On the Scene: Blondie and Cheap Trick at Live at the Garden



It may have been pure coincidence that temperatures dropped into the high 60s for the first time this season during the last concert of the Memphis Botanic Garden's “Live at the Garden” summer series Friday night. But it felt intentional, like some higher power was signaling the end of summer during the local outdoor concert series that embodies the season like no other.

And how perfect that Blondie and Cheap Trick co-headlined that finale, and on the last stop of their tour no less. I’ve gone to several of this year’s “Live at the Garden” shows — always toting a large blanket, a few friends, cheap wine, and picnic spread that would make Martha Stewart proud (last night, that spread included homemade vegan sushi and uncheese fondue). But Blondie rules my world, so I knew this show would not disappoint.

It did get off to somewhat of a slow start for me as I’m not at all a fan of Cheap Trick, but I witnessed plenty of Cheap Trick diehards (mostly middle-aged women) sporting shirts bearing the band’s name. To be honest, when I arrived at the show I couldn’t even name one Cheap Trick song.

Once the band got about midway through their set, I recognized “I Want You To Want Me” and “Surrender.” While I enjoyed those hits, the rest of Cheap Trick’s set bored me to the point that I stopped paying attention to them in favor of Facebooking on my iPhone. When they butchered a Beatles song (and I can’t even remember which one as I’m not a Beatles fan either), I gave up on the band entirely.

Not to give away my age (okay, it’s 29), but I can’t relate to most music recorded before 1985 (I make exceptions for early punk rock though). I’m sure plenty of Cheap Trick fans in the audience last night would give the performance a glowing review, but it wasn’t my thing.

Blondie is the greatest exception to my pre-1985 rule, and thankfully Ms. Debbie Harry and company took the stage next. I’ve seen Blondie in concert three times now, and last night she was looking better than ever. She seemed a little old and tired at the Blondie show in Memphis at Mud Island last year, but last night Harry was in rare form, as if she’d discovered some secret fountain of youth.

Harry was stunning in a tulle ballerina-style skirt and long Lady Gaga-esque blonde wig during the first half of Blondie’s set. She promised fans a good mix of old hits and new music right after opening the set with a new song I didn’t recognize. But the hits — “Hanging on the Telephone,” “Atomic,” “Maria,” and “The Tide Is High” — were peppered throughout the show.

I’ve always had a fondness for “Rapture,” Blondie’s 1981 hit that became the first rap-influenced single to reach number one on the US Billboard chart. I was beside myself when Blondie launched into a nearly 10-minute extended version of the song. Perhaps the best part though was watching all the older white folks trying to rap along as Harry spit “Fab Five Freddy told me everybody’s high/DJ’s spinnin’ are savin’ my mind/Flash is fast, Flash is cool.”

After a quick costume change, Harry emerged in a punk-rock-style romper (who knew a romper could look so cool?) and delighted fans with a sped-up, high energy version of “One Way Or Another.”

Blondie chose the iconic “Heart of Glass” for the encore, which seemed like a fitting end to the cool summer evening. I was a little dismayed that Blondie didn’t play “Dreaming.” But when my friends, who were seated in the table area near the stage, brought me a Blondie guitar pick that had been thrown into the audience, “Dreaming” didn’t even matter anymore.

We packed up our picnic basket and made our way to the car, knowing the end of the “Live at the Garden” series means summer is almost officially over. Until next year when the season begins anew, we’ve got our Blondie memories (and I’ve got one bad-ass souvenir guitar pick).


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