Sam Brooks reunited with his eight-, fifteen- and twenty-year-old self at the Cyndi Lauper/Blondie show in Auckland last night.
Disclaimer: I will follow a female singer who was huge before I was born into the ocean and keep walking.
I was raised on a diet of Tori Amos, Kate Bush, Gloria Estefan and yes, Cyndi Lauper and Blondie. I was never not going to go nuts when these women (and Chris Stein) came on and sang the songs that I had danced around to when I was an eight year old, cried to when I was a fifteen year old, and then finally actually understood as a twenty-five year old.
Reader, I went nuts.
I went with two friends who had aligned themselves with opposite ends of the bill, one a staunch Cyndi Lauper fan and the other a obsessive Blondie fan. I myself sit somewhere in the middle. Cyndi Lauper’s best output is unquestionably in the 80s (‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun’, ‘Time After Time’, ‘I Drove All Night’) but her output since is full of enough curios to warrant a good look (this duet with Shaggy, for example) and her voice has only gotten deeper and stronger with age.
On the other hand, Blondie has been releasing music steadily since their late-’90s comeback ‘Maria’, and that music manages to keep Blondie’s slightly edgy new-wave sound and still sound relevant (see 2004’s ‘Good Boys’ and 2011’s ‘Mother’).
And honestly, after seeing both of them last night, I still sit quite squarely and pretty fucking happily in the middle.
Cyndi Lauper opened her set with a country song, jigging onstage with a suitcase for a reason that I can only discern as general kookery, and then settled into a mixture of hits and obligatory stuff off last year’s slightly-country-but-mostly-covers album Detour. She belted stalker anthem ‘I Drove All Night’ like it was the goddamned ’80s again, she slowed the entire thing down for a devastating ‘The End Of The World’, and closed with the double-punch of ‘Time After Time’ and ‘True Colours’.
On the other hand, Blondie was far more content to play material off the forthcoming Pollinator, with some hits mixed in between. Other than the inevitable audience energy drop when the new material comes on, it’s remarkable how contemporary the older Blondie songs still sound now. Telephone-based classics ‘Call Me’ and ‘Hanging On The Telephone’ feel completely modern even when placed alongside the Charli XCX-penned ‘Gravity’.
Half the appeal of seeing acts like Cyndi Lauper and Blondie perform now is just the experience of actually seeing these people live and in the flesh. One of my dates nudged me during a song and said quite simply to me, “THAT’S DEBBIE HARRY. We’re in the same room as DEBBIE HARRY.” And we were. We were seeing Debbie Harry lead a call-along to the hook of ‘Heart of Glass’. We’d seen Debbie Harry engage in awkward stage banter. We’d seen Cyndi Lauper forget the lyrics to ‘You Don’t Know’ and ask her band to google them for her.
It’s less about whether these songs are performed right or whether they perform the obscure tracks you want them to (although the clear, clear obscure track of the night was Cyndi absolutely tearing into Prince’s ‘When You Were Mine’, at which point, we excused ourselves from our allocated seats and moved along to where we could dance and wave our hands unimpeded) and more that you’re in a room with thousands of other people with their own connection to these songs. It’s about the community that these artists have built and the cult that these songs have formed around them.
The best moments in concerts like these are when Cyndi Lauper can stop singing ‘Time After Time’ because thousands of people are doing it for her. Moments like that send you back in time, from the twenty-five year old who thinks he understands the song, to the fifteen year old who thinks he feels the song to the eight year old who just sings the song and dances because that’s what you do when you listen to music.
And that’s absolutely what you do when you’re in a room with bloody DEBBIE HARRY.
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