Blondie + Garbage = Force de Femme
Deborah Harry and Shirley Manson thrash and bellow
By Abby Johnston,
10:00AM, Mon. Aug. 14, 2017
The original atomic blonde and one of her ginger musical progeny stormed the stage Friday night in front of a sold-out ACL Live at the Moody Theater. Blondie’s tour with Garbage joined two of rock’s iconic leads, who delivered a femme-powered tour de force.
Shirley Manson took the stage first for Garbage’s co-headlining set, the tall, 50-year-old Edinburgh native as fiery a performer as her trademark mane is red. Backed by her happy-in-the-background, Madison, Wis., studio wizards – Duke Erikson, Steve Marker, and Butch Vig – the singer unleashed Nineties angst already forward-thinking in its new millennial, electro-lined pulse. Spanning the group’s 20-plus-year career, the 75-minute performance delivered the new – last year’s sixth album Strange Little Birds – with the same fervor as the old (“Only Happy When It Rains”).
In a black latex dress that looked – in the best way possible – cobbled together with scraps from a sex dungeon, Manson electrified classics like “#1 Crush” and “Stupid Girl.” Writhing around the microphone, she finally plucked it off the stand as she tipped backward and forward, bellowing the post-rock grit of “Cherry Lips” like it was about to burst from inside of her. On any other night, the final bit of Garbage, “Vow,” would’ve capped off the set perfectly, sending people out into the night with enough electricity to light Downtown.
There was more, obviously.
After a brief intermission, Blondie herself came out swinging on “One Way or Another” and never has Deborah Harry delivering the line “I’m gonna getcha, getcha, getcha” sounded more like a threat. The first wave punk throb of “Hanging on the Telephone” followed, cementing what’s technically a cover as wholly owned by the fortysomething-year-old band. By the fourth number, keyboardist Matt Katz-Bohen produced a keytar, stood at the front of the stage, and cranked out the opening to 1980 No. 1 smash “Call Me.”
The hit-heavy front end of the 15-song set – the same number of selections as Garbage, but broken up by an encore – didn’t exhaust either the 72-year-old Harry, nor the group, which still includes longstanding original members Chris Stein and drummer dynamo Clem Burke. Songs from May’s Pollinator (“Long Time” stood out) didn’t obstruct the one-two punch of main set closers “Atomic” and “Heart of Glass.” The latter tested the singer’s falsetto, which has been compromised by the years, but still gets the job done.
The three-song encore included an unexpected punking up of Céline Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On,” which sent the audience into a frenzy. The tropical sway to “The Tide Is High” didn’t exactly abate that energy. Especially not when a high-octane “Dreaming” set Deborah Harry thrashing around the stage like the debutante she ain’t.
See all of David Brendan Hall's pictures from the show in our gallery.