Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Concert Review: Pat Benatar and Blondie at Coney Island 8/13/09

What promised to be a gay old night of high camp turned out to be more like a trip to the supermarket: interminable lines of rude, obnoxious people, pleasantly cool temperatures, pretzels and drinks within easy reach and oldies radio songs playing over the PA. Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, every out-of-town scam luxury housing developer’s best pal, spent a rambling, senile hour and a half on and off the mic before the show, ass-kissing and giving shout-outs to every corporate type he could still recognize who’d showed up. Finally, he was assisted off so that big lesbian faves the Donnas could phone in a small handful of generic bubblegum metal songs.

Long Island’s very own fifty-four year old Pat Benatar was next. It took about three seconds before it was obvious that the poor woman’s voice is completely gone. Like a battered cassette tape from the eighties, she’d waver on and off pitch, then drop unexpectedly out of the mix, then come back in like one of Marge Simpson’s sisters attempting to do karaoke. At this point in Benatar’s career, lipsynching might not be such a bad idea. Meanwhile, her husband Neil Giraldo released his inner fantasy over and over again with an incessant barrage of garish, gratuitous heavy metal guitar licks. Like that Love Camp 7 song goes, he plays a million notes where one would do, and if it fits the song that’s ok too. Not many of them did. Benatar’s set allowed for plenty of time to find the local McDonalds and the urinal – woops, dumpster – adjacent to it. Forty-five minutes after she’d taken the stage, she was still struggling to stay in the mix, one cliched power ballad after another. Benatar is a gay icon – there at least used to be several YMCA’s worth of Chelsea boys who wanted to be her. Not many of them seemed to have made the trip. Perhaps they were on to something the rest of the crowd wasn’t.

Similarly, Deborah Harry has made a career of singing off-key for the better part of 35 years if you count her time in the Stillettos. Be that it what it may, when Blondie were at the top of their game, they were one of the world’s greatest powerpop bands and they were all that Thursday night. What they did was anything but camp. This version of the band sizzled and burned, layering nonchalantly stinging, distorted guitar and playfully oscillating synth over a steady, thumping backbeat. Now in her sixties, Harry carried herself with grace, even gravitas in places, holding back for when she had to go to the top of her range and when she really had to nail the note, she inevitably did. Benatar ought to find out who her vocal coach is. Because this band plays so many of the same songs over and over again, they way they keep them fresh is to reinvent them. Children of the Grave – woops, Call Me – bore a much closer resemblance to the Black Sabbath original that Georgio Moroder ripped off and glued to a disco beat for the soundtrack to the Richard Gere vehicle American Gigolo (anybody ever sit through that one all the way? Yikes!). The best song of the night was a stinging, slightly mariachi-esque version of Maria. The Tide Is High was no better than Johnny Clarke’s cloying  rocksteady original, but Rapture was reinvented as evilly slinky funk with a big guitar break and then a new rap at the end which only offerered further proof that hip-hop is not Harry’s thing. A couple newer numbers were starkly minor-key and equally compelling. After they’d burned through a pleasantly loud, swaying One Way or Another, they left the stage and then it was clear that  Benatar had overdone it in more ways than one, cutting into Blondie’s stage time. The second of the band’s two brief encores was a rocking, organ-driven take of Heart of Glass. If you’re contemplating seeing Blondie on tour this month or next, you won’t be disappointed – especially when they have another charismatic, platinum-tressed siren, Sarah Guild and her amazing band the New Collisions opening for them.

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August 16, 2009 - Posted by | Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

9 Comments »

  1. Your Way Off and I’m no Pat Benatar fan,never was but her voice was Quite strong,sure she was off key in spots,that’s why it’s called live music. We’ll leave the lip syncing to your club/pop divas.
    As for Blondie,simply brilliant, I’ll give her one shaky song and that was her first song “Call ME” ,I think at 65 years old we could give her one whole song to get her voice warmed up. From the second song to the last song,her own arrangement of Michael Jackson’s “Want To Be Starting Something” as well of the musical arrangement of the whole set was nothing short of brilliant….

