Bootleg Blondie with Clem Burke almost as good as the real deal - Newcastle gig reviewed

Most tribute bands would consider themselves lucky to get a message from an original band member that they then plaster all over their promotional posters.

Wednesday, 6th February 2019, 2:34 pm
Updated Thursday, 7th February 2019, 5:01 pm
Debbie Harris led Bootleg Blondie through a selection of Blondie's early songs, as well as the big hits. All pics: Mick Burgess.

Occasionally an original member might join them for a song or two at a fan convention, but how many would actually join their own tribute band on full blown tour?

Blondie`s legendary drummer, Clem Burke, has done just that after befriending Bootleg Blondie singer Debbie Harris a few years ago.

Original Blondie drummer Clem Burke filled the drumstool for Bootleg Blondie at the O2 Academy in Newcastle.

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A gap in his touring schedule and itchy feet to get back out on the road meant the stars had aligned and a dream come true and the tribute just turned real.

Stepping out from behind a telephone box prop with a scarlet red telephone in hand for Hanging On The Telephone, it soon became apparent that Bootleg Blondie were a cut above the usual tribute acts.

Not only did Debbie Harris sound exactly like Debbie Harry in her heyday, but she looked a dead ringer for her as well, right down to the dance moves and numerous costume changes throughout the set. It was surreal but highly entertaining.

This tour was in celebration of the iconic Parallel Lines album and it was played from start to finish. One Way Or Another, Sunday Girl, Picture This and the disco stomper Heart Of Glass certainly got the crowd at the O2 Academy in Newcastle pumped crowd pumped up.

Blondie drummer Clem Burke offered to play with Bootleg Blondie after striking up a friendship with singer Debbie Harris.

It also meant the rarely-played album tracks got an airing as the sublime Fade Away And Radiate and 11:59 were played too, much to the delight of the hardcore Blondie fans.

Part one of the set shot by in a flash, as you`d expect when one of the all-time great pop albums was played in full. After a short interlude the band came back for more.

Prior to the show Clem Burke said his motivation to tour with Bootleg Blondie was driven by his desire to revisit the early Blondie catalogue and play songs that haven`t been played since the club days of CBGBs, and he certainly lived up to his promise.

A riotous Detroit 442, Rifle Range and In The Sun drilled down deep into their early days and sounded magnificent, while X Offender, the Ronettes-flavoured love song In The Flesh and the punk-infused Rip Her To Shreds showed how many great songs Blondie had on those early releases.

Blondie drummer Clem Burke got the chance to revisit some of his band's rarely-played back catalogue by playing with Bootleg Blondie.

They were brilliantly delivered by Debbie Harris and Bootleg Blondie, and Burke - an inspiration to many fledgling drummers back in the days of Top Of The Pops - was a tour de force and an absolute joy to watch.

With boundless reserves of energy and flailing arms like an octopus in a hurricane, Burke delivered a masterclass in drumming and showmanship.

With several bands on the go outside of Blondie, including The Empty Hearts and The International Swingers, he could quite easily have put his feet up for a few weeks, yet his love of music and passion for playing live was clear to see from start to finish.

Of course, the hits flowed too, from Denis, Union City Blue, Maria and the all-time classics Call Me and Atomic, complete with Debbie in a bin liner adorned with “Debbie Does Newcastle” on the back, and the crowd just loved it, singing every word to every song.

Bootleg Blondie may well be a tribute band, but were so authentic and accurate to be as close to the real thing as is possible. With Clem Burke joining them they got even closer. A hugely entertaining night.