Blondie with Dahlia at the Roseland

The term “new wave” has become a bit laughable, and with good reason. How can something supposedly “new” refer to a movement whose genesis occurred over thirty years ago? It’s as erronious a misnomer as the term “modern” applied to typefaces like Bodoni, first designed in 1798 (thanks, Wikipedia!).

But semantics be damned! Watching Blondie rock 18 songs live on stage validates, nay, elevates the term. While other splintered groups of the era continue sans visionaries (The Cars minus Ric Ocasik and Benjamin Orr is like Star Wars without any jedi or lightsabers), the heart and soul of Blondie (Debbie Harry and Chris Stein, respectively) remain, and in stellar form.

Nine out of ten opening acts will be irrevocably, unapologetically terrible. Luckily, my pessimism was defied by the inherently likable (and twice as danceable) Peaches-esque trip-hop of Portland’s own Dahlia. Their upbeat set of fun, slightly raunchy tunes was a great precursor to the headlining act, winning the audience over and making the first 30 minutes fly by.

Blondie broke up in 1982 for several reasons, not least among them the attention focused specifically on their iconic vocalist. The moment the band took the stage, it was clear why. At age 63, it is remarkable how intensely Deborah still commands her audience. While the band performed very well, orchestrating a flawlessly tight set, it seemed they had accepted her level of charisma and adjusted their focus proportionally.

What I found most appealing about the set was how much personality the band exuded. Debbie danced in the least polished way, shimmying and stomping about like a punk rock chick who just heard “London Calling” for the first time. As they stormed through material largely from Parallel Lines and Eat to the Beat (my personal favorites), they elevated and maintained a level of energy bands half their age would aspire to.

So who cares if “new wave” is an antiquated term? Blondie ruled that stage better than most contemporary artists; they’ve earned the distinction, and it’ll take more than an oxymoron to stop them.

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