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CONCERT REVIEW: Blondie and X at The Royal Oak Music Theater 9/12/2013

Words: Sue Static; Photos: Peter Schorn/

West Coast punk veterans X met East Coast pop rockers Blondie for the "No Principals Tour" that made a local stop on September 12 at the Royal Oak Music Theatre.

L.A. punk band X, with its original line-up, kicked off the night in fine form with the dueling vocals of John Doe and Exene Cervenka, the guitar prowess of Billy Zoom (who had the locals worshipping him while he stood ground with his Cheshire cat grin) backed by the beats of drummer DJ Bonebrake.

Having just celebrated the 31st anniversary of their legendary album "Los Angeles" last year, the band treated the crowd – many of whom came just to see their 45-minute set – to a set of songs that spanned their entire career. "Your Phone's Off the Hook, But You're Not" and the title track off of Los Angeles and "Adult Books" (off their second album Wild Gift) were some of the highlights as was "The New World" (from More Fun in the New World) that had the hometown crowd cheering when they sang, "And don't forget the Motor City."

One hopes that the band will decide to record some new material as their last album was "Hey Zeus" was released two decades ago! Exene and John have recorded and toured under solo projects and the country band The Knitters. The band remains a stellar live act.

Blondie hit the stage led by the unforgettable voice of lead singer Debbie Harry - who looked and sounded great at 68! – with guitarist Chris Stein by her side and drummer Clem Burke keeping the beat behind her. Young gun lead guitarist Tommy Kessler (with the band since 2010) took the spotlight frequently as they performed many of their hits that were staples of late-Seventies/early-Eighties FM radio.

They also premiered a bunch of new songs off their upcoming album, Ghosts of Download, however that came at the expense of digging more deeply into their rich catalog. While it may be too much to expect obscure album tracks like “Kung Fu Girls” or “Detroit 442”, they could have included The Best of Blondie album numbers like “Rip Her To Shreds” or “Sunday Girl.”

The band always managed to sound fresh and stay current by experimenting and creating hits in multiple genres that kept their "pop" status in check. “Rapture” was mildly mutated into a heavy metal-funk form with a surprising coda of the Beastie Boys “No Sleep Till Brooklyn” and Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s “Relax” slid in between encores “Call Me” and “Dreaming.”