In the 1982 film Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Mike Damone demonstrates his “five point plan” for picking up women on a cardboard cutout of Blondie singer Debbie Harry. Harry (or at least her cardboard doppelganger) is dressed in a revealing, skin-tight red dress, and has a look of casual – yet sexy - disinterest (inasmuch as one can have a look of disinterest when they’re made of cardboard).
Flash-forward 30 years to Monday night – Harry, looking nowhere remotely close to her 67 years – flashed the same sultriness and attitude throughout a hugely entertaining (though short) set at the State Theater. Her voice, while not quite as high as it once was, is still spectacular, and when coupled with her ability to vamp it up on stage, solidifies her place as one of the all-time great female vocalists.
Blondie kicked off the set with two greatest hits, “Dreaming” and “Hanging on the Telephone” before delving into material from last year’s Panic of Girls. The old tracks were given new life – the addition of guitarist Tommy Kessler is especially noticeable – and the new tracks fit right in with the solid 80s vibe.
Through it all there was Harry. She started off the show wearing a bulky silver parka which was eventually taken off to reveal a sequined miniskirt and belt with a large, sequined skull on it. Perhaps the biggest cheer of the night was when she finally removed her sunglasses.
In point of fact, however, the screams were fairly constant, both from the women in the audience and the aging Mike Damone-esque men. The classics drew the loudest cheers, of course – “Call Me,” “The Tide Is High” (throughout which Harry mugged for the now ubiquitous cell phone cameras), and “Rapture,” which was given a much heavier rock vibe and a new ending in which the band ripped through a verse of the Beastie Boys’ “No Sleep ‘Til Brooklyn.” The new material, especially “D-Day” and “What I Heard” was also well received. Two more classics closed the regular set; “Rip Her to Shreds” led into an almost punk-rock sounding “One Way Or Another,” which brought folks from the balcony down to the dance floor.
A short encore started with a cover of Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s “Relax.” It was fun, but after the evening’s previous cover – a stellar version of Ellie Goulding’s “Lights” which illustrated how amazing Harry’s voice still is – it seemed a bit misplaced. The band played just one more song, “Heart of Glass,” which ended the evening on a high note.
Though they had played their biggest hits, the crowd was still somewhat surprised when the lights came back on after only 80 minutes of music. But the fantastic, nonstop mixture of old and new material was more than enough to send everyone home happy. Even though she’s two years past retirement age, let’s hope Debbie Harry doesn’t hang it up anytime soon.