Live By Request


Sanctuary Records, 2004

REVIEW BY: Mark Millan


Following Blondie’s patchy but mostly good The Curse Of Blondie, the group headed out for another world tour and during their American leg, the group dropped in and filmed a special for the A&E Network’s Live By Request series. The premise of the show is to get a band or artist to perform songs for a live audience requested by phone-ins, online viewers, and a couple of famous friends – in this case, director John Waters, who requested “Rip Her To Shreds.” 

While in theory it sounds like a great idea, in practice, however, there is one extremely annoying aspect that ruined the DVD of this show. The host has to constantly interject some semi-interviews in between songs, which just kills the momentum and vibe of the concert. This, however, is rectified by the CD because all of that rubbish is nowhere to be heard and the tracks have been shuffled around for a more even running order.

All of that aside, I caught the band here in Melbourne in late 2003 and they were in blistering form, threatening to lift the roof of our beachside treasure, The Palais Theatre. They carried that form with them to the US the following year, and it’s prevalent throughout this disc that Blondie are still one of the great live bands out there today. Age has not wearied Deborah Harry, and despite nudging sixty here, she sounds as vibrant and youthful as she did in her heyday.  my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The band is in some ways led by Clem Burkes killer drumming that rarely stops (even between songs, he’s known for thumping out various patters while the band readies themselves for the next track). His fast and energetic intros set up the songs superbly, and Chris Stein and Paul Cabonara’s dueling guitars have improved with each year they’ve toured together. Although by this point, Jimmy Destri was no longer touring with the band, Kevin Patrick took up the challenge and along with bassist Leigh Foxx fleshed out the current lineup captured here. 

Old stagers like “Dreaming,” “Rip Her To Shreds,” and “One Way Or Another” all sound as urgent and compelling as ever. The band gives a note-perfect, extended workout of “Rapture” that Harry matches with her own stunning vocal performance. “X Offender” and “Call Me” are given vigorous airings that recall their original forms, but I think they actually sound better in a live setting than on record. “Union City Blues” suffers a little from overkill and “The Tide Is High” could really do without the heavy guitars. 

“Heart Of Glass” comes off sounding a tad flat, but it’s good enough. Two absolute standouts make up for the flat spots with great renditions of “Accidents Never Happen” and “(I’m Always Touched By Your) Presence, Dear” that sound better here than ever before. The acoustic gem “The Dream’s Lost On Me” is a welcome treat, too, as Harry gives a beautiful reading accompanied by just Stein and Cabonara. 

Live By Request is a fine account of Blondie live, but it’s hampered by a few songs that either the band weren’t that keen on performing or the fact that the ridiculous format of the show messed up their momentum. Livid (released in 1999) is a much better example of this band doing their thing live, which just nudges out Picture This Live from the groups heyday, if only for its higher production qualities.

Rating: B

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