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Blondie: Piece Hall, Halifax – Live Review


Blondie | Starsailor
Piece Hall, Halifax
7th June 2024

There’s an air of expectancy around the stone-hewn streets of Halifax, West Yorkshire as New York’s finest roll into town. The cafés and bars are buzzing with anticipation with groups of Blondie fans, old and young, gathering to enjoy the town’s hospitality. The Ring o’ Bells and Old Post Office pubs cannily blast out Blondie hits to draw in passers-by before they witness a performance from one of the most iconic bands of the past fifty years, with credit due to the organisers for bringing a piece of the Big Apple to this historic corner of the country. And what better setting could there be to welcome the exalted visitors than the magnificent Piece Hall, which once again provides a perfect, if unlikely, venue for a major rock event?

The crowd is already happily congregating in numbers within the Piece Hall’s imposing quadrangle as support act Starsailor take the stage. The band may have only crossed the Pennines rather than the Atlantic to be with us tonight, but they’re met with a warm reception nonetheless. It has to be said that the stalwarts of the awfully named post-Britpop genre aren’t obvious party-starters, and frontman James Walsh seems to acknowledge this by introducing Alcoholic with a modest; ‘A lot of you here tonight may not know any of our material.’ However, the vocalist’s affable personality soon starts to win the crowd over as he takes time to pay tribute to the venue, Blondie and the audience, as well as the hard work put in by BSL signers to make these events more accessible, a sentiment very much echoed by LTW. The band proceed to deliver a thoroughly professional set of well-crafted songs, including favourites Into The Wild, Poor Misguided Fool, Lullaby and Four To The Floor, to get us in the mood despite the threatening grey clouds gathering overhead.

Blondie: Piece Hall, Halifax – Live Review

So, how do you introduce the band which needs no introduction? Suffice to say, Blondie are bona fide legends – an act which, for a time, tapped into the popular zeitgeist with uncanny precision to produce smash hit after smash hit. Ridiculously commercial, they appealed to the Top of the Pops viewers and club-goers but were consistently cool enough to keep the New Wave scenesters very much on board with that inimitable New York groove. And, of course, in the sultry, charismatic and attitude-filled Debbie Harry, they had that most effective of secret weapons to give them an altogether unfair advantage over their peers. While physical attraction undeniably played a part with Debbie’s posters adorning a million bedroom walls, there was so much more to her appeal than that. Indefinably alluring and sassy but completely unthreatening, talented and intelligent, with the ability to light up a stage or photo shoot with the faintest of Mona Lisa smiles, the Miami-born songstress was one of a kind, and the eclectic mix in the Piece Hall bears witness to Blondie’s universal appeal. Youthful and ageing, parents and kids, rockers, clubbers, punks and hen parties – they’re all here tonight. T-shirts on display include Tom Jones, Placebo, Sisters of Mercy and Stone Sour, and we even have rock royalty in our midst in the form of ex-Wildhearts bassist Danny McCormack.

Blondie: Piece Hall, Halifax – Live Review

The moment we’ve all been waiting for finally arrives as the backdrop screens crackle into life with black-and-white interference before Blondie take the stage to huge cheers. It’s party time, and what better way to get things underway than with the monster hit One Way Or Another, a song made even more popular by young admirers of One Direction’s cover? Of course, all eyes inevitably home in on Debbie, and it has to be said she looks fantastic in shades, white leather topped with a suit jacket (this is northern England after all), and matching trousers, as she struts the boards with more energy, poise and sprightliness than she has any right to display. ‘Hello Halifax, this is Blondie calling’, hollers the singer before launching into Hanging On The Telephone. As well as delving into numerous musical styles for inspiration, this band had a knack for taking other people’s songs and making them their own, and this cover of The Nerves’ track is a case in point. The gorgeous Sunday Girl and Call Me round off a quartet of crowd favourites, more hits in fifteen minutes than most can pack into a show.

Blondie: Piece Hall, Halifax – Live Review

There have been suggestions of late that Debbie Harry’s voice had inevitably lost a little of its silky smoothness and deceptive power, but it has to be said that tonight, it is almost unbelievably strong, enhanced by raucous crowd participation and with backing vocals to the fore. The entertaining screen projections, dazzling side lights and energised band all combine to make this quite a show, but of course, it’s mainly about those fantastic songs. Although this was always going to be a gig chock-full of hits, Blondie like to vary things a little, and Debbie introduces Living In The Real World with ‘We haven’t played this one for a while’, (1998 to be precise). Nothing Is Real But The Girl, Long Time and the unlikely encore of Debbie’s haunting solo track, Dog Star Girl also serve to please the more hard-core fans.

The classic hits continue with Atomic, Rapture and another cover in The Paragons’ The Tide Is High, demonstrating the band’s versatility by visiting disco, hip-hop and rocksteady in turn. Debbie gives another shout-out for the Piece Hall and draws attention to the ‘refreshing’ rain. As the heavens really open, we are soon refreshed to the skin, but this does nothing to dampen the celebratory spirit or remove the Cheshire Cat grins from the faces of the disciples. The singer also makes sure to give full credit to the excellent band which currently constitutes Blondie, eliciting particular appreciation for ever-present drum maestro Clem Burke and the legendry Glen Matlock, looking dapper as ever, on bass. Maria and an ecstatically received Heart Of Glass apparently bring things to a close, but there’s still time for Blondie to return and finish things off for real with one more smash, the delicious Dreaming. It only remains for Debbie Harry to wish everyone good night as she blows kisses and the band accept the wild applause.

Blondie: Piece Hall, Halifax – Live Review

While some ‘heritage bands’ are accused of outstaying their welcome, Blondie are above such criticism and in damp West Yorkshire, Debbie Harry has once more lived up to her billing as an adopted national treasure. We will never see their likes again and, for that reason alone, those experiencing Blondie for the first time tonight or veterans of a hundred gigs will be grateful for this opportunity.

~

Blondie Links: Website | Facebook | X | Instagram

All words by Robin Boardman. More writing from Robin for Louder Than War can be found at his author’s archive.

All pictures by Neil Chapman

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