Live Review: Blondie // The Piece Hall, Halifax, 09.06.24

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It’s not your usual Sunday! A teatime walk through snug Yorkshire abode, Halifax, may cause you to wonder what the big deal is, when Blondie echo all around you, as though you’re part of a town-wide listening party. “Are they all playing the same station?” You may utter to yourself. If this is you, then you’re in the wrong town. 

Everyone is anticipating the legendary band’s show at 18th-century cloth hall turned music venue, The Piece Hall, which is a Grade 1 listed building and the only remaining Georgian cloth hall in the world; thus suitable for new wave royalty. Not 100 yards passed without a glimpse of a Blondie t-shirt poking out from behind a leather jacket.

This is the beginning of the night, where ‘Heart of Glass’, ‘One Way or Another’ and ‘Dreaming’ can all be heard playing from pubs and outdoor speakers from ‘End To End’, the locals are creating quite the welcome: a walking, warm up show. 

Supported by The K’s, an up and coming four-piece from Earlestown, the indie band boast that they’ve recently reached number three on the UK charts. Their 9-track set is a collection from their 2024 debut I Wonder If The World Knows? and they manage to squeeze in a short and slow, acoustic take on Cyndi Lauper’s ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun’. They’re a decent crowd pleaser, although quite a different mood to that of the New York City band, Blondie, yet their attempts to win us over are laudable.

After a dramatically drawn out interlude between the two bands, Blondie’s drummer and guitarists make their way to the stage to a surround-static backdrop, it represents the welcome noise and non-conformity of this new wave band, a genre that Blondie helped to form almost 50 years ago.

Now here she is, unmistakable and prowling to the front of the stage: Debbie Harry, the force that glamourises and lightens the roughness of what would otherwise be more acute to a punk band. Blondie balance both together well, the head-banging with a soft touch.

Rocking hard from the start with Parallel Lines tracks ‘One Way or Another’ and The Nerves cover ‘Hanging on the Telephone’, Harry anecdotally mentions how a British person had told her that the cows lie down before it rains, and on her way to Halifax, she saw the cows doing just that. She was prepared. But so were we! The soon-to-be soaked through crowd was layered with hoods and ponchos, already disobeying the drizzle.

This Sunday night show is their second at The Piece Hall, their first being two nights prior. If the band went all out on the Friday night, then they’ve obviously found a way to fully recharge for tonight, as the energy doesn’t falter as they fittingly play ‘Sunday Girl’ and their Moroder-produced, sonic classic ‘Call Me’.

It’s lovely to hear Blondie play ‘Living In The Real World’. The Piece Hall rendition is the first time they’ve performed this feisty track in the UK since 1980, so it’s a real treat. Harry’s voice is so rich and has changed over time, but it’s comforting to hear them sung in her current voice, which is excellent. This section is mainly cut between their albums Parallel Lines and Eat To The Beat, including ‘Will Anything Happen?’ and much of these are sung in a lower tone than the original recording, but these adjustments are welcome.

“Your hair is beautiful!” We all cry, albeit out of tune, and almost drown Harry’s voice out as we all point at her lush, white hair. Yes, it’s ‘Atomic’. She called her hair “fuzzy”, but her grey/white hair paired with an alternating two designer jackets, huge platform trainers and maroon, thermal-looking jeans is iconically in tune with her consequential role as a worldwide fashion influence. I imagine that many still try to align their look with hers, and across The Piece Hall, it looked that way indeed. There were waves of bleach blondes with dark shades, and I wonder how many subconsciously think of Harry when curating their looks. 

The energy almost falls for a second, until Harry begins to speak, and it clicked that we were hearing the distinctive, and creative intro of ‘X Offender – “ I saw you standing on the corner / You looked so big and fine / I really wanted to go out with you…” – she did it with a more dominant, cooler sound than she does in the studio version, making it even more striking.

Harry stands ready by the microphone for a second; and then begins a soft “Doo-doo-doo”, as she teased us with a sweet snippet of ‘Denis’ (from Plastic Letters). The actual song on the set is then revealed to be ‘In The Flesh’, from their self-titled debut album, and she sings it word for word, beautifully. There are no breaks or talked-through parts of this song. It matches Harry’s voice; she soothes us with a sweet melodic “Darlin, darlin’ darlin’”. Harry mentions that it was this song that first made them big in Australia – and it certainly received adoration at The Piece Hall.

During the glorious instrumental sequences which showcase drummer Clem Burke and the guitarist’s band-power on this tour, Harry, as she’s long done during Blondie’s shows, walks to the back of the stage and watches the band, often posing next to the drummer. It’s like she’s saying “I’m gonna watch the band, and so are you!” She commands our gaze, as she has always done. But even so, the eye flickers back to her, with interest, because she’s fascinating. You wouldn’t want to miss a second of her.

By this point, we’re all completely soaking, and Harry, not wanting to fake naivety, hilariously claims “If I were you, I would’ve left by now!”. If it were anyone else, we might’ve.

She continues to jibe at the conditions “Has it stopped raining?” It certainly has not, but if you need more proof that Blondie are far stronger than a bit of rain: devoted fans at the front of the barrier talk about how they were queuing since 10:00am. To queue for over 10 hours before Blondie even hit the stage shows the absolute desire to get up, close and personal to these legendary music and cultural pioneers.

This part of the show delights us to the wonders of ‘Maria’ (from 1999 album No Exit) as well as the insanely cool and catchy rap verse in ‘Rapture’ (Autoamerican) which was groundbreaking in the world of rap at its time of release. It’s impressive how many people know that rap from start to finish – but not surprising at all. 

“Once I had a love, and it was a gas / Soon turned out had a heart of glass”. You can’t not sing along to ‘Heart of Glass’, it’s infectious and one of their definite best. Harry magically invites us to “Cruise on, cruise on!” as we reach the song’s bridge, and so our arms rise and we sway – the rain not touching us as we sing beautiful lyrics like “adorable illusion and I cannot hide” and cascade into a string of “Da-da-da”’s to the tune of the song. 

Harry’s solo work isn’t performed as frequently as the Blondie discography these days. so imagine the delight when she introduced ‘Dog Star Girl’ as the first of the encore. Harry’s solo work is piercing but deserves more attention, hence why it’s nice that she is able to incorporate that into Blondie’s setlist. Again she jokes, “Whenever we play ‘Dog Star Girl’, it always stops raining, so I guess it worked tonight …” which again gathered a pantomime response along the lines of “NO IT HASN’T!”. I’m sure she gets a little kick out of it, and she has a sweet way of interacting with the audience, as this is amongst all her waves to every crevice of the Hall; she doesn’t leave anyone out.

Despite the inclusion of her solo music, Harry gives credits to their artistic manager and mentions various producers and songwriters throughout; making sure everyone knows it’s not just her, despite her being the undeniably intelligent and stable image of the band, but it’s important to note how crucial the other members of the band are.

As cool as ever, dancing, jumping, waving, and  throughout that, even reminding us to take our vitamin C. Harry’s smile beams across The Piece Hall, a real, contagious smile. Blondie are so loved in Britain, and often talk about the country’s influence on the band.

What would’ve otherwise been a miserable Sunday night is now such a memorable one. It’s amazing that Blondie can do this without it feeling like a forced greatest hits show. The grit is there, and so is the stage presence. 

Cruise on, cruise on! 

Blondie’s perfect two-night run is part of a string of big-name summer shows at The Piece Hall, which includes Sheryl Crow, Placebo and Rick Astley.

Words by Kai Palmer


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