Chalk Farm, Sunday evening on what has been the hottest day of the year; the crowd are dressed for summer, and clearly the wine, cider and pimms have all been quaffed celebrating a British Wimbledon champion and the promise of tonight’s eagerly anticipated visit from New York’s new wave royalty.
The lights dim and Blondie file on stage. Clem Burke behind the drums, Chris Stein on guitar, a bassist who is surely the double of Howard Marks plus a keyboard player and second guitarist who are considerably younger than the rest of the band.
The crowd are well up for this from the off, and it does indeed feel like an event and not just a gig; Debbie Harry steps up to the mike stand, flashes everyone a huge grin and the band launch into ‘One way or another.’ It’s a great start as the bands sound tight and loud and Debbie’s presence on stage is that of an icon. The crowd clearly love her and soon she’s dancing and flirting and looking effortlessly cool as only she can. Did I mention that she’s 68? My word, she looks great; the cheekbones, the pout, the hair and the voice! She sounds in great voice and has the crowd on her side from the off.
The set-list is well balanced too: there’s a new record out and in the main it sounds pretty good. It’s good to see a band who are still keen to make new music and not just re-tread the past. However, when the past is revisited it’s like being at the best punk-pop party and the hits come thick and fast; Union city blue, Atomic, Call me, The tide is high, Hanging on the telephone, Heart of glass….they keep coming, interspersed with new tracks and a couple of cover versions for good measure: the first is a little odd, but well executed in their take on Frankie’s ‘Relax’, but their version of Johnny Thunders ‘Can’t wrap your arms around a memory’ (as tribute to the passing of the Ramones design artist) is sublime.
They encore four or five tracks, ending on ‘Dreaming’ and after 90 minutes the band take a bow, blow kisses and genuinely look elated with the crowd’s reaction. Clem throws his sticks to a lucky punter and it seems like everyone (not just the men of a certain age) just want to try and catch Ms Harry’s eye and wave and salute this most iconic of performers.