Concert Review: Blondie at Rough Trade: May 19, 2014
One way, or another, I was going to see Blondie live at least once in my life. Last night they played a 45-minute set to packed and excited crowd at Rough Trade NYC. It was a “free” show, with the only catch being that you had to purchase Blondie’s new double-CD (or double-LP) Blondie 4(0) Ever from Rough Trade to get access to the show. One of the CDs is a brand new 12-song studio album titled Ghosts of Download; the other is Deluxe Redux: Greatest Hits, which features Blondie doing brand new studio recordings of their biggest songs. Although I wasn’t too excited about picking up this double-CD for $20 (or the LP for $50!) once I looked at it as the cost of seeing Blondie, it was an easy decision.
If you judge a show by how much the crowd loved it, the Blondie show was a 10. The fans – a mix of all ages and types, though I’d say people in the their 30s and 40s predominantly – danced and sang along and cheered loudly, even for the new material. Of course, they cheered loudly just for Blondie taking the stage. I guess that’s what it means to be a living legend, a status Blondie has reached after performing for 40 years. I spoke to a few people during and after the show who seemed to experience the show similarly to how I did – for the first three songs or so, I didn’t find myself enthralled. After the initial rush – oh my god, there’s Debbie Harry on stage – I felt a little empty. But something clicked around the time that Blondie played “Rapture” (and closed it with a partial cover of the Beastie Boys “No Sleep Till Brooklyn” – video here) followed by “Call Me”. Suddenly I was singing, I was dancing … it wasn’t exactly what I hoped Blondie would be, but it was pretty damn good. By the time the show ended – with a single-song encore (“Dreaming”) – I was disappointed that it was only 45 minutes long.
Why do I say that ” it wasn’t exactly what I hoped Blondie would be”? I may have underestimated what it means to see a 68-year old lead singer, a 64-year old guitarist (Chris Stein) and a 58-year old drummer (Clem Burke) rock. I hate to come off as ageist but … these guys are old. I hope I can rock like them when I’m that age, but that doesn’t mean it’s what I want to watch now. Debbie Harry’s dance moves were admirable, but I couldn’t help but feel like I was rooting for her, rather than rocking with her. The crowd reveled in that, everyone I spoke to praising her effusively. It mostly just made me uncomfortable.
Hanging outside Rough Trade after the show, I saw Stein leave and then Harry a little while after. Given the short set and small crowd – which was extremely favorable – I think it would have been nice had either stuck around a bit to meet and greet. Both signed a few autographs and then made quick getaways. The life of a living legend I suppose …