On Tuesday night, Amazon gave Blondie fans the opportunity to get up close and personal with the new wave pioneers at one of their Prime Live Events – the event took place in the beautifully intimate Round Chapel in Hackney and tickets were available to Prime members only. Originally due to take place in May, just a few weeks after their gig at Camden’s Roundhouse, the event was rescheduled out of respect to the victims of the tragic Manchester Arena attack that took place the night before.
Taking to the stage at the early time of 8pm, the band kicked the evening off with the blistering ‘One Way Or Another’, with Debbie Harry performing through a bee mask, removing it before diving into another of their anthems; ‘Hanging on the Telephone’. Though the band could quite easily fill their set with some of modern music’s most enduring songs that sit proudly in their back catalogue, they’ve spent the year touring their latest album ‘Pollinator’ and included five tracks from it, including its leading single ‘Fun’. Draped in a ‘Stop Fucking the Planet’ cape, Debbie youthfully span around the stage to the upbeat disco number, before surprising the crowd with ‘Picture This’ from ‘Parallel Lines’, showcasing a vocal performance that was as strong, if not stronger than when the band formed in the 1970’s.
Next came the exhilarating duo of ‘Call Me’ and the Charli XCX penned ‘Pollinator’ track ‘Gravity’, both receiving such huge reactions from the crowd that its hard to believe that there’s 37 years between their release dates. Things took an intense turn as the lights turned red for ‘Rapture’, complete with Debbie’s flawlessly delivered rap, before the band burst into an eerie cover of Bob Dylan’s ‘Rainy Day Women #12 & #35’ and the huge smile on Debbie’s face confirmed that it wasn’t just the audience that were having the time of their lives, the band were too.
For a band who have released eleven studio albums, it’s impressive that some of their new tracks brought the most emotive and special moments of the night; with their captivating take on Adam Johnson’s ‘Fragments’ and the albums hidden track ‘Tonight’ stealing the show. Half way through ‘Tonight’, Debbie stopped the band and they restarted the track from the second verse – though this is likely to mean that she wasn’t entirely happy with the original delivery, from the crowds perspective, the whole band came together to deliver something truly special (both times) and many were reduced to tears.
Debbie introduced most tracks with a story or witty comment, introducing crowd favourite ‘Maria’ as the track that brought them “out of retirement”, with guitarist Chris Stein making the sign of the cross in the background. It was great to see such a high level of onstage banter from the band – Stein for example was at his wittiest when Debbie’s costume change saw her draped in a gold latex dress and he took to the microphone to ask her where she kept her light saber, whereas drummer Clem Burke asked for some water to be passed to Debbie and received the response “does this mean that I sound crap?” When they were required to redo ‘Fun’ for the Amazon Prime recording, Debbie laughed it off and told the crowd that they could rename it “more fun”before storming through the track in an excitable manner once more.
It’s always nice to see the mutual respect that the band have for each other and this was most apparent during Clem’s powerhouse drumming and guitarist Tommy Kessler’s shredding solo during the instantly recognisable ‘Atomic’, as well as keyboardist Matt Katz-bohen’s efforts on his pop fuelled ‘Pollinator’ penned track, ‘Too Much’. The band left the stage after ‘Heart of Glass’ and returned with Clem’s legendary drum roll into ‘Dreaming’. The night came to an end with ‘The Tide Is High’, with the band taking a well deserved bow after a triumphant set that is more than worthy of the use of the word ‘iconic’.
There’s no doubt about it that everybody in the crowd thought that they were dreaming whilst watching Blondie bring their iconic sound to one of London’s most uniquely intimate venues, it was a truly special night. The band embark on a UK tour this coming November and are sure to deliver another fantastic blend of hits and tracks from their electrifying new album ‘Pollinator’.