Blondie and Garbage were all the rage last night as they brought their 'The Rage & Rapture' tour to Wolf Trap. Both bands delivered powerhouse performances, aided by a ridiculously fantastic catalogue of past hits and current material and two of the best front women of all time.
For Garbage, lead singer Shirley Manson came out dressed as a zebra of a different stripe, red hair still raging and a voice that can still startle and swoon people at the same time. The impatient pacing of the stage is still there, as is the great sense of humor and large Scottish laugh. When introducing "Empty" Manson solemnly stated, "This song is about complete desolation..." before cracking with a smile "and I hope you enjoy it!"
Manson's take-no-prisoners persona was no joke as she called out a concert goer engrossed in their phone saying "You can be like that idiot over there looking at their phone the entire time, ruining the darkness for everyone." The sad thing is, the culprit wasn't even aware of Manson speaking directly to her and pointing her out. Yes, woman sitting in Orchestra center, row H, seat 22 - she was talking to you.
Distracted concert goers aside, even Manson knew how well the performance was going, as she ended "The World is Not Enough" with a triumphant mini-golf swing with her right arm (picture the rock version of Johnny Carson's move) and only getting stronger with her delivery, eventually jumping with joy at the end of "Push It."
Ending with "Vow," Manson spent the first half of the song on the ground, giving lyrics "I nearly died" extra gravitas and gutting herself to the point where one wondered if she was going to be able to stand. But as with any rising phoenix, Manson reclaimed center stage upright, strutting off the stage, clearing the path for Blondie.
In line with their recent Pollinator album and #BeeConnected campaign, Blondie took the stage backed with a screen that was part TV static/part swarms of bees and very David Lynch-esque (if you've seen Episode 8 of Twin Peaks: The Return, you know what I'm talking about). The downtown New Yorkers opened with a four-punch knock out bringing out the hits "One Way or Another," "Hanging on the Telephone" and "Call Me" while incorporating some new "Fun" into the mix.
Debbie Harry, at 72, is still the coolest person on the planet. Sporting a bee hive, black fingerless sequin gloves, black studded blouse, black tie, sheer black yoga pants, black wedges and a cape that said "Stop F@ck!ng the Planet," Harry appeared ageless and tireless as she danced from one edge of the stage to the other, interacting with band members and the people in the front joking with them "It's hard work being in the audience." At one point, Harry flexed her left arm, holding the mic in place with her tricep while still singing into it. I half-expected her to drop and do one-arm push-ups after that.
Combining their classic hits with newer material and a random cover or two, Harry announced "We're going to do a little folk song for you" as Blondie launched into a cover of Bob Dylan's "Rainy Day Woman #12 & 35" having the audience clap along and making the song a natural part of their set. At this point, Blondie is so adept at so many genres of music, if they released a country-tinged song, it wouldn't surprise me (and it would probably sound amazing).
Many times during the show, Harry would stand near the wings, allowing the other members to be front and center, and reminding people that Blondie is a band. Drummer Clem Burke still drives Blondie like a freight train with guitarist Chris Stein, Wayfarers solidly in place, riffing away and giving an occasional solo.
With several decades of work and hits between them, it is without question that Garbage and Blondie have served as huge influences for up-and-coming musicians. When talking about the collaborations on the new album Harry mentioned "We have influenced people and they in turn influence us." Manson and Harry are, no doubt, huge influencers but it's a disservice to marginalize them as two of the best front women of all time. They are, without question, two of the greatest lead singers of all time. Boys, watch and learn.
Garbage Set List:
Sex is Not the Enemy
I Think I'm Paranoid
Cherry Lips (Go Baby Go)
Bleed Like Me
Even Though Our Love is Doomed
The World is Not Enough
Only Happy When it Rains
Blondie Set List:
One Way or Another
Hanging on the Telephone
Rainy Day Women #12 & 35
Heart of Glass
The Tide is High