The scene Blondie at the Sony Cen­tre

Shows that rocked Toronto last week


at Sony Cen­tre, Wed­nes­day, July 26.

BLONDIE with GARBAGE ñ NNNN NPR re­cently re­leased a list of the 150 great­est al­bums made by women, the kind of thing that’s fun to read and im­por­tant to write but by de­sign oh-so frus­trat­ing in its omis­sions. For ex­am­ple there’s just one Blondie al­bum on the list. (Par­al­lel Lines, nat­u­rally, at #35.) And noth­ing by Garbage. But if you were at the Sony Cen­tre on Wed­nes­day, you’d know those two groups should rank high on any list of women who’ve made es­sen­tial con­tri­bu­tions to mod­ern pop­u­lar mu­sic.

Dubbed the Rage And Rap­ture tour, the dou­ble-bill brought New York leg­ends Blondie to Toronto for the first time since 2004, in sup­port of new record Pol­li­na­tor, along­side Garbage, 90s alt-rock­ers on a tear back to rel­e­vance since 2012’s Not Your Kind Of Peo­ple. Since it’s still rare to hear two women on com­mer­cial ra­dio back-to-back, and fes­ti­vals are re­peat­edly called out for lack of gen­der di­ver­sity on­stage, it was a wel­come, and savvy, pair­ing.

Shirley Man­son was an­gry when we met her back in 1995; I think she’s an­gry still. Stalk­ing the stage in a Met Gala-wor­thy, fire-red gown you could call “Fifth El­e­ment Fla­menco” and shiny black army boots, the 50-yearold, Scot­tish-born L.A. res­i­dent ac­knowl­edged early on the re­lief of tour­ing Canada at this par­tic­u­lar time in his­tory. She went on to ded­i­cate their 2001 song Cherry Lips (Go Baby Go!) to trans mem­bers of the U.S. mil­i­tary.

“This is a song we wrote a long, long time ago, long be­fore gen­der flu­id­ity and trans­gen­der was on all of our lips,” she said, af­ter a false start. “And I’m all riled up be­cause it breaks my heart that in this day and age things have got­ten so mad that peo­ple who want to put their lives on the line for the Amer­i­can pub­lic are treated with such dis­re­spect.”

With the no­table ex­cep­tion of #1 Crush (the sul­try club track was given a clunky live ar­range­ment), the band was su­per-slick, from their moody Bond theme The World Is Not Enough to the heav­ier crunch of Push It and I Think I’m Para­noid. Man­son is as vi­tal a live per­former as any tour­ing to­day. Put her on your must-see-be­fore-I-die bucket list.

What can you say about Deb­bie Harry from Blondie? She came out dressed as a bee, with a su­per­heroine cape that read “Stop Fuck­ing the Planet.” (Visit Blondie’s site or fol­low #beecon­nected for Blondie’s bee ac­tivism.) She launched into back-to-back bangers One Way Or An­other and Hang­ing On The Tele­phone like it was 1980 all over again. She danced around, in that non-dance-around way she’s al­ways made seem both stand­off­ish and play­ful. She did not act her age. She made ev­ery­one in the sold-out crowd want to be that cool at what­ever age, never mind 72.

To be hon­est, as is the job here af­ter all, Harry in 2017 is not a great singer. Her voice no longer hits the notes of clas­sics like Rap­ture and Atomic. But she can en­ter­tain like no­body’s business. And her band? Ex­tra­or­di­nary.

Blondie co-found­ing gui­tarist Chris Stein, 67, takes the lead with such ef­fort­less aplomb you barely no­tice. Or maybe you’re just stunned by 61-yearold drum­mer Clem Burke, killing it back there. (Rel­a­tive young gun gui­tarist Tommy Kessler takes care of the shred­ding and show­boat­ing, as does key­boardist Matt Katz-Bo­hen. If that dude showed up to a cast­ing call for a porn­stached key­tar player in a fic­tional new wave band, the direc­tor would say he’s too over the top.) They played all the hits you wanted. They cov­ered My Heart Will Go On.

“Rap­tur­ous” might be a stretch, but it sure was fun.

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