl should just go ahead”.
The pounding disco beat of Heart Of Glass was a fine way to end the set during which the band even found time to mix in a little of Donna Summer’s I Feel Love and there was even a cheeky nod to Matlock’s past with a few thunderous bars of the Sex Pistols’ God Save The Queen thrown in too.
Returning for an encore the band crashed into X Offender to a backdrop of comic pop art on the video screens then segued neatly between Fun and Denis before closing the show with a singalong to Dreaming.
Scarborough’s run of summer concerts had begun in fine fashion.