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Ottawa Bluesfest Day Seven – Blondie

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Blondie at the RBC Royal Bank Bluesfest 2014

Ottawa Bluesfest Day Seven – Blondie

Written by Shauna Vert

Who: Blondie

From: New York City

Where: Claridge Stage, RBC Ottawa Bluesfest, Ottawa

When: Day Seven, July 10th 2014

Total Score: 9/10

Blondie at the RBC Royal Bank Bluesfest 2014

I have been to my share of older bands’ “reunion” shows, and have reacted to them in much the same way–the bad ones are horribly uncomfortable, and the good ones make me nostalgic for times when I wasn’t even alive (“remember the seventies, man? …yeah, me neither.”). Blondie did neither of these things. This was no ordinary throwback reunion tour capitalizing on old-school hits–Blondie felt fresh, engaged, and current even as they belted out tunes penned decades ago. I don’t know whether it was the frontwoman’s timeless badassery, the diverse and engaged crowd, or that killer Beastie Boys cover (yes, actually), but one thing is for sure: I’m never going to be as cool as Debbie Harry. Ever.

Style: Blondie’s genre-bending music is a mix of new wave-punk-disco, with reggae/rap influences and a touch of pop. In other words? Blondie does what it wants. Their 40 year career has produced an eclectic mix of hits and underground-esque tunes, and their set included solid good combination of favourites. Harry was mesmerizingly weird on stage, the guitarists were focused and fantastic on their instruments (one of which was a wicked sparkly blue), and drummer Clem Burke was spot-on. The presentation style felt almost psychedelic, while the sound they produced was punky and fun.

Fans 7/10: Save for the unusual amount of mom-and-daughter pairs scattered around, the Blondie crowd was definitely diverse. With a mix of high energy fans and quiet appreciators, the audience response was pretty status quo for the Bluesfest scene. One thing stood out at the Blondie show, however–everyone was smiling. Grins abound, man. Even if some of it was subtle, I was surrounded by ear-to-ear smirks and positive energy (and even the low-key listeners couldn’t stay silent once Debbie Harry began belting out “Heart of Glass”).

Musical Ability 10/10: Blondie knows what they’re doing. I guess after forty years of rocking stages, that is to be expected…but you never do know how stand-in band members are going to be. In this case, there were enough original band members and back-up skill to do the eclectic setlist justice.

Blondie at the RBC Royal Bank Bluesfest 2014

Sex Appeal 9/10: Who says a 69 year old can’t be ridiculously charismatic and sexy? All I could think as I watched Harry strut around in her trademark stiff-yet-sultry way was “Please, oh please, can I be her when I grow up?” Besides her quirky outfit and wicked bleached hairstyle, Harry brought the sexiest element of all: that woman was having a damn good time up on that stage, and (while talented) she clearly didn’t give a shit what people thought.

Memorable Moment: I mentioned there was a Beastie Boys cover, right? Yeah. That. Blondie transitioned into “Fight For Your Right” so seamlessly that I didn’t even realize what was happening at first. Slowly, the crowd exchanged looks of “Wait…is that…oh my god it is!” before shouting along with the endlessly energetic frontwoman. It was a great interlude, bridging the soft sounds in the middle of the set with the crowd-pleasing hits at the end.

Overall: There are few bands who can claim to be as timeless as Blondie, who can put on a forty year anniversary show that still feels fresh and relevant. The appreciative and diverse fans confirmed what I should have already known: Blondie is just cool. And anyone who ventures into the strange, punky, fabulous world of Debbie Harry is sure to have a good time.

Blondie at the RBC Royal Bank Bluesfest 2014

Photos by Mark Horton/RBC Bluesfest media


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