Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Woodstock, Benatar, and Blondie (4 of 4)


Everybody’s been talking about Woodstock and the 60s for the past four days of the fortieth anniversary, but as usual my brain’s been on my 80s childhood.

And much as I love the songs of Blondie, I have to admit Pat Benatar was undeniably more of a showman than Debbie Harry at last Thursday’s awesome Coney Island concert. It was also a reminder that while hard rock isn’t always as intellectually sophisticated as alternative rock, it’s far more life-affirming and crowd-pleasing.

Benatar and her bandmates sounded like they’ve been happily touring non-stop for decades and gave every song their all, with Benatar frequently (and non-annoyingly) addressing the crowd with stories and good wishes — and a dedication (I think it was “Invincible,” one of her best and source of the tour’s hybrid “Call Me Invincible” title) to our men and women overseas keeping the peace. (Note that she’s from relatively un-p.c. Long Island — not, say, Chelsea, where I heard a crowd at the movie W. boo an Army recruiting ad, causing my father, sitting next to me — who had briefly been in the Navy — to quietly but angrily declare the crowd “assholes.”)

Debbie Harry, much as I worship her, probably shouldn’t have tried following Benatar and sounded and moved just a bit as though her lawyers had reminded her she was contractually obligated to do the show. Maybe that’s the danger of the alternative rock affectation of apathy, after it becomes a habit of thirty years (by contrast, though, that solo Siouxsie performance of “These Boots Were Made for Walkin’” that I recently linked suggests Siouxsie is actually loosening up with age, getting less goth and more gung-ho).

Blondie often do cover songs for their encore, I think (judging by their performances of “Get It On (Bang a Gong)” and “Ring of Fire” at the end of one album I have), and it was a nice touch to finish this time with the late Michael Jackson’s “Don’t Stop ’Til You Get Enough.”


My companion Michael Malice and I were chatting between bands (when he wasn’t making a strategically-brilliant run to his grandmother’s nearby home to use the bathroom) and discovered that he and I, before we knew each other, had both been at that unofficial, unannounced Blondie-reunion first appearance (when they returned with the single “Maria”) at Tramps (which J.R Taylor took me to, as mentioned in comments under my August 13 entry). Small alternative-rocking world.

I’m reminded again of the tribal realization I’ve had before that, for instance, despite Lou Reed’s fame, I’m probably one of only 10,000 or so people who saw his recent Berlin concert film. We are fewer and prouder than it might at first seem. (Likewise, there was a formative Dada movement event talked about for decades afterward that was held in one artist’s living room, I believe, and attended by only about fourteen people — maybe you’re making history right now and don’t realize it.)

Just to show that my alternative rock sympathies do not end at the 80s, let it be noted that tonight I’ll see the Breeders (though I’d prefer not to be one) at Bowery Ballroom along with Scott Nybakken and Richard Ryan — and I’m the proud possessor of actual Pixies tix (fun to say aloud!) for November, to boot.

But tomorrow night, it’s the monthly Manhattan Project social gathering (6:30 on, second floor of Merchants NY East, southwest corner of 62nd and First), and in the spirit of much-needed civil town hall discussion, I should assure everyone that even though Manhattan Project is meant as a haven for weary non-leftists in a left-leaning city, we don’t throw anybody out if you care to join us. Come on, people, smile on your brother.

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