Rock tours underwritten in part by a corporate sponsor tend to be lavish affairs, and Blondie's performance at Merriweather Post Pavilion last night was no exception.
It began as pure cinema. Sophisticated graphics, projected on a scrim hung in front of the stage, spelled out in a liquid longhand the band's logo and the name of its latest album, "The Hunter." The scrim lifted, the stage was elaborately lit from all sides. Drummer Clem Burke beat out tribal rhythms and vocalist Debbie Harry, dressed in a safari jacket and miniskirt, appeared at the rear of the stage as if out of thin air.
At first it looked as if the band was going to spend the evening lost in "The Hunter's" dreary conceptual maze, but those fears soon vanished. Instead of plumbing the sullen depths of that album, the band excerpted from it songs such as the lilting, ska-based "Island of Lost Souls" and, with the help of a small horn section, mixed those tunes with some of its best, including a refitted-for-funk version of "Heart of Glass," "Hanging on the Telephone" and "One Way or Another."
Harry was at her most feverishly seductive on the latter two, letting down her hair, literally letting her roots show, singing with a passion and joy that totally contradicted her reputation for being aloof on stage. The band's sound, too, was more immediate, much less "produced" than on record, and the combination made for a surprisingly consistent and energetic performance.