Synonymous with punk and rock ‘n’ roll, NYC outfit Blondie are as iconic as their legendary frontwoman, Debbie Harry. As predecessors of new wave and survivors of disco’s dominance, Blondie’s tracks are more than songs, they’re anthems. It’s irrefutable. Blondie’s sound has become (and will continue to be) the soundtrack to generations of fans’ lives. Last night’s performance at Madison Square Garden was a reminder of why Harry and her band continue to keep their audience enthralled after all these years.
Harry and her bandmates took the stage as an eruption of applause filled the venue. Awash in bright lights and dressed in hot pink, Harry gripped the microphone as the familiar riffs of “One Way or Another” began to sound. Perfect percussion, crisp chords, and Harry’s flawless vocals rendered the already well-loved track transcendent, undoubtedly amplifying the energy of the audience within the first few seconds of its start. Before the crowd could settle from the thrill of “One Way or Another,” the electrified backbeat of “Rave” unfolded, inciting cheers of approval from the captivated audience. Dancing around the stage, Harry’s flawless diction rendered Parallel Lines’ “Hanging on the Telephone” unforgettable, making the track’s duration quite possibly the most memorable two and a half minutes in her audience’s lives.
As “Maria” and “A Rose by Any Name” rang out, it seemed as if the crowd echoed Harry’s versification word for word. That response only grew louder with the sounding bells of “Rapture.” Swaying with the beat, Harry danced in tune with the track’s irresistible pulse as fans cheered and sang along. Before “Rapture” could end, the orchestration shifted, morphing into the Beastie Boys’ chart-topper “(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party).” During the song’s chorus, Harry urged the crowd to shout along with her, and they complied willingly with fists raised in the air. After the impromptu cover, Harry introduced the next track as a “taste of classic Blondie, a song called ‘Heart of Glass.’?” The crowd roared as that number progressed and, again, Harry encouraged her adoring public to sing along, egging them on with “Come on, give me some!” As “Heart of Glass” came to a close, Blondie were joined by What Cheer?, Providence’s beloved nineteen-piece brass band, for “The Tide Is High,” during which Harry draped an LGBT pride flag around her shoulders while beaming with joy. The crash of cymbals and the swell of horns marked the end of “The Tide Is High,” and Harry and her band exited to a backdrop of deafening applause.
So it’s difficult to say that the evening’s second performer, Steven Patrick Morrissey, was the main attraction, but for many, the opportunity to see Manchester’s Son and Heir grace the stage was enough to warrant tears. The time between Blondie’s exit and Morrissey’s opening track was soon forgotten as the percussive intro of the Smiths’ political stunner “The Queen Is Dead” began to play beneath the projected image of Queen Elizabeth flipping the bird. Morrissey wielded his microphone with finesse while gripping bright yellow maracas, and fans, following in the tradition of so many showgoers before them, threw flowers onto the stage. The audience outstretched their arms with urgency as Viva Hate’s “Suedehead” forced them to swoon and sway. At the track’s end, Morrissey confessed, “It’s a great privilege to be back here in the center of the world with you.”
“Staircase at the University” gave way to the jarring pairing of “Ganglord,” with footage of police brutality (including a clip of an officer shooting a defenseless dog) forcing his audience to contemplate the current state of its government’s failures and misuse of power. A suitable extension to the visuals that accompanied “Ganglord,” “World Peace Is None of Your Business” seemed to soothe the discomfort of the prior track’s commentary. “Speedway,” à la Vauxhall and I, was performed in English as well as en español, while “Throwing My Arms Around Paris” rendered many fans breathless. Before the audience could compose their emotions, Morrissey prefaced “Everyday Is Like Sunday” with a short trip down memory lane. “I do believe that the last time we were here, which was 24 years ago…yes, before you were born and I was a twelve-year-old child prodigy, I sang this very song.” “Everyday Is Like Sunday” progressed to perfection, the climax of the song urging nearly every member of the audience to sing along. “Will Never Marry” was somberly heart-wrenching, while “I Will See You in Far Off Places” was faultless. Toward the latter tracks of Morrissey’s set, he paused, thanking Blondie for joining him by quoting a beloved line from “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out.”
Next was the intentionally haunting “Meat Is Murder,” accompanied by the equally shocking footage of crowded slaughterhouses and their maimed inhabitants, which forced gasps of horror from many fans. Yet “What She Said” managed to ease the weight of “Meat Is Murder,” presaging Morrissey’s final song for the night, “Now My Heart Is Full,” during which he unbuttoned his shirt and tossed it into the crowd, who quickly tore it to shreds in hopes of obtaining a coveted piece. As Morrissey and his band bowed and waved goodbye, the audience stood in awe.