Fronted by one of the true great icons of modern music, new wave pioneers Blondie have managed to remain relevant throughout their long and illustrious career – up to and including this year’s Pollinator, their 11th studio album which was largely co-written with the likes of Charli XCX, Johnny Marr and more. Returning to a delighted Brighton for the first time in 12 years, Debbie Harry and the gang blew the place apart as if they were still playing at CBGB. Unlike CBGB, Brighton Centre had seating neatly arranged for the audience. It was apparent instantly that it was an odd decision, and was rendered largely pointless within seconds of their arrival. Debbie Harry, still looking every inch the star in a cloak emblazoned with the ecological message ‘Stop Fucking The Planet’ and a crown of bees, prompted the sorts of cheers and screams usually reserved for teenage popsters.
Opening with the fierce one-two of ‘One Way Or Another’ and ‘Hanging On The Telephone’, her voice still carried the same seductive quality as of old. Though they invoke strong feelings of nostalgia, Blondie are still a going concern and rather than settling for a pure greatest hits set, there was plenty on offer from Pollinator. That album’s ‘Fun’ was a classic ‘does-what-it-says-on-the-tin’ track, bathing the room in rainbow colours before being rounded off by an explosive drum solo by the legendary Clem Burke, who was exceptional all night.
Though it was nigh-on impossible to tear your eyes away from Harry, Blondie are of course no one-woman band and tonight was a great example of this. As well as Burke, founder member Chris Stein (described by Harry as “the brains of Blondie”) and Tommy Kessler formed the driving force behind their distinctive sound. With Leigh Foxx (bass) and Matt Katz-Bohen (keys) completing the current line-up, this was a band still at the top of their game and sounding as fresh now as when they debuted back in 1976. So good was the interplay, that at times Harry herself slipped into the shadows at the side or rear of stage as if to see for herself what it is like to watch Blondie in full flow. ‘Rapture’ prompted one of those sidesteps, as Stein took over for a thrilling guitar solo in an extended outro that retained all of the original’s funk and then some.
One of the biggest reactions of the night came for their 1999 comeback single ‘Maria’, a sign of the enduring appeal of this band. For many in the audience, it was apparent that this was ‘their’ Blondie song and had been a gateway to the original material. By now, Harry was dressed in the famous Parallel Lines-era white shirt and black tie and the years continued to roll back with every strut across the stage. Yet of course, no matter how much love there was in the room for the new album, it was the early years that were responsible for the roof being torn off.
‘Atomic’ is one of those rarest of beasts, a stone-cold classic that would sound as fresh released tomorrow as it did in 1980. Minds were already being lost, and as they moved straight into ‘Heart of Glass’, the security finally gave up on their futile battle against the audience’s dancing in every aisle. As it morphed into Donna Summer’s ‘I Feel Love’ and back again, the night became something to make even the most teetotal of onlookers feel as high as a kite. The perfect mix of nostalgia and relevance, Blondie and their Queen Bee show no sign of letting go of their throne just yet.