Review: Blondie, Gorevette Bring New Music and Classic Tracks on Tour (Nokia Theater, NYC, 8/31/10)

Written by on September 2, 2010

A concert featuring one of new wave’s iconic bands with a new alt-rock supergroup sounds like an excellent way to spend an evening. That is what a huge crowd at New York’s Nokia Theater thought as well when Blondie brought its “Endangered Species Tour” with special guests (and Revenge of the 80s favorites) Gorevette to the corner of 44th and Broadway on August 31st. They were right.

Gorevette took the stage first as the band continues its meteoric rise in notoriety as a group, although it helps when the band is named for two Detroit Rock icons, Nikki Corvette and Amy Gore.

The group, which also features bassist and shark enthusiast Lianna Castillo and drummer Al King, mixed music from their Lustfully Yours album with classic songs by Nikki and the Corvettes and The Gore Gore Girls.

Performing live, Corvette is amazingly able to segue flawlessly from singing in a tougher modern punk tone on new tracks like “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Me” to her memorable higher pitch for Nikki and the Corvettes classics like “Gimmie Gimme” and “Girls Like Me” then back again while working the stage, interacting with band-mates and the crowd. Partner the aforementioned talents with her ability to make convincing eye contact with audience members, her combination of cuteness and power behind the mic and her stunning stage presence, the audience quickly learned there is something special about watching Nikki Corvette sing live.

Amy Gore is one of rock’s more intense guitar players as followers of The Gore Gore Girls would attest; it showed immensely at the Nokia, where the crew rightfully shined the spotlight on her during several of her solos. Gore is as fierce on stage as she is friendly in person as the band met with several new fans after their set. She wielded her trademark Gretsch White Falcon flawlessly and with the vigor for which she is best known.

Lianna Castillo continues to be the antithesis of the prototype bassist. She casts a solid bassline while dancing and moving on the stage with more energy than the cast majority of her rock counterparts. People at last night’s show should consider themselves blessed that Castillo missed the episode of the TV show Laverne & Shirley” where the room mates were coaching an up-and-coming band of work friends (Laverne said the bass player should be staring off into space in an almost disinterested fashion). Castillo’s moves and visible energy as a performer sets her apart from most of her fellow bassists as she interacts well with Corvette as she did at the Nokia.

Leading into the set was drummer Al King. He was as strong a musical presence from the his intro to “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Me” through the end. King has a talent for keeping the pace of such a high-energy show as Gorevette puts on stage. One might wonder how he can keep driving such a high-speed rhythm, but there is no need to question why Gore and Corvette chose him to play the skins for the band. The four members of Gorevette keenly complement each other both musically and on stage.

Blondie is touring to promote some of their newest music, which will be featured in their upcoming album, Panic of Girls. The group cleverly mixed their biggest hits with some cult classics, songs released in recent years and their newest tracks. The Nokia was packed with people who wanted to see them on a Tuesday night, which is always a tough night to get people to see a concert.

The current lineup includes three original members, Debbie Harry, Chris Stein and Clem Burke. With them are guitarist Tommy Kessler, Bassist Leigh Foxx and Matt Katz-Bohen on the keyboards. While all of the musicians were excellent that evening, it is always good to see the majority of the band’s core still intact more than thirty years after their formation.

Harry captivated the crowd with her traditional brand of new wave elegance. While she was forceful vocally while singing “Atomic” and “One Way or Another,” she surprised some of her fans with a more low-key rendition of “Call Me” later in the show. She cheerfully interacted with the audience and let them sing along to more of the familiar choruses as the show progressed. Harry introduced the new music for her fans in ways that left them hungry for “Panic of Girls.” For the encore, she added her own graceful touch to some alternative classics, including, to this interviewer’s surprise, the Ramones’ “Pet Cemetery.”

As always, Stein was as impressive as always on the guitar. He and Harry continue to make a stellar songwriting and performing team. He was dynamic on the more guitar-heavy pieces while subtly enhanced the band’s presence on the mote synth-heavy songs.

Percussionist Clem Burke would be hard to replace had he not toured with Blondie in their present state. His signature work in tracks like “The Tide Is High” and “Atomic” would be missed, especially in the extended version Blondie played of the former.

Leigh Foxx was in control on the bass, which is the foundation for much of Blondie’s most popular work. Harry introduced him to loud applause from the dancing concert-goers.

The band stepped up astoundingly when it came to playing the more studio-dependent songs like “Rapture” and “The Tide Is High” with special long versions of each. They jazzed it up with solos from each member and Katz-Bohen was extraordinarily creative on the synth mixing his own musical prowess with dynamic pitch-bending effects. Blondie’s performance of “The Tide Is High” brought to mind my most recent interview with Andy Prieboy, when we spoke of Wall of Voodoo’s “Blackboard Sky.” He said that songs that can evolve differently and take on lives of their own when played live as opposed to the studio track. Blondie’s “Tide” at the Nokia proved that point well.

Blondie and Gorevette will continue to tour together through September with dates in various locations. Blondie is also heading to Australia later this year as part of its “Endangered Species Tour.” See their official web page for details.

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