Boom Boom in the Zoom Zoom Room.
As an old rocker myself, of course I am familiar with the band Blondie. I have to admit that in the late '70s and early '80s they weren't exactly my cup of tea. They went in directions of disco, pop, and punk rock, none of which were the classic rock and heavy metal genres I performed. In fact, back in the day I considered them pretty much everything I stood against in music. But time and age heals old attitudes and closed minds, and the fact is that now I probably have more in common with Deborah Harry (who IS Blondie in most people's minds) now than I have with the young singer I was then. Both of us still have our talent, but have grown older and in some ways better, though not if you're counting the youthful appearance category. I have to admit that musically Blondie is a more talented group than I remember, and the level of professionalism of the band was high in this concert disc from BMG. Their music is still pop, but a more mature and tight version of it, and more in tune with the times. Fans old and new of the band should enjoy this fine performance.
Blondie hit the New York scene in the early '70s and developed quite a following, which led to them fronting for bands such as Iggy Pop and David Bowie. For several years they were popular in Europe and Asia, but in 1979 they first hit it big in the US, with the album Heart of Glass. For the next several years they almost defined the punk rock genre, but had various forays into mainstream pop, jazz, and a few disco numbers, along with a smattering of reggae and funk. Dissension and illness broke the band apart in 1982, and for years their music lived on through recordings and various solo projects by Deborah Harry and other band members. But they are back, and with a vengeance. Their latest album No Exit has gone multi-platinum, and the single "Maria" is a big hit.
This performance, sponsored by a local New York radio station took place in the Town Hall auditorium late last year. Part of it was used for a VH-1 special, but approximately 45 minutes of extra footage to complete the entire set was added back in for this DVD. It combines the old hits I remember, such as "Call Me," "Heart of Glass," and "One Way or Another" along with some new hits and some old stuff I never heard before. The interesting title listed in The Charge is one of them, an appealing and quirky jazz number I really enjoyed. In fact I enjoyed most of the songs, with only one or two exceptions. I'll write those off to personal taste though, as the audience enthusiastically embraced each number.
I'd like to talk about that performance just a bit. The first number had Deborah Harry come out in her trademark dark shades and a black leather coat, and they raced into the first 3 songs without a break. The pace of the show was frenetic and almost non-stop; with only a few very brief introductions slowing down it's breakneck speed. I know that drummer had to be exhausted by the end of the 78 minute show. The show ran 14 songs and a quick encore, ending with "One Way or Another" and "Heart of Glass." The band was tight, as I said before, and they all looked like some quasi-combination of both sophisticated 21st century and 1980s throwbacks. For the most part it worked.
The most important part of this review, since most of you already know if you're interested or not, is the quality of the sound. In a word, great. The DD 5.1 soundtrack was intense and immersive. The front soundstage was wide and deep, with surrounds used for slight reverb and ambient audience sounds. Imaging was fine so far as the channels went, but didn't make a lot of use of the spaces between them. That is a tiny complaint hardly worth mentioning. The subwoofer certainly was used throughout, but from a musician's standpoint I'd have mixed the bass drum a little higher for that extra kick. Both of these complaints are minuscule, and are merely observations of how the track could have been perfect rather than great. I was very pleased with the sound. The alternate Dolby 2.0 track was narrow and confining by comparison, but more than adequate. This is normal comparing two such tracks, and if anything should be used as an incentive to jump into the times and get that Dolby Digital receiver or decoder. For those of us who already have one, be happy to give it a workout here.
The video was surprisingly good as well. There were no artifacts or edge enhancement issues to mar the clean look and high level of detail. Even when Ms. Harry had gotten her hair in a mess, with many flying strands, each strand of hair was distinct without a hint of artifact. In fact, this is top notch video, though sadly full frame, as it was again filmed for TV.
There were a couple extras I liked with this disc as well, and one area I didn't like. There is a bonus music video of the song "Nothing is Real But the Girl," not performed in the concert, and the song was very good. Unfortunately the sound was Dolby 2.0, but sill a nice extra. A very small photo gallery was also nice enough.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
The aforementioned extra I didn't care for was the song lyric section. Lyrics for only 4 of the songs are included, and are not available during the performance. Having them available as subtitles during the performance is by far preferred, and I see no reason to include 4 song's lyrics and not all.
Another complaint I have is with the packaging. The case is that strange keepcase with 6 little teeth to hold in the disc, and it doesn't hold them all that well. The back of the case has a song list, but the songs are out of order, and there is no paper insert to give a chapter description. Very frustrating trying to follow along with the show and not know which song was which unless you happened to hear the hook line, which some of the songs didn't have. To find out which song is which you have to go into the menu and select the track of choice there. The back of the case also has the running time listed as 65 minutes, but the show ran 78. Just a little detail that has no reason to be wrong.
This last complaint is a bit catty, and I'm probably the last one who should make it. Back in the day no one was denying that Debby Harry was a hot looking woman. But add 17 years and it changes anybody. I know I look a lot more like Blues Traveler's John Popper than the leather clad skinny guy I was back then, but then I'm not trying to fit into a pair of tight leather pants and relive the day anymore. Ms. Harry wasn't either, but the outfit just didn't suit her, and was too revealing of the 20-30 odd pounds she's put on over the years. Add a size or two to the skirt and it would have been fine. The only reason I mention it is that at first she's wearing this leather coat, and I thought "well I wonder what's on under that." Then the coat came off and it was just distracting. For those of you less shallow about that than me, you'll pay attention to the great vocals instead of her body shape.
To be fair to Deborah Harry, and Blondie, I should reinforce the point that they made it and I didn't. When I make comparisons between us I can certainly claim no superiority since there aren't any gold records on MY wall.
But back to doing my job, which is giving my recommendations on this DVD. I highly recommend the purchase for Blondie fans. For those not so sure, I suggest a rental. For what it's worth, it's a keeper for me and I never considered myself a fan.
The band called Blondie and it's singer Deborah Harry are released with my apologies, both for putting their disc on trial and for any comments I've made. BMG has done a very nice job here, but really needs to double check their information listed on the case and do a better job with the extras. Put the lyrics on as subtitles in the future, and include a paper insert with the chapter list, please. An interview with the band is another good extra to consider. For these transgressions, I release them on probation to do another music disc that gets it all right.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: BMG Music
• Bonus Video
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