There was a time when Blondie knew they were putting on a good show if people spit on them. That was a different era, of course, in the 1970s at CBGB’s, when Deborah Harry would pose and snarl “One Way Or Another” and the approving punks would respond with the ritual of what was called “gobbing.”
It’s a long way from there to the ballroom of the Hinkley Hilton circa 2009, in front of a crowd of seriously rich middle-age (and older) people, with lots of women wearing actual old-school furs and sporting jewelry that is worth more than your house. Up on the stage, somehow, is a 64-year-old Harry and a drummer still sporting a CBGB’s T-shirt. You’re there on a pass because your wife’s employer is a sponsor of this fund-raising event, and what you really want to do is mock this whole scenario. After all, here we have a band that was very, very, very much against this sort of scene Back In The Day, and now it has sold out. It’s a familiar story.
Except for one thing: The band kicked butt! And not in a we-can-cover-our-oldies-and-pick-up-a-paycheck way, but in a we-still-make-vital-music-and-we’re-going-to-play-it-no-matter-what way. There was Harry, strutting around and still knocking out songs in her breathy voice, and there was an absolutely terrific, tight backing unit, putting out music like they meant it despite the rather un-Blondie-ish crowd. This was a real band, not some musicians going through the motions, and this was a real gig.
There was an interesting moment early on. “Does anybody know what happened with the health care bill vote today?” Harry asked. Dead silence. Wrong target audience. Access to health care is not a big issue with these folks.
We didn’t stay around for the whole show — my wife and I both have early-to-rise day jobs now, and that fact has a tendency to shut down our body clocks when it gets late — but the whole situation made me pause and reflect. I was kind of embarrassed for the band going into the night, but then they came out on stage and kind of smacked the crowd around a bit. Since I wasn’t there for the end of the show, I don’t know if tuxedoed millionaires were gobbing the band by night’s end, but I think that would have been appropriate.