Sunday, August 7, 2011

Blondie: May 23, 1999

Blondie is one of my favorite groups, so when most of the original members got back together in the late '90s for a new album and tour, I was excited to see them. The resulting album, No Exit, was a mixed affair veering from the high of the appealing hit "Maria" to the low of Debbie Harry rapping with Coolio. Despite the mostly disappointing new material, I still looked forward to seeing the band live. Since Blondie originally broke up in the early '80s, it was a treat I didn't think I'd get to experience.

Having seen Blondie twice now since the reunion, I still don't feel like I've seen Blondie. Original members Debbie Harry, Chris Stein, Clem Burke, and Jimmy Destri were supplemented by additional musicians (Destri has since left).The set was slick and hit-filled. Maybe that's what some fans are looking for, but not me. It felt more like Debbie Harry and a backing band, and there were few surprises.

The highlight of the No Exit show, for me, was "Shayla," an Eat to the Beat track that was the only older non-hit that crept into the set list. It's a slow song, but Clem Burke punctuated it with an amazing drum solo, twirled his sticks with the skill of a baton major, shot one a good twelve feet in the air, and caught it with such ease that it looked like someone had just placed it gently in his hand. Many have said it before, but I'll say it again: Clem Burke is Blondie's secret weapon.

Power, humor, and chemistry in a band cannot be underestimated. Adding new, more musically adept members to a band might make the sound "bigger" or more professional, but it also changes the entire nature of the venture. I still wish I could have seen the "real" Blondie, warts and all.