After kick-starting the show with X Offender, followed by Nerves cover Hanging On The Telephone, we were treated with an early Blondie classic, ‘Sunday Girl’, which, following the first chorus, Harry addressed the crowd and said “It’s so good to hear your voice…
Indeed, it was.
After booking the tickets in mid-2021, we were originally signing up for a Blondie gig, supported by 90s punk band Garbage, with the hopes of no reschedules. As the UK was easing out of restrictions and life was somewhat getting back to normal, larger events were starting to resurface.
Despite this, the Against The Odds Tour was rescheduled for May 2022, but this time it was a pairing of America’s legendary rock-pop band Blondie, and Manchester’s greatest indie rock guitar hero, Johnny Marr as their supporting act. With already having a big love for both (and being a massive Smiths fanatic), this was a massive win for me, following on perfectly from my last gig seeing Morrissey at Leeds in March 2020 - just before the first national lockdown was announced.
Thankfully, we were not kept waiting. As promised on his Instagram story earlier that day, promptly at 7.30pm, Johnny’s four-piece band start drizzling out onto the stage, followed by the man himself, carrying his usual choice of music weaponry up to the spotlight - a graffiti yellow Fender Jaguar - with a shadow silhouette of his latest album Fever Dreams Pts 1-4 displayed on the big screen backdrop behind him.
For 90 minutes we were spoiled with an underrated vibrant electro clash of soulful riffs and synth grooves, performed in-between a good mix of iconic Smith’s tracks, including This Charming Man, How Soon Is Now? and There Is A Light That Never Goes Out. Blessed to have heard some of my personal favourites, as well as new, there was real magic in the air as long as Johnny’s guitar was doing all the talking.
One quick trip to the bar, and a t-shirt later, we were soon greeted by the legend that is Debbie Harry, appearing under the stage lights with her New-York-cool presence and legendary rock-chick swagger, kicking off her show in a swanky green blazer and shades.
Yes, at 76, Harry is still the definition of class, and she delivered a glamorously bubblegum entrance to the stage, along with her bandmates: Clem Burke on Drums, former Sex Pistols bassist Glen Matlock, Matt Katz-Bohen on Keys, and Tommy Kessler & Andee Blacksugar on guitar.
After a fiery entrance with X Offender, followed by Nerves cover Hanging On The Telephone, we were treated to an early Blondie classic, Sunday Girl, in which, following the first chorus, Harry addressed the crowd and said “It’s so good to hear your voice…”.
It was then the crowd really kicked into gear, welcoming a legend’s return to the stage as we moved into Picture This, a reggae-infused The Tide Is High, and eventually the masterpiece that is Atomic, wildly amped up by electric head-banging solos from Tommy Kessler and Andee Blacksugar.
I think it was then I managed to snag a memento of the occasion, after Kessler threw his guitar plectrum into the crowd, and into my hand, before grabbing another to rock us with old-school favourite (I’m Touched By Your) Presence, Dear, from 1978 album, Plastic Letters.
Without barely a moment to catch a breath or rest our feet, we already found ourselves swaying along to what is, arguably, Blondie’s most recognisable number (and the last song of the set), Heart of Glass, in which the arena became a 70s disco ball full of colour and glamour. In that crowd, during that funky mix of new wave fusion and hypnotic bass groove, anything felt possible. And why wouldn’t it? Especially after Harry’s musical pep-talk from Dreaming, as we found ourselves remembering: dreaming is free.
As Harry waved us goodbye, she ventured off into the dimming lights and down the stage steps, the crowd hungrily roaring for more. I think we all knew there was more to see yet, with Harry’s life-of-the-party vibes and contagious electric energy. Just moments later, the arena was filled with the sound of Bach’s Toccata in a hauntingly gothic D-minor, as Harry struts back onto the stage in a luminous yellow cape, ice-cold attitude and still as sweet.
As expected, for the encore, the band blasts out more foot-stomping hits, including 1980’s top US selling hit Call Me, before ending the night with Parallel Lines’ favourite One Way or Another. An absolute gift to leave the audience with, and to almost finish off their 10-date UK tour with the final stop being at Utilitia Arena in Birmingham on May 7th.
Blondie’s 2022 Against The Odds Tour was a celebration of 45 years of music, with an announcement of even more to come. Exciting times are ahead for the band, and with an iconic too-cool-for-school and glamorous frontwoman such as Debbie Harry, such music will never fade away, and will always continue to radiate.
Armatopia / Panic / Night and Day / Spirit, Power and Soul / This Charming Man / Getting Away With It Walk Into The Sea / Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want / How Soon Is Now? / Easy Money / There Is A Light That Never Goes Out
X Offender / Hanging on the Telephone (The Nerves cover) / Sunday Girl / Picture This / Mother / Fade Away and Radiate / The Tide Is High (The Paragons cover) / What I Heard / Atomic / (I'm Always Touched by Your) Presence, Dear / Shayla / Union City Blue / Long Time / My Monster / Rapture / Maria / Dreaming / Heart of Glass / Encore: No Exit / Fragments (an Unkindness cover) / Call Me / One Way or Another