Let’s cut straight to the chase.
It was cold.
It was very, very cold.
It rained on and off all morning, the wind was vicious and biting and the projected high of 17 degrees was surely nowhere to be seen at the Leconfield Winery, where the wind-chill factor from the sea was making a five hour outdoor music event, if not unattractive, certainly a test of endurance and stamina. I was wearing four long sleeve tops, a jacket, gloves, woollen beanie and scarf and I was still freeze my bits off. I had pants and shoes as well, lest you think I was feeling cold by over compensating on the top half of my body for being a below the waist nudist. So very cold. Freezing.
I know more than a few people who abandoned their plans to attend in light of the harsh conditions. It wasn’t the only major outdoor event on Sunday in Adelaide either, Santana and the Doobie Brothers were playing in Botanic Park at the same time, but I guess that wasn’t a two hour commute.
Because of the weather we didn’t get there for the start and therefore missed Alex Lahey and sadly Montaigne who from all accounts was fantastic and judging by the line for her signing at the merch tent really struck a chord with people. Definitely an act to keep an eye on. We did however arrive in time for the glorious return of The Clouds. For fans of indie, jingle jangle guitars, fabulous harmonies and power pop from the 1990’s, The Clouds have been sadly missed and their recent resurrection is most welcome. Their on stage sound is perfect and the harmonies of Jodie Phillis & Trish Young were beyond delicious. Kicking off with Fear the Moon from the Penny Century album (1991), then they pounded into the classic Bower of Bliss with snake like attitude and swagger.
The audience reaction is somewhat subdued, which may have been because the people who were listening to Cyndi Lauper and Blondie back in the day were not listening to top notch Australian Indie Pop as well, but it is more likely it was just too damn cold for people to take their hands out of their pockets to clap. But for me I was loving it. They have just released their first new music in 20 years, the Zaffre EP which was available on a very groovy Clouds USB at the merch desk, and they played House of the Sun and Mabel’s Bookshop from it today and both were terrific. Biggest responses were for Say It and Hieronymus, both Triple J classics. Welcome back, this Sunday you were the only Clouds I was happy to see!
It’s 2017 and that means the first time I saw Blondie play live was forty years ago. Billed as ‘The First New Wave Tour’ Blondie played at Apollo Stadium (long since demolished) in 1977 on the strength of their first album and a clutch of singles (X Offender, In The Flesh) championed by Ian ‘Molly’ Meldrum and Countdown. Australia was the first country Blondie ever had a hit, way before the US ever caught on in a big way. Their combination of New York City cool, sixties influenced pop, catchy songs and the astonishing Debbie Harry out front meant they were destined to be huge, Australia just recognized that before anywhere else.
Four decades on and many tours later the three pivotal members Harry, guitarist Chris Stein and powerhouse drummer Clem Burke, are back ably assisted some top notch players, a fistful of great new songs and a back catalogue that would be the envy of any ‘heritage’ acts. They start with the explosive One Way or Another from 1979’s Parallel Lines. It still drips with attitude and lustful intent all these years later.
“One way or another I’m gonna getcha getcha getcha..”
Debbie looks amazing with a long blonde wig and two large bumble bees in her hair. She is wearing a long black top with ‘STOP FUCKING THE WORLD’ in sequins on the back. Hanging On the Telephone (also Parallel Lines) is next and is fantastic. Debbie is 72 years old these days and so there is less running around, rolling on the floor and high kick as there once might have been, but she has still got it for sure. There is always a sense of dread when a vintage artist introduces a song from the ‘new album’, this is especially true when that new album isn’t even out yet, so not even the most ardent fans have heard it yet.
Fortunately all the songs Blondie play tonight from the forthcoming Pollinator (due out next month) are all solid tunes and fit right in with the classic Blondie sound. First new track is Fun, written by Harry, Stein and Dave Sitek from TV On The Radio) and it is what is says on the box. The winery erupts as they start Call Me, a massive hit in 1980 from the soundtrack to American Gigolo. Another new song My Monster written by ex-Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr is catchy and terrific. In The Flesh gives me chills down my spine (and not because of the weather). All these years later and it is still magnificent.
Hands off this one sweetie,
This boy is mine,
I couldn’t resist you
I’m not deaf dumb and blind.
