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Academy, Liverpool

Guardian Unlimited – Saturday 15th November 2003

Dave Simpson

One of the problems with seeing “classic” bands some 20 years on is the physical decline, particularly in the case of a band like Blondie. With Debbie Harry’s iconic good looks preserved forever in record sleeves and photos, it must have been difficult for her to come back in 1998, relying on carefully placed lighting and corsetry. Now, though, with the benefits of surgery, personal training and a fetching shorter hairstyle, the resemblance to the Harry of 1980 is almost eerie. Mischievously, the perma-grinning singer calls the gig “a genetic experiment”.

Perhaps one day the band’s trickery will extend to cloning, but for the moment the departed original members (lately including keyboardist Jimmy Destri) have been replaced by automatons. It helps that machine-gun drummer Clem Burke hasn’t aged a day, and that Harry’s voice has regained its gossamer softness, possibly due to the old technology of honey and lemon. Guitarist Chris Stein, now what people call a “dignified” shade of grey, is the band’s own living portrait in the attic.
Whatever it takes to put them together, Blondie are on their best form since their heyday. The likes of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs (and Atomic Kitten’s cover of The Tide Is High) have reawakened interest and it must delight Harry that at 58 she can still elicit a chart hit as sizeable and excellent as the thumping Good Boys, and inspire an audience including scores of envious young girls. All blonde, obviously.

The set divides between old and new, with later songs such as Maria greeted with the same rapture as Heart of Glass, now given a rhythmic pacemaker. Finally, Harry dusts off their punk period, delivering Rip Her to Shreds with surprising venom. The message – sent out to her generations of imitators – is that the original is still the best.


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