By Jess Flaherty
3rd May 2022
A few shrill beats of a vintage telephone ringing sent the M&S Bank Arena into a delighted, manic frenzy last night as the iconic Blondie launched into a medley of epic songs.
The legendary rock band, who shot to fame in the 70s, kicked off their much-anticipated Against The Odds tour with a rendition of their debut single X Offender, with lead singer Debbie Harry still as effortlessly cool as ever in oversized black sunglasses and an almost-neon pink blazer. The tour’s title is fitting, given the months of delays caused by the coronavirus pandemic, but the eager anticipation from the crowd was more than satisfied by the band’s relentless energy and perfect setlist.
Blondie’s famed guitarist and writer Chris Stein was missing from the band’s line-up due to ill-health, but the clever mash-up of seasoned punks and younger – though no less talented – performers ensured the show went on without even a hint of a glitch. After opening with their debut single, they launched into Hanging on the Telephone, the crowd united in rapturous joy. From there, the hits didn’t stop coming.
Sunday Girl, one of my personal favourites, was next followed by Picture This and Mother. Blondie still knows how to keep the crowd in the palm of their hands, with powerhouse drummer Clem Burke’s solos offering brilliant bursts of instantly recognisable rhythm, and Harry’s regular quips to the crowd fully immersing us in their world.
In Atomic, the 76-year-old Harry belted out the title of the song like a battle cry, racing up and down the stage with the same energy and charisma that catapulted her to fame decades ago. At one point, she told the crowd: “You all are making me dance a lot more than I usually do.”
Later, she referenced the significance of the location and knowingly noted: “A lot of music’s come out of this town.” The crowd was besotted.
Later, their 1999 comeback hit Maria got the crowd on its feet once again before they launched into the beautiful, and no less catchy, Heart of Glass, complete with glass heart graphics shattering on a screen behind them. The entire show was a perfectly pitched medley of the mega hits that secured their standing as one of the all-time greats, with newer, but no less interesting and intoxicating tracks.
My Monster, written by and dedicated to The Smiths’ Johnny Marr – who is supporting Blondie on tour – served as proof the band isn’t relying on nostalgia and familiarity to entertain the masses. Debbie Harry, and the rest of the band, can still deliver their famed sense of organised chaos, with their brilliantly infectious songs still as deliriously upbeat as ever.
The encore finished with a cover of The Beatles’ Please Please Me, a fitting nod to the city before closing with Call Me and the determined One Way or Another. The entire show was proof of the band’s staying power and well deserved place in the history books.