October 1, 2011
Dallas, TX USA
Review by Love Tsunami
Photos by Bill Ellison
The anticipation of seeing one of my all-time favorite bands had me jumping out of my skin for weeks. I made the drive up Greenville Avenue to the historic Granada Theater on Saturday night and even the neon seemed brighter, as if it were picking up the vibe of pre-show electricity jumping up and down the street. It was so crowded that the best parking was 5 blocks away. What else could I expect when there's a living legend in town and die hard life long fans are feeling the fight of younger days running through their blood? The patio was packed and a line for Will Call still trailed out the door 15 minutes before the band was scheduled to go on. Once I was inside the theater, finding a place to stand was a challenge. The Serenity team stopped me halfway down on floor level. No room down front. Somehow I managed to squeeze right in the middle where I still had a decent vantage point just moments before the house lights went down.
When Debbie Harry made her entrance, she was dressed like a New York bride on a stage draped with a few hundred yards of white tulle. Her large black glittering shades and floor-length tutu tied with a wide silver ribbon were a far cry from the bold striped mini dresses she used to wear. No longer blonde, her silver white hair glowed under the light. At 65, she's still a rock goddess and Chris Stein is so damn cool that his aura took up the entirety of stage left. No need to make apologies for her age because when she belted out "Atomic", it was 1980 all over again.
Tommy Kessler, recruited in 2010 for the tour, stepped right in and made himself at home. He tore up the stage early with an epic solo and later played a song with Spanish flare that set me on fire. He was full of bravado and unapologetic showmanship but never upstaged the energetic exchange of Debbie Harry and Chris Stein. He meshed well with seasoned bass for hire, Leigh Foxx. Drummer Clem Burke was instrumental in the early days of Blondie and a quintessential drummer hired for tours by some of the greatest rockers in history. No one else could have tapped skins for them the way he did. His nuance and timing were perfection. He knew when to kick it up and when to fade back and simply keep time. His performance was so seamless and dynamic that Matt Katz-Bohen on keyboards could have been part of the original lineup, but he is a much younger musician who holds his own in the midst of stars.
Granada's lighting crew spun magic around that white tulle, changing colors to create the mood for every song from hot to cool, lifting and dropping the energy in the house while Debbie changed her costume right before our eyes removing one article at a time, going from white to black. It would have been easy to rest on the laurels of 80s hits and phone it in, but Blondie nailed song after song without doing either of those things. They gave us everything they had and more. New song "China Shoes" from their recent album "Panic of Girls" stood out, drawing a parallel in the lyrics between a concern for expendable goods and relationships in the modern era. It was beautiful and haunting. I was moved to tears when Debbie sang 1999's UK #1 single "Maria" and dedicated it to a fan down front who presented her with a bouquet.
As a surprise for the Dallas audience, they rehearsed a ZZ Top cover that afternoon and rolled out a rendition of "Sharp Dressed Man" that had everyone singing along. Debbie even pulled a Granada stage hand out to sing with her. Talk about a job perk! Saving the best for last, they played "Heart of Glass" as the final encore. A nine-year-old girl sitting alone in the dark watching Saturday Night Live in '79 waiting for her mother to come home sang along with the thousand other old punks and latchkey kids as our lives collectively harmonized for a moment and we chanted back the "OOO-OOO-OHOHs" at her request.
They hit every high note without a hitch and Debbie, ever the gracious chanteuse, accepted many gifts and flowers from fans down front. She showed genuine gratitude for the city of Dallas, commenting on its warmth and generosity, and they stayed for a long while after the show to sign autographs and share memories with their fans. Big thanks to Granada. In the post-arena show era, Granada consistently brings acts to Dallas that leave everybody feeling good about the way they spent the night. Blondie was an exceptionally great show and I'm damn glad I got to go.