Glastonbury Review: Blondie

June 25, 2023

Who cares if Debbie Harry is ageing disgracefully. She’s entitled to do whatever she damn wants. After all, this is the Grand Dame of new wave we’re talking about, and she bows to no one. In front of a huge crowd at the Pyramid Stage that, in all honesty, was still reeling from an emotional Yusuf/Cat Stevens legend slot, we were warmed up by a pre-show PA tape that shifted gears, blasting out songs from Blondie’s 70s CBGBs peers Television and Talking Heads to set the mood.

When Blondie finally emerged, it was to a huge crowd hungry for the hits. And they didn’t disappoint. The sinister descending lick of One Way or Another launched a thousand voices singing in accompaniment. Initially, there was cause for concern though. The vocals were a little too perfect. Was Harry benefitting from some tech-enabled vocal assistance? But this didn’t last long, as what followed was clearly the three-dimensional Harry standing before us (for the majority), with the vocals occasionally veering off-kilter. Harry’s t shirt bore CBGBs name, backing up the pre-show sounds in heralding that famed New York Bowery venue: a place from whence many timeless groups emerged, including Blondie, who have arguably, the most enduring pop currency and highest cultural capital.

The likes of full-throttle punkish trill of Call Me and Hanging on the Telephone, were offset by the more expansive sounds of The Tide is High, Rapture, and Atomic. Each of these songs did their work in delivering guaranteed crowd-pleasers on Glastonbury’s final evening. It was only toward the latter half of their taut one-hour set that they moved toward deeper cuts, but these rubbed shoulders comfortably among the big hitters. It was sad to note that founding guitarist Chris Stein is still too frail to tour, leaving Clem Burke and Harry as the sole representatives onstage from their original line-up (although it was nice to have former Sex Pistol Glen Matlock also in their midst). It was certainly a privilege to stand before these true originals.

If anything, this blistering show was an apt reminder that Blondie possess one of the great American pop songbooks. They sound like no one else. Harry could even get away with a daft ‘broken glass’ cowl that she wore for the disco throb of their evergreen hit, Heart of Glass. Yes, she’s that cool. Still.

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