Melody Maker - 21st Dec 1989

Melody Maker - December 21st 1989 - page 21

LIVE

WHITE HEAT
DEBORAH HARRY - THE INTERNATIONAL, MANCHESTER
Written by Paul Lester

LIKE all the brightest stars, Deborah panders to no one, and pleases everybody. With her infamous wry, laconic detachment intact, she seems less desperate to ingratiate herself into her disciples' lives than ever before. The entrance is the coolest. No build-up, no classical intro, no rock legend fart-arsing around, the band come one, Chris Stein plugs in, and Deborah negotiates her way through an excellent supperclub muzak rendition of Smokey's "Hunter Gets Captured By The Game" with masterful indifference. It's so fresh and unencumbered by tradition that it could be a brand new group just over from the US to promote their new single.

Because that was the overwhelming fear about this show, that it would be little more than a jukebox journey down memory lane played by, and designed for, people who are not old enough to know better. But nostalgia had f***-all to do with it. Not that La Harry's game was to make awkward concessions to modernity in an eleventh hour bid to capture the contemporary vote. The beauty of the "Def, Dumb and Blonde" compositions is that they could be sandwiched between the "Parallel Lines" or "Plastic Letters" stuff, that's the point. There are almost two dozen blondeshells dropped tonight, and none of them betray the slightest fall in standard from old, classic material to the newer songs.

For a world reared on Warhol, even those people who always considered Blondie a musically light and inconsequental happening would be forced to admit that Deborah Harry's face, that eternal, perfect triangle of eyes and mouth, say more about pop and its attendant culture than a million bedsit anthems. Her physical presence, as ever, speaks volumes. She looks approximately 11 seconds older than she did in 1977. Now approaching her fifteenth year of fame, this New York doll lives and breathes the spirit of pop while rockers half her age struggle for air.

"Presence Dear", "Dreaming" and "The Tide Is High" remind the crowd that it doesn't matter to what extent these timeless gems have been assimilated into the grunge of our daily lives, they will never lose the lustre of their initial appeal. Maybe "Rapture" would have gained from a revamped middle eight spiel about NWA or Public Enemy, to replace the one about Grandmaster Flash and Fab Five Freddie, for the sake of relevence, but it's still an unutterably fine white dance narcotic. "I Want That Man", previously one of the lesser lights of the "DD&B" LP, comes to flaming life at Manchester, the sight of several thousand revellers drunk on joy and chanting "Here comes the 21st Century/It's gonna be much better for a girl like me", males as well as females, makes for one of the most curiously moving spectacles of the year.

The "Comic Books"/"Detroit 442"/"Bike Boy" sequence is, all things taken into account, a bewilderingly intense, pure white trash metal marathon. Deborah flaps her platinum mop like a hardcore trooper, the whole of Birdland sucked into one blond head. Grown men with Barrett Homes and kids to feed unpeel their shirts and throw them onto the stage. Later, they are seen wandering in sub-zero temperatures by The Arndale Centre with only their jeans to keep them warm. For now, "Heart Of Glass" is as good on vinyl, "Call Me" signals a record number of fists-per-square-inch being punched in time to the chorus, while "Brite Side" proves how there really were sensible reasons for this comeback after all.

Deborah Harry in 1989? Anyone with 20/20 foresight could've guessed she'd still have it. Femininity as strategy not destiny, or something, and the most unembarrassing rock return of the year. The future looks all-white, again. Harry-shimmer, mon amour.

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