Tuesday, July 15, 2014


Blondie always conjures up odd memories for me. When "Heart of Glass" was issued as a single back in 1979, my sister secured a copy of the 45, which was played endlessly. The B-side was a tune called "11:59". This is only significant because my main recollection of that song is hearing it drifting in from our living room while deathly ill in bed with a fever and hallucinating. The cast of The Beverly Hillbillies were all dancing wildly to the tune in the corner of my room. Granny played that cool keyboard solo and Ellie May sang lead...

Who needs TV when your brain is frying inside of your skull?

Celebrating their 40th anniversary in 2014, Blondie graced the Claridge Stage of Ottawa Bluesfest on Thursday night and played a spirited set, featuring music that spanned several eras with some surprise covers tossed in to keep things interesting. Deborah Harry, Chris Stein and Clem Burke are the only members left from their initial rise to prominence in the late 70's. Burke gets special mention here for his amazing energy behind the kit, with sticks twirling, launched high into the air and his devastating attack on the skins. He propelled the band in style, giving an added spark to the overall performance. Chris Stein virtually hid behind perpetual shades, taking his place close to the drum riser and holding down rhythm guitar. I would not have been shocked if he had unfurled a newspaper and taken the opportunity to get some light reading in as his bandmates carried on with the business of playing the gig.

At the centre of it all was Ms. Harry, still in great voice and capable of delivering the goods.

Opening with "One Way or Another", they quickly engaged the crowd who immediately responded euphorically. Wanting to avoid coming across as simply a nostalgia act, the focus turned to new material from their most recent disc, Ghosts of Download. Released in May, it didn't seem as if many in the audience were familiar with these tunes. Kudos to the group for sticking to the plan, though it seemed that those assembled started to disengage, despite a fantastic version of "Call Me" that was strategically placed amongst the contemporary fare. Speaking of which, I really enjoyed "Rave" and "Mile High" and will further investigate the new album.

Long before No Doubt and similar aggregations synthesized reggae/pop/hiphop/dance with rock, Blondie was exploring all of these avenues. "Rapture" is a classic example of this and when they played it, people started to become animated once again. They managed a minor coup by running it into the Beastie Boys' "Fight For Your Right (to Party)". This and "Heart of Glass" won back the faithful and they were called back for an encore. "Dreaming" was well chosen and had everyone dancing and pumping their collective fists in the air.

Great show by an iconic band.

No "11:59", though.

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