Blondie and Garbage may have each risen to prominence in different eras, but each of them are known for their strong, iconic frontwoman. While Debbie Harry of Blondie and Shirley Manson of Garbage have shown plenty of admiration and affection for each other over the years, this summer that dynamic has become a bit more personal as Blondie and Garbage have teamed up for a co-headlining tour dubbed the Rage And Rapture tour. Both bands have been busy in the lead up to the tour. Blondie released their 11th album, Pollinator, this spring. While Garbage released their 6th album, Strange Little Birds, last summer and took a foray in to the literary world this summer with the release of a new autobiographical coffee table book, This Is the Noise That Keeps Me Awake. The tour kicked off July 5th in Saratoga CA, and has been winding through North America with John Doe & Exene Cervenka of influential LA Punk band X opening the dates during the first leg, and female rock duo Deap Vally opening during the second leg, including a recent stop at Red Hat Amphitheater in Raleigh NC where we caught the show.
With an early start time of 7pm, it was still sunny and warm on Saturday evening as the Red Hat Amphitheater filled with a solid mix of both diehard Blondie and Garbage fans, as well as a contingent looking forward to both. With most concert goers focused on the dual headliners, show openers Deap Vally slid in under the radar for many. The duo of Lindsey Troy on guitar and lead vocals and Julie Edwards on drums played a short set of heavy grubby blues-rock and glam songs that turned more than a few heads.
After a short break and with the audience still coming to terms with the aural assault of Deap Vally, Garbage took the stage. The Madison Wisconsin-based alternative indie rockers kicked off their set with moody angst-ridden new single “No Horses,” followed by “Sex Is Not The Enemy,” and a dig into their back catalog for early B-side “#1 Crush.” Frontwoman Shirley Manson, with bright red hair and dressed in a baggy black and white striped jumpsuit commanded attention whether remaining stationary and thrusting her mic stand at arm’s length with aggressive emphasis or prowling the stage from side to side. Keeping pace with Manson from either side of the stage, Steve Marker slashed out his lead guitar lines with intense vigor and Duke Erikson churned out the rhythm guitar while often standing at the edge of the stage peering over the crowd with a subtle grin. Providing the pounding beat and anchoring the songs was producer and drummer Butch Vig. Rounding out the touring incarnation of Garbage was bass player and founding member of Janes Addiction, Eric Avery. The setlist continued to mix old and new as well as hits and deeper tracks. “I Think I’m Paranoid” and “Cherry Lips (Go Baby Go!)” had the crowd up and grooving before Shirley took a slight detour to acknowledge tour lighting designer Aaron, with a whimsical take on “Happy Birthday to You.” With each new song, Garbage increased the passion and ferocity. Highlights included “Special,” “Queer,” and Slow burning Bond theme “The World Is Not Enough.” The band rounded third and brought the show home with mega-hits “Stupid Girl,” ”Only Happy When It Rains,” and “Push It” before closing out with the Goth flavored “Vow” from their self-titled debut album. The seductive rage of Garbage set the bar for the evening at an obscenely high level and quite frankly left a good bit of the crowd knackered.
If any band has the swagger and mettle to hold their own in the slipstream of a Garbage show, it would be Blondie. Founded by singer Deborah Harry and guitarist Chris Stein, Blondie started their rise to prominence in 1975 on the Lower East Side of New York as regular performers at the historic venues, Max’s Kansas City and CBGB. Blondie would go on to release six solid albums including the monster hit album Parallel Lines, that included the smash single “Heart Of Glass,” before calling it quits in 1982. The band reformed in 1997 and continued to release well regarded albums and singles, and were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2006. It was original members Stein, Harry, and drummer Clem Burke, joined by guitar slinger Tommy Kessler, bassist Leigh Foxx, and keyboardist Matt Katz-Bohen who took the stage in Raleigh to open with “One Way or Another” from Parallel Lines. At 72 years, Debbie Harry hasn’t lost any of her charisma. She appeared on stage wearing a hairband adorned with two large bees (a nod to new album Pollinator), large sparkle covered sunglasses, and sporting a flowing cape with “Stop Fucking The Planet” printed across the back. As the flamboyantly attired Harry walked the stage and waved to the adoring crowd, the band continued with “Hanging on The Telephone,” followed by their latest single, “Fun.” And fun is exactly what the band and the cheering crowd were having as Blondie worked through their 14 song set that included, “Call Me,” “Too Much,” “Rapture,” and even a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Rainy Day Women #12 &35,” that had the crowd singing along to the refrain “Everybody must get stoned.” The band was absolutely solid and tight, driven by the pounding percussion of Clem Burke whose drum kit sat behind a wall of plexiglass. While Chris Stein tended to hang back and deliver his underrated rhythm guitar playing, it was Tommy Kessler who grabbed the attention with his fiery playing and Guns N Roses Slash-like solos. As for the vocals, Chris Stein recently summed it up best when he stated, “Debbie is still amazing, she still has it.”
Blondie was equal parts intense, dramatic, and lighthearted fun. They covered the Johnny Marr penned, “My Monster,” before closing out with “Atomic” and “Heart Of Glass,” which featured an impressive computer generated image of a crystal heart exploding into a hail of glass shards projected on the screens behind the band. The band would return for an encore of “The Tide Is High,” before sending everyone out with “Dreaming.” 40+ years on and Blondie can still deliver the goods. Not too many bands can make that claim. The Rage and Rapture tour delivered a double shot of powerful, charismatic frontwomen and some damn fine music.
Photos of Blondie + Garbage @ Red Hat Amphitheater – August 5th 2017