Scissor Sisters/Blondie, Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh

New Year with the New Wave
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The Independent Culture

Although the city of Edinburgh prides itself on its world-renowned New Year's Eve celebrations, this year was quite possibly the first when the bands performing on stage came close to overshadowing the 100,000-strong street party going on above. Or, for that matter, the midnight fireworks display and its eight tons of pyrotechnics launched into the air above the castle.

Although the city of Edinburgh prides itself on its world-renowned New Year's Eve celebrations, this year was quite possibly the first when the bands performing on stage came close to overshadowing the 100,000-strong street party going on above. Or, for that matter, the midnight fireworks display and its eight tons of pyrotechnics launched into the air above the castle.

But then, the organisers had managed to secure one of the year's most talked-about and truly exciting bands in the Scissor Sisters. A year ago, the New York-based quintet were nobodies; albeit nobodies playing the cabaret clubs of their home town, while perfecting a clutch of fine songs with the potential to sweep the worlds of nightclub classics and daytime radio crossover before them. That's precisely what happened in 2004, and this gig felt very much the full stop at the end of a 12-month first chapter of astonishing achievement.

One band, of course, who can measure out their achievements on a much broader timescale are Blondie. And while they may not have quite the same contemporary appeal as the Sisters, Deborah Harry and co still possess enough verve and skill - and the required raft of great party tunes - to hold up admirably as Edinburgh's last live band of 2004. In fact, Harry is more than willing to go the extra yard to please her hosts - she begins the evening's tartan theme by wearing a green kilt over black, thigh-length boots, and has one special surprise left before the bells.

But before that, the obligatory set of greatest hits. And while the sound created by the founding guitarist, Chris Stein, and the rest of the band may now veer more toward AM radio rock than the edgy tension of the New Wave scene that the band helped to found, there is enough in Harry's performance alone to justify their continued existence. "Rapture" still stands up as a timeless funk-rock, hip-hop monolith; "Picture This" flies by in a gleeful rush; and the closing double of "Call Me" and "Heart of Glass" are still perfect pop manna from heaven. Mercifully managing to avoid ruining any of their greats, Blondie also manage the same trick for their "surprise" closer, "Auld Lang Syne" - Harry's spirited rendition of which was surely a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Once the bells, hugs, fireworks and spirits were dispensed with, time for a band who are surely no strangers to any of the above. The Scissor Sisters' Ana Matronic is a confirmed Scots-lover, and she made this clear in no uncertain terms once more by wearing, underneath a hooded shawl, a dress emblazoned with the Saltire flag. She wouldn't wear her own nation's flag, we were told, but she just loves this place so much...

In truth, it's no surprise that Edinburgh's Hogmanay revellers love the sassy, outspoken redhead and her band just as much. That the Scissor Sisters have eclipsed all but Franz Ferdinand in the year gone by as a genre-straddling act who knock most of the lame-brained pop world into a cocked hat is without doubt. That they do it with such subtle and specific emphasis on well-crafted fun means they're carving a name for themselves alongside such greats as... well, as Blondie. Their shortened-for-the-occasion set showcased all the party tunes, with the tearful stab at enduring pop balladry that is "Mary" standing out alongside such rabble-rousers as "Take Your Mama", "Comfortably Numb", "Filthy/Gorgeous" and "Music is the Victim". Jake Shears even found time to fool the audience with a moment of suspected nudity, although the flesh-coloured bodysuit he was actually wearing was sensible protection against the chill.

As 2004 ebbed away, it was a privilege to see it off with a band who can rightly say they helped to soundtrack the year. Whether 2005 holds as much promise for them was not the sort of thing we were thinking of as we danced into the night.

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