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Blondie - Live By Request

Sanctuary Records // Unrated // September 14, 2004
List Price: $24.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Gil Jawetz | posted October 11, 2004 | E-mail the Author

Of all the reunited bands taking a stab at continuing their careers Blondie seem far less embarrassing than most. It's probably because frontwoman Debbie Harry seemed so far ahead of her time during the band's late-70s/early-80s heyday that we're probably only catching up to her now. Her performance on the strange A&E concert series Live By Request shows exactly what's so great about her. She's quirky and fun but always compelling and always dynamic.

I've found installments of Live By Request with other artists to be distracting and oddly paced (the show offers fans the opportunity to call in during the show and request the band play their favorite songs) but Harry and her bandmates Chris Stein and Clem Burke sell the format with their funny asides. While the request portions and on-stage interviews are funny what makes this program fun to watch is the energy that Harry brings to the songs. While her voice may not be operating at full blast anymore (she avoids the power-singing style on songs like "Call Me") she's still a hell of a performer. She soars on "Dreaming" and "Rapture" (and even offers a lively rendition of the latter's seminal rap section) and grooves through the bouncy "Tide is High." Harry still has the ability to really move an audience and here she connects with this loyal crowd very well. Stein's guitar playing isn't too remarkable anymore (and a second guitarist backs him up) but Burke's drumming steals the show at times. He's really rock-solid, adding energy and drive to the songs.

Blondie - Live By Request is far from essential viewing but the band does put together an engaging and fun show. Fans will definitely enjoy how well the songs and the performers have held up.

Set List:
Dreaming
Hanging on the Telephone
Accidents Never Happen
Tide Is High
Good Boys
Undone
Rip Her to Shreds
One Way or Another
Rapture
X Offender
Call Me
Union City Blue
Heart of Glass

VIDEO:
The anamorphic widescreen video is extremely sharp and clear. This is one of the best looking live DVDs I've seen in a while. Colors are bright and lively and the camera work is professional and well-planned. Really there is a clarity that's terrific.

AUDIO:
There are Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 soundtracks as well as a DTS track. The multichannel tracks are both quite good, with the DTS sounding a bit fuller to me. The separation of instruments is very nice although I felt there was a little too much emphasis on the highs: Cymbals and other treble sounds were a little shrill. The Dolby Digital 2.0 track manages to pack in pretty much the same wallop as the other tracks. It's a very nice mix, not at all murky like some 2.0 mixes I've heard on music DVDs. It loses the fun surround moments from the other tracks (some instruments and crowd noises are isolated to the rears at times) but it's a perfectly fine sound mix.

EXTRAS:
The main extra is a selection of additional songs not included in the main presentation ("The Dream's Lost on Me", "End to End", "Hello Joe", "(I'm Always Touched by Your) Presence, Dear") and the recent video for "Good Boys." This is a nice addition with some extra music that isn't quite as common as the hits in the main feature. And the "Good Boys" video is very stylish and fun: It's made to look like an old stuttery silent film and has flair.

FINAL THOUGHTS:
Blondie as a band and as a collection of music has aged very well. Debbie Harry may not be the spry, sexy young thing she once was but she maintains her unique aura and wild side. Getting the chance to appreciate her now and how she's changed as an artist is a good thing, as this concert shows.

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