Blondie at Brixton Academy: Perfect punk perfomance threw crowd into jubilant frenzy

The gig was the last night of the band’s Pollinator tour and from beginning to end it felt like a celebration in a city which has always adored them 

Deborah Harry at Brixton Academy
Deborah Harry at Brixton Academy

“I know you’re fans, I can tell when I’m with my people”, Blondie frontwoman Deborah Harry said, grinning as she gestured to the roaring crowd during an interlude of the song ‘Fragments’, a track from the New Yorkers’ eleventh studio album, Pollinator. The pause to acknowledge the rowdy adoration at the Brixton Academy came just half an hour into the band’s hour and a half set, testament to the tangible energy and volume of the near-constant sing-a-long, even to tracks from their latest release.

From the moment Harry and the band launched into their set with the grinding, growling, new wave classic ‘One Way or Another’ from 1978’s Parallel Lines, the crowd at the sold out Brixton Academy were whipped into a jubilant frenzy, something the band appeared to totally absorb to give a high-octane, passionate performance.

Straight after the storming opener, the familiar ringing to signal the opening of ‘Hanging on the Telephone’ blared out, the noise met by a giant synchronised groan of delight from the crowd, leaving Harry to pause and soak in the reaction before hammering into the track. And so it went, track after track of perfectly-assembled punk pop, dance and rock was thrashed out on stage, as the audience at times managed to muffle Harry’s vocals with their karaoke.

Harry is captivating; donning a bejewelled bee-themed headpiece, or perhaps crown, and a white cape with the message ‘Don’t F*ck the Planet’ emblazoned on the back. The bee theme talks to the band’s campaign to raise funds and awareness for BEE Connected – a body set-up to campaign to stop declining bee numbers and the ecosystem issues this presents.

It’s difficult to not become completely transfixed by Harry, who cuts an ethereal figure as the lights settle on her platinum hair and completely white outfit. She is seemingly giant, yet simultaneously shy, the combination giving the impression of a humble woman, who adores her fans. Perhaps aware of her presence, Harry purposely drifts into the wings several times in the evening to allow the spotlight to fall on the talents of the rest of the band.

Chris Stein’s guitar playing is so perfect it’s sometimes difficult to remember he’s playing live, and the note-perfect spines of those iconic tracks are not those of a finely-produced recording. Drummer Clem Burke steals the show on more than one occasion. In fact, on the odd chance someone in the crowd might not be a fan, he would provide a perfectly entertaining masterclass in drumming on his own. Meanwhile, hugely talented guitarist Tommy Kessler, who joined the group in 2010, was nothing short of incredible. Such was the intricacy and pace of his playing, particularly during one breathtaking solo, that a mature woman to my right headbanged and whooped for a solid 30 seconds.

Brixton was the last night of the band’s Pollinator tour and from beginning to end it felt like a celebration in the city which has always adored them.

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