When I saw the announcement for this show I was immediately excited. All three bands; Blondie, The Saints and The Stranglers had been a big part of the soundtrack to my growing up. It was only as the show approached that the grim reality dawned on me that the heyday of all three groups was 30 or more years ago. With this in mind I made my way to the Sidney Myer Music Bowl with a mix of anticipation and trepidation.
The Saints open with Ghost Ships for a small but gathering crowd. Chris Bailey’s trademark humour draws laughter ‘we are just warming you up for our international guests to fondle your thigh, to run a finger through your hair’. He introduces Just Like Fire Would as the Scottish National album and it’s a set highlight. Bailey tells us we are a ‘marvelous bunch’ and the band leaves the stage to warm applause.
The Stranglers take to the stage with purpose and bass player Jean-Jaques Burnel belts straight into Hanging Around from their ‘77 debut Rattus Norvegicus. The absence of the original singer Hugh Cornwall has not diminished the band at all. Guitarist Baz Warne takes on most of the vocal duties, leering and snarling through Peaches and No More Heroes and pulling back for a beautiful vocal delivery on Golden Brown, and Always the Sun. They feel very much like a band still in their prime, nice work lads, there is hope for us all.
And then it’s time for Blondie. Debbie Harry appears in gold jacket with a huge blonde quiff and sunglasses and the huge crowd roars. At 67 she is still every inch the pop star. The group launch into Dreaming, Hanging on the Telephone and Union City Blues without pausing for breath. Harry’s voice sounds wonderful as ever and the band is in great form. Clem Burke’s drumming is powerhouse, he rarely breaks through the whole set. Chris Stein looks a bit worse for wear, but his playing is in the pocket. They treat us to the songs we want to hear; Call Me, The Tide Is High, Atomic, Rapture and the audience are with them every moment. Harry struggles a little in the top register of her voice but with the crowd singing along to every word it hardly matters to her or to us. The set also include a bunch of songs from 2011 album Panic of Girls and the new tunes such as Love Doesn’t Frighten Me and Mother cut it next to their old hits, with hooks and pop smarts a plenty. The show finishes a great version of Heart Of Glass and we drift off into the night. Looks like the old guard have still got it.