The Rapidian

Blondie: Still atomic, more or less

Blondie brings intermittent power to Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park.

/Alexander Thompson

Audience members at Blondie's June 29th, 2018 performance, at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, wilting spectacularly in the serious heat, found a reason to forgo self-pity: The Concussions, Blondie's opening act. Not only did they play vigorously, they did so while wearing black clothing and skull masks. And enjoying it, or at least pretending to. At one point, they dedicated a song to Fred Meijer, "the original midnight cowboy," so maybe the heat had gotten to them after all.

The Concussions finished and left the stage, probably to collapse. Audience members sipped wine or fanned themselves as pre-show music played over the speakers. "Oh my God, we're back again," sang some or all of The Backstreet Boys. As if taking it as their cue, Blondie claimed the stage, none more imperiously than Debbie Harry, its frontwoman. Harry wore sunglasses, a dress, and a cape on the back of which was written, "STOP FUCKING THE PLANET."

"They're a legendary, iconic, real rock and roll band," Chris Mautz had told me weeks before. He books bands for the Gardens. "It's just one of those acts."

Onstage, the band launched into "One Way Or Another." It sounded great: fast-paced and sexy, despite its origins (its lyrics are inspired by an obsessive ex-boyfriend of Harry's). Harry sang well. Her heart was in it. This wouldn't be true throughout the night; as my friend Hayley pointed out, the most punk rock aspect of the show may have been Harry's half-hearted approach to one-third of the songs.

A standout song was "Gravity," written for the band's latest album by Charlie XCX. The pop star found her way into the band's icy, dance-heavy core. Playing it, band and singer seemed as engaged and energetic as they would all night. That wasn't true of "Call Me," which they appear to have tired of (Clever Hayley: "How appropriate that they phoned it in").

"Rapture" was great. "Atomic" was better. The overall impression of the performance was that of a confident, unfussy band that could play its heart out, or not, depending on where the moment had taken them. Unlike the rest of us, they only broke a sweat when they wanted to.

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