Cracker by Damian Christie


I have this problem with rock concerts. It's not the loud music, it's not the pushing, the shoving, or the sweet smell of sensimilla. It's what to do with my hands. At a dance party (or is that rage?) you have any number of options to keep your limbs busy. One can 'feed the ducks', move boxes' or as a last resort, do the 'Kraftwerk robot'. You can see why I don't go out much any more. At a hip-hop gig you get instructions, from the direct 'throw your hands in the air' to the more open to interpretation 'wave them around like you just don't care'. But rock gigs? Hands in pockets, arms folded, limbs just dangling, nothing seems quite right.

The Blondie gig last night presented no such problem. Not once was I left worrying about my arms, legs, any part of my body. Quite simply, it rocked. They rocked, she rocked, the whole damn thing rocked.

It started early; doors opened at eight, and having a few things to do beforehand I thought I could pretty safely turn up at nine and maybe reduce my time spent standing around waiting, worrying about my arms to a minimum. As I walked towards the doors of the Civic at ten past nine, I thought (very briefly) to myself "hey wow, the support band is doing a cover of my favourite Blondie song, Dreaming, how cheeky is that!" I'm none too smart at times. I walked into the hall just to hear the closing guitar strains, damnitall.

For the next hour and a half, and two encores, we the audience were treated to most of Blondie's greatest hits, which let's face it, was what we were there to hear. Blondie may have a new album out, but I doubt many in the crowd could name it, much less sing along to any of the songs contained therein. From 'Dreaming' they went straight into 'Hanging on the Telephone' and then 'Call Me'. I think these three songs actually appear in that order on the Blondie's Greatest Hits album I own, which was a bit disconcerting, subconsciously anticipating each song a second before it began.

The band were a mixture of original members and ring-ins. Young or old, they were all leather trouser-clad and remarkably rakish; there's obviously something about the rock 'n' roll lifestyle that staves off middle-age spread… Clem Burke, the drummer was particularly good, other than a penchant for throwing his sticks in the air, which is all a bit stadium rock for a Thursday night at the Civic.

We spent most of the concert about three-quarters of the way back in the stalls (it was a seated gig, and I'd only forked out $100 for the B tickets), and with a couple of beers, and squinting a bit, I could still see the Debbie Harry of my dreams. I was five when she oozed sass in that Heart of Glass video – she was already thirtysomething. Realising the security really didn't care, we moved down the front in time for the encore. In retrospect this was not the best move, aesthetically speaking. Even I can't squint that much. But the voice is still there, as distinctive as ever, and when she launched into the chorus of 'Union City Blues', there was a chill up my spine and a lump in my throat.

For the second encore (Heart of Glass), Ms Harry walked out with a cup of tea in her hand, signalling imminent bedtime for her and the crowd. It was, after all, nearly 11 o'clock, and we'd had a big night.