CONCERT REVIEW : Blondie – OVO Hydro Glasgow 22nd April 2022

Blondie’s Against All Odds tour has finally made its long-awaited start, six months after its originally scheduled November date. Now accompanied by Mancunian legend Johnny Marr, replacing Garbage, they kicked off their 10 date UK tour with a first Glasgow show in 8 years, at the OVO Hydro.

First up is the prolific Marr, currently between collaborations with tonight’s headliners. Kicking off with the synth heavy Armatopia Marr shows the versatility that a 40 year career brings. He has simultaneously influenced and been influenced by just about everyone he’s played with.

Then comes the first of The Smiths tracks. Panic leads the first singsong from the crowd and whilst, vocally, Smiths songs will always be characterised by Morrisey’s distinct baritone, Marr’s versions feel similar enough to feel comforting but different enough to know that this isn’t some beleaguered karaoke.

The highlight of the set is probably one of Marr’s own, 2022 double album Fever Dreams PT 1-4’s, Spirit Power and Soul. With its New Order rhythms, it manages to somehow float along on Marr’s dreamy guitars, whilst synth and drum machine punches it along in a stacatto fashion.

Marr takes the now swelling crowd back a few years, promising “one from the Hacienda” before launching into Electronic classic Getting Away with It. The only person in the room who seems disappointed is the woman next to me who has screamed “THERE IS A LIGHT” every time there was so much a minute of silence.

Eventually she’ll get her request fulfilled but before then there is a set that throws out other Smiths classics This Charming Man and How Soon is Now?, sandwiching Electronic’s Get the Message. He ends on There is a Light and the now much fuller room gives him the reaction he richly deserves.

One of the strengths of Marr’s setlist is the deep catalogue he can delve into, from The Smiths to Bernard Sumner partnered Electronic, via his own solo work. He is able to weave between the jangle pop of the early days and the psych-infused electro rock tunes of his more recent years.

Next, headliners Blondie make their appearance. The New York new wave icons are down one member however, with Chris Stein unavailable due to health concerns. He’s replaced by former Sex Pistol Glen Mattlock.

The next two hours are raucous and fun. One of the biggest takeaways is just how pure Debbie Harry’s still voice is. Whilst for some groups, after 50 years it’s a case of going through the motions, for Harry and co. it’s apparent how much they’re enjoying still being out there.

With their last album coming in 2017, the setlist is an opportunity to focus on the classics. To a comic book aesthetic backdrop, they blitz through X Offender and Hanging on the Telephone, with barely a breath between them.

The Tide is High’s ska-ish rhythms should juxtapose to the more straightforward new wave sounds that are more familiar to Blondie, but Tommy Kessler, Matlock and Clem Burke seem to have decided to kick it into overdrive and each track feels like an absolute powerhouse version.

At the halfway point, they nearly tear the roof off with the opening riff of Atomic. The snarling opening riff, nearly cutting through the Hydro crowd like some sort of dangerous acid. As the number nears its end Kessler seems to be doing his level best to whip the crowd into a frenzy with his freewheeling solo work.

They round out the main set with three classics, starting with 1999’s comeback single Maria. Alongside The Tide is High, this is one that often stands out amongst the bubblegum punk of earlier Blondie. It sounds more mature but here it’s like they’ve decided to play it at double speed.

Heart of Glass follows an absolutely dreamy Dreaming and then there is a well deserved encore, consisting of No Exit, Fragments and then the double hit of Call Me and One Way or Another. The final two numbers showing Blondie at their punky best.

Harry spoke of how “some of us made it”. Whether she was talking about COVID or those who the once shared the New York scene with, Blondie are still here and they are still as fun as ever.

Review by Callum McCormack