They tackle Rapture, for many the first rapping they had ever heard when it was released, with style before smashing an unexpected cover of The Beastie Boys Fight For You Right To Party out of the park and for no real reason that is clear. It’s followed by two tracks from the bands previous album Ghost of a Download release from 2013. Euphoria and A Rose By Any Other Name. Ghost was a pretty good record, but it’s release was weird. Delayed several times and then released under the banner Blondie 4(0) Ever along with a disc of newly recorded versions of some of their biggest hits.
Long Time from Pollinator is also a good song, but given the brief length of their set sticking quite so many new(ish) songs together may have been trying some peoples patience a it. But then they played Atomic and the bombastic poppiness meant all was forgiven. Until the next song is also a newie Gravity. The set finished with an extended Heart of Glass and everywhere people are dancing and singing along and it is brilliant.
I really do have to mention the drumming of Clem Burke, still one of the best drummers in the world, his power style, flourishes and Keith Moon-esque moves are an absolute dream to see and just about worth the freezing conditions by themselves.
They return for Fragments (bringing the total of new songs up to six out of a total of sixteen) before closing with a celebratory Dreaming.
After a 30 minute break Cyndi Lauper arrived on stage with trademark theatrics. Carrying a suitcase she delivered a great version of the Wanda Jackson classic, Funnel of Love which is from her latest country flavoured album Detour. In some ways a return to her rockabilly roots when she was in a band called Blue Angel (great record if you can track it down). Wearing a fringed leather jacket and blonde wig Cyndi is all over the stage but clearly not enjoying the freezing conditions. “Come to Adelaide they said, don’t bring any of those winter clothes, it’ll be warm they said!”.
She is aiming to raise our temperatures by launching into She Bop her third single as a solo performer and a massive hit all over the world. Her voice is incredible and I have always wondered how such a mighty sound comes out of such a small person. Astounding. Next up is I Drove All Night originally written for and recorded by Roy Orbison in 1987, but not released. Cyndi’s version came out in 1989 and was a huge hit and a remixed version of the Orbison version came out in 1992 after he had passed away. Both versions are fantastic and tonight Cyndi gives it everything.
There are two songs from Detour, The End of The World (originally by Skeeter Davis) and Patsy Cline‘s Walking After Midnight. During End of the World Cyndi stands on a rotating stand while she sings, like a fancy cake in a patisserie. It’s a nice bit of staging. She introduces Witness as a song written in the Blue Angel days but not recorded until her massive 1983 album She’s So Unusual.
Cyndi has made a number of musical detours in her career. In 2003 At Last was her take on a number of Jazz standards, Bring Ya To The Brink in 2008 dabbled in EDM and house, and in 2010 Memphis Blues had her singing, well, y’know…the blues. Rain on Me is from Brink, and is followed by a rollicking Goonies Are Good Enough For Me from The Goonies movie in 1985. You Don’t Know is from her 1996 album Sisters of Avalon. Returning to unusual Money Changes Everything gets pulses racing again before laving the stage with little fanfare.
She returns and starts telling a story which she has to interrupt to tell people who are talking to “shut the fuck up.”, before playing a sway inducing singsong version of Time After Time. Everybody is ready and the band launches into an extended version of Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, one of the defining songs of the 1980’s. A song that fill any dance floor decades after it leapt from our radios and TV screens. Everybody is dancing. Everybody is singing. It’s pretty magical. People start heading for the exits and the warm relief of their cars heaters, but those who remain are treated to a beautiful take on True Colours.
Meanwhile at the Merch desk they sold out of the $80 Blondie hoodies and you could buy a fully autographed drum skin with a handwritten set list for $300, or Cyndi Lauper’s brand new CD autographed for $10. Many chose the later.
Some great artists playing some of the defining songs of the 70’s and 80’s (and 90’s), but the weather was a massive buzz kill.
Review by Ian Bell
Blondie Set list
One Way or Another
Hanging on the Telephone
In The Flesh
You Gotta Fight For Your Right To Party
A Rose By Any other Name
Heart of Glass
Cyndi Lauper Set list
Funnel of Love
I Drove All night
The End of The World
Walking After Midnight
Rain on Me
Goonies Are Good Enough
You Don’t Know
Money Changes Everything
Time After Time
Girls Just Wanna Have Fun