Earlier this month, Blondie embarked on a string of UK dates in support of their latest album, ‘Pollinator’. Boasting a cast of songwriters that includes Johnny Marr and Charli XCX, the album received favourable reviews upon its release in May, debuting and peaking at number four in the UK charts. Beginning in Nottingham and ending with two nights in London, the UK tour is the bands first since 2014 and we were there to catch their atomic finale at Brixton Academy.
Drummer Clem Burke kicked the night off with the thunderous intro to ‘One Way Or Another’, in which Debbie Harry appeared onstage in a white suit, honeybee mask and a full-length cape emblazoned in large block letters with the command “STOP FUCKING THE PLANET”. Harry’s cape and mask tied in with the albums bee theme and the bands intention to raise awareness about the dwindling bee population. Next was ‘Hanging on the Telephone’, with the crowd hanging on to Harry’s every word and this was still very much the case when the band played their first ‘Pollinator’ track of the night; the infectiously catchy ‘Fun’.
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Renowned for his powerhouse drumming, Burke showcased exactly that during his epic solo that lead into ‘Call Me’; a fan favourite that’s been given a new lease of life live by keyboardist Matt Katz-Bohen and his key tar. The Charli XCX penned ‘Gravity’ followed and it’s clear to see that the band are enjoying performing their new material just as much as the crowd are enjoying hearing it. Things took an intense turn as the lights turned red for ‘Rapture’ and the spotlight shone brightly on both guitarist Chris Stein’s intricate riffs and Harry’s vocals as she flawlessly delivered the rap, before diving into a cover of The Beastie Boys‘Fight for Your Right’.
The pace of the evening was slowed down for the stunning ‘Fragments’; a cover of Adam Johnson (aka an Unkindness) that Stein stumbled upon whilst watching Johnson’s YouTube channel, ‘Your Movie Sucks’. Originally a folk ballad, Blondie delivered their prog-tinged and brooding rendition that saw one of Harry’s strongest vocal performances of the night, competing with ‘Picture This’ from ‘Parallel Lines’ – two tracks that were released almost 40 years apart but are equally as breathtaking live.
Dedicated by Harry to the ladies in the room, ‘Maria’ raised the roof of the picturesque venue and fellow hit ‘Atomic’ sparked a sing-a-long like none other, as well as a beaming smile from Stein as he looked out at the manic crowd. ‘Atomic’ also delivered an electrifying solo from guitarist Tommy Kessler, as Harry took a step back and watched the sheer talent of her band mates. It’s such appreciation that reminds us how genuine a person she is, despite her iconic status – fame has never gone to Harry’s head and she was endlessly thanking the crowd for their support throughout the night. Unlike most bands that found fame from the same era, these new wave pioneers are far from running on fumes and churning out the same material – Harry energetically danced around the stage to songs both old and new and based on the Katz-Bohen (and his wife Laurel) penned ‘Too Much’ alone, the crowd would have shown the same level of enthusiasm if they’d played ‘Pollinator’ in its entirety.
Emotions ran high both on and off stage with it being the bands final gig of the year and when it came to the final track, Harry had the crowd swaying to the disco infused ‘Heart of Glass’; a track that Rolling Stone deemed one of ‘the 500 greatest songs of all time’ for a reason. Though the sadness of the bands absence was short and sweet this time as the very second they stepped off stage, one of Burke’s song-launching drum rolls echoed around the room as the video for their new single ‘Doom or Destiny’ appeared on the three screens at the back of the stage.
Upon returning to the stage, Burke introduced one of the bands most haunting tracks, ‘Fade Away and Radiate’, with its pounding drumbeat, before launching into ‘Union City Blue’. The last track of the night was ‘Dreaming’ and saw Harry heartwarmingly tell the crowd to keep dreaming and that they were her dream. The band took a well deserved bow before departing the stage, leaving fans dreaming for the next tour – we certainly hope that it’s not a ‘Long Time’ to wait.