I was never a rabid Blondie fan, though I don't remember ever slamming the car radio's tuner buttons to escape her stuff back then. The same goes for The Cars, although in their case I do recall some of their MTV videos being pretty strange, in their strangely good way. It was with some small trepedation that I approached the idea of catching (the current) Blondie live, wondering if her 61 years were any more kind to her than my 51 have been to me.
I'm delighted to say she can be proud of her still-intact abilities to flat-out rock. Her and the band's performance were not short of perfection. Ms. Harry's voice was on, she and the boys were obviously happy to be working for us, and the crowd was into them. I don't know how such a bunch of youngsters -and there were more than a few 'way young, teenie-bopper 12-year-olds and the like- were absolutely nailing the lyrics and tunes to many of the numbers. It was hard to tell whether the band or the crowd were having the most fun with the other.
Now, before I get to The New Cars.
I'm a Toddhead. To a drastic degree. I'd probably not have gone the 20 miles to Sacramento for The New Cars, let alone Blondie, except that Todd (and Prairie, and Kasim) was involved. I've been going to see this pencil-thin, hippie-haired, human-hearted Genius of The Racket And Noises every time I've been able to since my first exposure with Utopia at Berkeley in '76, often catching multiple-exposures when the tours hit closely enough around me for it to be feasible. I've seen him with Utopia, solo, acoustic, electric, the Sessions, the No World Order pod, doing self-parodying in AIDS benefits, benefits for the dear Jane Dornacker and his son's school, With A Twist, The Power Trio, and who knows what all else I'm not thinking of now. But I think my total must be over fifty of Todd's performances.
I don't know that he's ever been better, nor had an apparently better time working than he showed us at Reno last night. I know I've never heard him more on-top of his game than he was for Black Maria with good ol' Foamy.
I know, this is supposed to be about The New Cars. I'll do my best at that. The set, designed by Prairie Prince, is gorgeous, with very good multimedia on multiple screens behind the players. For the only time I remember at a concert, after the roadies set up the stage the sound crew went through every mic and every instrument and tested them one-by-one. The payoff for those few minutes was that there were no glitches with instruments nor sound (unless you would count a donated bra stuck on a guitar as a glitch), and no lyrics were forgotten. Kasim's rendition of "Who's Gonna Drive You Home" is as spookily heart-grinding as the original. The crowd wasn't only a gaggle of menacingly young Blondie freaks, but also a crushing tide of Cars fans whose contribution on lyrics was an ideal counterpoint to the band's tidy and inspired performance.
Just two more things about Todd, and a lot about why some of his folks are even wilder than me: early into the show, he looked down at the fans crushing one another against the face of the stage, and said, "I see a lot of the faithful have turned out", referring to the number of usual Todd suspects in attendance. Not "my" faithful, nor "my fans". He knows who we are, and he's glad to see us, but this time he's in The New Cars, and he's not there just as Todd. He's only the singer and one of the guitarists in the band, and at the end of the show he didn't hang around and clown it up with the crowd, but took his bows with the band as a group. And it's a great group. If you were a Blondie fan, she's still very alive and very kicking; if you were a Cars fan, this band takes nothing from the creativity of the original group nor does it falter in the slightest in putting a fresh polish on the original songs. And if you're a Todd fan, Our Hero is there and happy to see us, and doing a terrific job in his latest position with The New Cars. By all means, catch this bill. It's a thorough winner.