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Blondie proved they can
still deliver

M&I Bank Classic Stage (Summerfest)
Milwaukee, WI
June 28, 2008
Blondie Blondie Blondie

Story by Thomas Calkins III
Photos by Joe Hargreaves

New York legends Blondie returned to Summerfest on Milwaukee's lakefront for the second time in six years, this time promoting the 30th anniversary of the release of their seminal record, Parallel Lines. To many, this album represents the band at their zenith largely due to the fact that the material is an effortless combination of 60's bubblegum, surf, and punk rock (with a disco hit-single none-the-less). Lacking the amphetamine-charge of the Ramones Rocket to Russia, or the drugged out laziness of Iggy Pop's The Idiot, Parallel Lines instead searches out the middle ground, aiming to be a clean cut mid-tempo pop masterpiece that it is. Although to a great degree the American public saw most of the New York bands from the mid-to-late seventies as "stubbornly inaccessible," Blondie almost unabashedly sought mainstream acceptance (much to their chagrin). Nowhere is this more evident than on Parallel Lines, a nearly perfect pop record, in the most flattering sense of the word.

Blondie began their set with a slow building surf rock crescendo, with all of the band's components gradually fading in (as if six-dollar beer, port-a-potties, and reckless drunks weren't enough to build the tension) until the emergence of front-woman Debbie Harry. Adorned in a black and white striped dress, reminiscent of the background on the original 1978 album cover and wrapped with a solid red belt, the singer still embodies the elements of punk style at it's finest, even at the age of 62. Likewise, the band was adorned in minimalist black suit jackets with the exception of drummer Clem Burke, banging away in a red CBGB's t-shirt and signature Mod hair cut.

The band launched headfirst into a faithful track-by-track rendition of "Parallel Lines," beginning with the A-side single "Hanging on the Telephone" right on down to the album ender "Just Go Away." The set was not without variation though, with some of the songs slightly amped-up, and others cooled off in order to create even more dynamics than the record already has (which is almost all mid-tempo). High points of the set included "11:59," (quite possibly the best written track from that record) and "Picture This" which was transformed almost into a 50's prom ballad.

The rest of Blondie's set was capped off with selections from the bands large catalogue, hitting on the major singles that most of the concertgoers were familiar with, as any touring band with concerns of job-security makes sure to do. Debbie Harry attacked the corny yet charming "rap" section of "Rapture" with the kind of intensity Mace only wish he had. Inserted in the bridge was a short version of the song "Hey Bo Diddley" most likely in memorial of the great blues-rock legend who'd recently passed away. The band finished their set off with two encores including the thudding reggae of "The Tide is High" and the Stones classic "Get off of my Cloud."

Some critics argue that Blondie has slid into "lounge act status," based on the choice of venues or the ill-tempered band membership disputes, but few have done it longer, and with greater consistency than Debbie and the boys. Although one could nit-pick Debbie's diminished vocal range or maybe some missing harmonies, this would be trite considering Blondie proved they can still deliver on the simple promise they've always espoused; fun.
Blondie Blondie
Blondie Blondie

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