August 8, 2010
It would have been easy for legendary new wave group Blondie to put it on autopilot at the Pac Amp Aug. 8, 2010. After all, the band "just escaped from Vegas" as front woman Deborah Harry put it, the night before. And since the band took the same stage in Costa Mesa last year as an opener for Pat Benatar, they could have done a quick romp through their catalog of hits for this crowd in their sleep. But instead Harry, Chris Stein (guitar), Clem Burke (drums), Matt Katz-Bohen (keyboard), and Leigh Foxx (bass) seemed more awake than ever. Instead of resting on their Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee laurels, they mixed new material from soon-to-be-released Panic of Girls with classic hits with more fervor than last year.
It helped that the audience was sufficiently warmed up by energetic female punk icon Nikki Corvette. Refashioned as a new band called Gorvette, Corvette along with Amy Gore (guitar), Lianna Castillo (bass) and Al King (drums) bounced through a set that included Nikki and the Corvette songs "Let's Go" and "Girls Like Me." Although almost too old for the playing makeup and wearing guitar bit, the respectable riffs and hyperactive candy-colored pigtails made it clear they were having too much fun to care. The audience had just as much fun, especially when they launched into a cover of The Buzzcocks' "What Do I Get."
So by the time Harry appeared in black coattails and a tutu nearly as white as her platinum hair, bravely opening with a new number "D-Day," the crowd was ready to receive her. "Hello, is this Orange County, Santa Ana?" she asked a crowd that cheered despite being called the wrong city. "This is Blondie calling!" she continued, before diving into "Hanging on the Telephone."
The band was crisp and instinctive and Harry's full and rich vocals may have been a direct result of the excited energy that comes with playing new material. "We're playing some new surprises for you," she said. "We hope you like it, hope you love it!" Though it wasn't all new, the crowd was rewarded with a pitch perfect "Maria," where Harry laughed wickedly as she said, "We usually do this song for all the girls... tonight we'll do it for all the girls and anyone that wants to be a girl!" A bit winded at the start of "Atomic," the song got meatier and Harry stroked her own locks on the line: "Your hair is beautiful." The reggae heavy "Tide is High" kept the party going on into "Rapture," which Harry dedicated to The Ramones, and "One Way or Another," where she playfully ad-libbed with lines like: "I know where you parked your car" and "I know your cell phone number."
They encored with gems "Will Anything Happen?" and "Picture This," unearthed from one of their earliest albums, followed by a rambunctious "Heart of Glass." A tour of the hits plus a few hints at what's to come made for a fantastic show that proved that even at 65, Harry and Blondie still have plenty to offer.