    Comment by Anthony Phillip | August 16, 2009 | Reply

  2. Benatar apeared to have a mic or sound check problem. Whoever dropped that ball should be shot! If you can’t hear, it’s not engaging and the energy of the crowd took a nose dive. Once corrected, she didn’t hold back at all in my view, unlike times in the past. It was nice to hear both Pat and Deb and band(s) although listening to the same ol’ tunes for this many years has worn thinner than a lays potatoe chip. For them too I would imagine. Huge turnout. Not the most considerate. Smokers ya gotta be more conscientious and you’ tawkers,’ pls. shut up…it’s not your back porch…we didn’t come all that way to listen to you! Many thanx to Marty…he’s gotta plug everyone..it is at times exhausting….a small price to pay for a free summer evening of great music. Here’s to the improved Coney coming soon…we hope.

    Comment by David | August 18, 2009 | Reply

  3. The sound early on for Benatar wasn’t great, but when she was audible she croaked – and she had to do falsetto instead of head voice. Guess those major labels who sold those millions of records of hers didn’t pay her enough to retire on, huh?

    The crowd was beyond obnoxious – but considering who was on the bill, no surprise.

    Marty Markowitz is destroying Brooklyn by colluding with the developers subsidized by Brooklyn taxpayer money which is helping turn the (formerly) great borough into just another bland yuppified rightwing stripmall-infested Jersey suburb. Coney Island will be improved when he and Joseph Shitt drop dead and we get another Astroland!

    Comment by lc | August 18, 2009 | Reply

  4. Damn right, fuck Marty and fuck RATner.

    And I agree, that crowd and that show fucking stunk.

    Comment by Doug_ The BKW? | August 21, 2009 | Reply

  5. Who ever wrote that review has to be a complete morone.The Donnas were OK but Pat Benatar and her husband kicked everyones ass her voice is amazing and I thought was never off key she sounds better now then she did then,Blondie was horrible you could barely hear what she was singing and her voice sucks what you need to do is go to a real Pat Benatar concert in a venue and then you’ll really hear what she can do obviously Pat Benatar was the best out of all of them her voice is amazing and her performance was flawless……….

    Comment by Thomas Pugliese | August 25, 2009 | Reply

  6. so anybody who doesn’t like masturbatory guitar solos or off-key vocals is a “morone?”

    Comment by delarue | August 25, 2009 | Reply

  7. Sorry….off the topic, but just saw Donna Summer at Coney Island (I know, there is no place for disco here)…but it was a great show…Donna sounds exactly the same as she did 30 years ago, and just seeing shows at Coney Island is a treat in and of itself. There’s something about thousands of people from all different walks of life, singing together at the top of their lungs, songs they know all the words to, that is unflinchingly right. Humanity at its best, even if solid gay, or gold dancers are marring the monitors, trying to revive steps that went out with “Staying Alive”….

    Comment by Serena | August 30, 2009 | Reply

  8. So sad I just discovered this review. Thomas Pugliese, YOU are the complete MORON here. (See how that’s spelled?) Blondie is one of the best bands ever. Debbie Harry’s voice was and is great. Her music is incredible. So shut your fucking moronic pie hole. And as for you, dear reviewer, saying that Debbie has made a career out of singing off-key for 35 years is just a little moronic too, though I give you much credit for your glowing follow-up comments. She’s never off-key on any single record she ever made (remember, they didn’t have Autotune back in the ’70s). She was, on occasion, off-key for brief moments in some of her live performances. Big fucking deal. It’s common knowledge that it’s hard to hear when performing live. Do you not get that? The best singers have their not-pitch-perfect moments when competing with a blaring band and screaming fans.

    Comment by Atomic2128 | July 30, 2011 | Reply

  9. If you think Deborah Harry is good with Blondie, you should see her with the Jazz Passengers. They really bring out all of her wit and charm. I saw her with them last year at the Jazz Standard – great show.

    Comment by the boss here | July 30, 2011 | Reply


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