NME - 4th March 1978

Page 45

Blondie
SHEFFIELD UNIVERSITY

AFTER THE European tour, Blondie's second British gig represented something of a homecoming to the fans here who remembered the band in their subservient role as Television's support act way back in the days when New Wave was new.
And everything was right on the night; the band justified their recent media take-overs with precise renditions of their healthy, meticulous songs; the University organisers got themselves a free course in security; Chrysalis reps swanked over their 500,000 bargain buy from Private Stock, and the acolytes - as if they could ever forget - stole themselves a time to remember.
It's too early to know (or care) how Blondie's uniqeness is likely to evolve, but whatever, on the strength of this performance, the band are headed for the big time.
Advertising, opening the show, were not so much subservient as token riders on the gravy train.
They did all they could to pull out the big one at this, their biggest break after gigging in modest Home Counties venues, and if you can imagine another Power Pop band probably influenced by XTC and definitely inspired by The Beatles, then you can get some idea of whether or not Advertising are worth checking out.
Singing about lingery underwear ("Suspender Fun") and stealing girls ("Stolen Love") their sexist lyrics and attitudes (not that I care about that) might have washed before The Stranglers cornered the market.
Nevertheless, the band is possibly much more talented than it came across on the night, and of course, at this gig, more or less any band with the gall to support Blondie would have been redundant.
Blondie took their stations after a lengthy interval, and perhaps significantly, Debbie Harry's entrance was fairly low-key - no instrumental preamble, no gimmick visuals, just straight into "X Offender" and reasonable equal light dispersal between band members.
Nevertheless, the spotlight that shines brightly on the New Wave Jean Harlow revealed her wearing red thigh-length boots and what looked like an open-quartered football shirt she might have picked up the previous night outside the Blackburn city limits.
After a couple of numbers, she feels the heat and strips down to a strapless hooped rugger vest which in mini-skirt days, you'd have called around half-inch decent.
Of course, you could call this sexism if you must, but that's the way it is. That's Debbie Harry for you. Declining requests to "Take 'em off" she glides her way through "Little Girl Lies"; "Look Good In Blue And She Looks Good In Sweat"; "Man Overboard" and then she whips out the maraccas.
By this time, the melee upfront has intensified.
Fans grope for Debbie, but as she sings "In The Flesh" you get to feel the sexuality of her persona maybe isn't so callous. A self-confessed former groupie, we know, but a trace of romanticism eases its way through now and again, and wouldn't we like to believe this is where her heart is?
But no. The kids are going back home to unload their Blondie badges, posters and calendars, and Debbie knows it.
She pats and eventually reaches for the outstretched hands with the premeditated trajectories. She teases with style, moving continually, not with choreographed exactness, but always with undeniable cuteness.
As the fans begin to get a little over zealous, the blurring monitors assume the role of audience/band segregators; the roadie with the long hair gives the concept of "over-working" a whole new dimension. Whatever he gets paid, it isn't enough. It's all very reminiscent of Runawaysmania; except here, there's only the one girl responsible for the whole shooting match.
The show is an event more than anything else, which is why commentaries on the music are difficult, if not impossible, if not irrelevent.
Suffice to say that you have to work hard to make yourself aware that the guys in the band are no stooges.
And when you've done that, you see a fine guitarist in Chris Stein (there was plenty more where the lyrical intro to "Rifle Range" came from), a player who occasionally threatens to let it flow, but keeps everything tastefully together for the sake of the band.
Along with Stein, Clement Burke (drums), Jim Destri (keyboards), Nigel Harrison (bass) and Frank Infante (rhythm) contrive a subtle pop sound as fresh, welcome and not totally dissimilar to that created by The Doors in their '60s easy listening phase.
And Debbie herself?
Well, contrary to criticism expressed at certain British gigs, she's an original, stylised vocalist; more than that, her total performance projects true class.
The sex is just a bonus, if that's the way you like it.
One enigma remains.
The band encore with "I'm Not Playing With Fire", minus Destri, but he shows up midway through with a free-lance lunge for (Debbie's boyfriend?) Stein. Burke chips in, ending the number with a berserk assault on his kit; Harrison hugs Debbie sympathetically and affectionately.
Something is happening and we don't know what it is. Intravenous jealousy? No matter. At least they kept it to themselves.
Emma Ruth.

[Picture caption: Ms. Harry got the fans groping again. Pic by Gus Stewart.]

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