Live Review, 9/10/11: Blondie and Devo Prove Their Vitality at the Warfield
Blondie and Devo
Richard Haick Blondie's Debbie Harry at the Warfield last night.
Monday, Sept. 10, 2012
Better than: Dreaming the show.
Artists are often packaged together by era to hit the road, but on paper Blondie and Devo's Whip It to Shreds Tour is an unusually strong supernova of bands who ruled the early '80s. Last night at the Warfield, the two bands demonstrated that a love of music and playing live is still deeply instilled.
As Debbie Harry herself told us in an interview last week, the two bands have been part of a "mutual appreciation society" for decades, but this is the first time they've co-headlined a tour. And last night, on the third stop on the tour, Harry announced, "I'm loving it!"
The iconic frontwoman, now 67 years old, was fiercely rocking what for anyone else on Earth would be a very unforgiving outfit of hiked-up gold lam√© pants and sequined top. The outfit was flashy, to be sure, a fun counterpoint to her comparatively demure dancing and posing.
At times, her movements recalled the bops of a shy flapper, while at others, she showed a mastery of a seductive hip shake. Alternating between coquette and vamp, this woman knows how to command a stage with seeming ease.
The band showed off lush arrangements of classics like "Dreaming," "Atomic," and "Call Me." More recent songs like "Mother in the Night," a tribute to the New York nightclub formerly known as Jackie 60, kept the set from being overly familiar the whole time. She'd also subtly slip in modern references here and there. "One way or another, I'm gonna get your Facebook password!" she sang in the midst of "One Way or Another."
Harry kept us transfixed throughout the performance. But the band's visuals, projected behind the musicians, occasionally drew our eyes to computer-generated flames and rapidfire images from Blondie's early days.
Harry hinted in our interview that the band likes to throw in some unusual cover songs as curveballs in a set, so we were expecting this. But it was still such a leftfield surprise to hear the strains of Frankie Goes to Hollywood's "Relax" crank up at the beginning of the encore, a faithful version of the song. Earlier, a snippet of Beastie Boys' "No Sleep Til Brooklyn" had provided a novel cap to the band's proto-rap hit "Rapture." A glimmering skull rotated on the screen behind the band as it played "Heart of Glass" and Harry sent the audience out into the night with genuine appreciation.
Stuck in a soul-crushing line outside for too long, we missed the beginning of Devo's set, which usually features the group's most mainstream hits like "Whip It" and "Beautiful World." As soon as we entered the fray we heard what's typically known as a battle cry at this band's show, as frontman Mark Mothersbaugh shouted: "The Uncontrollable Urge!"
Back in January at the Fillmore, this signaled the start of a huge mosh pit of forty and fiftysomethings, so we nervously looked for the nearest exit. But, whether it was a subdued Monday night or it was a more densely-packed show, we were surprised that a mosh pit didn't materialize -- even with Mothersbaugh egging on the crowd with a pair of giant orange pom-poms. The most frenzy came from a few isolated heads wearing Devo's flower pot-like lids in the crowd.