Having once met a Debbie Harry lookalike and all round Blondie nut, it's easy for me to imagine how popular any Blondie DVD would be, no matter what the content is. I'm talking the real diehard fans here, those who dress like Debbie, have all Blondie's albums and obsessively collect anything that Warner Music Vision chooses to churn out.
Only these people would appreciate this recent release called Blondie: Live By Request, recorded in New York in May 2004. Anyone else would be wasting their dough, for to put it bluntly, this DVD is shockingly dire. This isn't a live recording of Blondie in concert, but one of those sordid American TV shows where people can ring up, talk to the band, spew on about how much of a fan they are, and then request a song, which the band then duly play.
I don't know about you, but Dial-a-Blondie is not how I would choose to view this legendary group. And where do they find these nutty callers? The first one, who sounded like your typical American teen, jabbered to Debbie saying: "You're the first person, like, to make punk, like, pretty". And an email read out by the brunette Barbie doll presenter cited how a fan first heard Blondie when she was given a Winnie The Pooh record player. Purrrlease.
The live performances are, thankfully, superb. An elegantly dressed Debbie swans across the small stage punching the air and belting out the songs with gusto, inviting the young all-American audience to sing along, while original drummer Clem Burke and guitarist Chris Stein pound away on their instruments during old favourites such as Dreamin', Hanging on the Telephone, Rapture and Heart of Glass.
A plus point to this DVD is that the band don't just wheel out the greatest hits, but play lesser known songs such as Accidents Never Happen and tracks from their most recent album The Curse of Blondie such as Undone, Good Boys and Hello Joe - the latter being part of the DVD's bonus material.
What the band can't escape however is the TV show atmosphere with its bright lighting and constant interruptions by the Barbie doll who ask them crap questions that luckily the band give fitting answers to. "What's your secret?" she babbles excitedly to Stein. "My deodorant" he replies.
She even has Debbie sitting down by a screen featuring clips of her younger years to talk fashion - by this time the show feels like one of those Saturday morning kiddie programmes, you half expect Ant and Dec come bouncing on stage. Debbie doesn't seem to mind though, laughing and smiling away, staring hard though a little perplexed at the camera while she's listening to the callers.
Live By Request is so very horribly American and it is all so very staged that those looking for live footage of Blondie in concert will be sorely disappointed - unless you're an obsessive fan. The edge of the band's performance is lost among the yellow gleam of the TV show lights and the chat show format. If there's one way to completely destroy the allure of a legendary band, this is precisely it.