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pressconnects - 13th November 2007

Harry strikes out on her own -- but still gives some bites of Blondie
By Chris Kocher
Press & Sun-Bulletin 

Stepping out from the shadow of iconic punk/New Wave band Blondie, Debbie Harry served up a 75-minute set of mainly solo material Monday night at Magic City Music Hall in Johnson City.

It's a gutsy decision considering that many Americans think her name is Blondie and identify her with all of that band's 1980s hits, which earned a spot in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Who needs to remember real names when there's an easy label for the bottle blonde who launched a hundred imitators, from Madonna to Gwen Stefani?

But at 62, Harry seems eager to show she's her own woman, both on her new solo CD "Necessary Evil" -- her first in 14 years -- and this tour to support its release.

I admit I had some pre-show concerns about how everything would work out. No offense to the folks at Magic City, but a Monday gig between dates in major markets sounded like a formula for "phoning it in." Luckily, Harry seemed quite animated and passionate as she fronted a quartet of young men who appeared to be half her age.

After an opening set from Sweden's Kristoffer Ragnstam -- a sort of cross between Beck and Bono -- Harry grabbed the spotlight and barely let go. As you'd expect, she pulled extensively from "Necessary Evil," including "If I Had You," "Love With a Vengeance" and the album's title track. The rocker "School for Scandal," which takes on media obsessions, was "dedicated to our soldiers ... brave, brave people." Harry also pulled from further back in her songbook with "Rush Rush," "The Jam Was Moving" and others.

For the night's final two songs -- "Whiteout" and the encore "You're Too Hot" -- she was joined onstage by special guests: Barb Morrison and Charles Nieland, the two-headed Super Buddha production team that worked with her on "Necessary Evil."

The new material was greeted with a good amount of applause -- but, of course, the crowd never cheered louder than for the mid-set appearance of two Blondie hits: the reggae-flavored "The Tide is High" with a new call-and-response bridge; and an acoustic take on "Heart of Glass," stripped down to a guitar, a shaker and Harry's still-strong vocals. For these songs, Harry seemed content to turn the microphone on the audience and let the them sing the choruses.

And why not? As fellow sexagenarian rock star Ray Davies once said, sometimes you gotta give the people what they want.

Link: pressconnects - 13th November 2007

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