Melody Maker - 2nd June 1990

Melody Maker - June 2nd 1990 - page 18

LIVE

WHAT PRESENCE?

DEBORAH HARRY
NORWICH UNIVERSITY
Written by Jonathan Selzer

BACK when Blondie were at their height (which, aside from "The Hunter", was pretty much all of their existence), Debbie Harry could, conceivably, have gone anywhere. She could have gone off the rails and wrecked herself a la Charlie Parker, she could have bloated out in LA or, following from "Union City" and "Videodrome", she could have gone on to become a "cult" actress, a Garbo for the Eighties. But no, Debbie Harry took the middle road and became the Deborah Harry who steps out tonight on the eve of another UK tour, which is... reassuring.

The lights go off, the intro tape starts up, and I'm waiting for my world to change. Then she shuffles on stage (not materialises, not explodes in a resplendent blaze of charisma, shuffles) as if she's about to soundcheck, holding some papers and a teddy bear dressed like a pirate (which sits on a high stool throughout the show), and while she smooches through "The Hunter", I have to keep reminding myself I'm in the presence of Debbie Harry. It's not until "Dreaming" that I realise I'm not. I'm in the presence of Deborah Harry, the same woman, but a different kind of star.

Deborah Harry is a living memory. Watching her, you can't help but be aware of her past, not because she embodies that spirit, but because she symbolises it, and you just know everyone is here because of Blondie. "Def, Dumb & Blonde" was just the excuse we'd been waiting for. When she plays her old hits - "Rapture", "The Tide Is High", "Heart Of Glass", "Hanging On The Telephone" - they no longer taste of New York. She's no longer The Mistress whose heart beats in time with the erratic cool of the city, but The Madam who watches over it, in control, but consciously so. Her music has been turned into a kind of cabaret. Chris Stein half-heartedly wraps the guitar chord first around his arm and then hers, before deciding it's not worth the effort.

The new material seems specifically designed to say, "Heeeere's... Deborah!", either boorish rock odes allowing her to get all tensed up and throw herself into a bout of silly dancing, or sly pop numbers that understand the art of tease, if not the power to inflict damage. Actually, it's watered-down Blondie. Like the rest.

I end up wishing that, while she was away, Debbie Harry had irrevocably changed, that the contrast between then and now was so stark that in her presence, her post was eclipsed, that her glory wasn't confused by nostalgia. It is, of course, too much to ask, more than anyone has a right to ask, but if we're talking about a legend, rather than a pretty good pop star, how can you ask for anything else?

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