The 2008 edition of Blondie celebrates the 30th anniversary of its classic album Parallel Lines Tuesday at the Count Basie.
By TOM CHESEK
Blondie, one of the best live acts ever? Come again?
This is a group of people, after all, who share little common ancestry with the great jam bands or the guitar-god gorgonzolas of the monster tour era. Great live bands aren’t supposed to come riding in on a setful of pop-chart singles. They’re not supposed to dole out the ‘tude like they work in some overpriced restaurant, and they’re certainly not supposed to mess with our expectations not if they plan on being able to play the lucrative corporate-party circuit.
Blondie these days, the core of Debbie Harry, Chris Stein and Clem Burke, plus a rookie outfield of hungry young contenders bring all this to the table, and then some. They bring the hits, each of them revved up just a pitch-shift past the way it sounded on CD. They bring Chris and Debbie’s cooler, crueler tweak on the Captain and Tennille dynamic. And they bring their perennial secret weapon in drummer Burke, a professor in controlled chaos who, in songs like “Dreaming,” weds the punk-smash ethic of Keith Moon with the wall-of-sound wonder that students of early-60s radio hits have tried to bottle for eons.
They also bring a surprising bag of tricks that allows them to pepper their hit parade with left-field covers from the likes of Roxy Music, the Ramones and the Rolling Stones keeping you off balance while they triangulate in for the kill. If they were “artists,” you’d say they were challenging you. If they were Springsteen, you’d be texting the set list to your brother-in-law.
Well they’re not Springsteen, but long before Harry set up house on a relatively quiet spread just seconds beyond the borders of Red Bank, this most successful of CBGB’s fabled Class of ’77 were hardly Shore-shy by some accounts, the band even visited the Stone Pony as early as late 1975/early 1976. And when they take the stage of the Count Basie Theatre Tuesday night, the Rock and Roll Hall of Famers will be marking a milestone from their own platinum-plated history, while staking out their own piece of Basie history on the eve of an extended home-improvement hiatus.