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Lawrence Jordan
Deborah Harry and Blondie

Exploding out of the New York City punk scene in the late 1970s, Blondie quickly rose to fame. The charismatic Deborah Harry lead the group, but as they were always at pains to point out, Blondie's strengths lay in their performances as a band. Combining sugary pop-fuelled hooks with the sassy street smarts of Harry's vocal stylings, Blondie were uniquely popular in both mainstream and arty circles. Live By Request was shot on May 7th, 2004, and sees the band working their way through a number of huge hits, as well as a selection of songs from their "The Curse of Blondie" album. Among the tracks featured are "Hangin' On The Telephone," "Rapture," "Heart of Glass," "Union City Blue," "Tide Is High," and many others.

Rated NR

Widescreen 1.78:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English DTS 5.1
English Dolby Stereo
Not Closed-captioned

Runtime: 75 min.
Price: $24.98
Release Date: 9/14/2004

Disc One
• Four Bonus Songs
• Photo Gallery
• Music Video


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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Blondie: Live By Request (2004)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 1, 2004)

Back during the punk/New Wave revolution in the mid to late Seventies, Blondie stood as one of the genre’s biggest acts. That didn’t pan out into continued popularity over the years. The band enjoyed a few hits but split after 1982 and didn’t come up all that much in discussions of the era’s greats. Compared to legends like the Police, Elvis Costello and Talking Heads, Blondie got relegated to secondary status.

But that doesn’t mean Blondie didn’t put out some good pop punk material, and they maintained enough of a following to make a late Nineties reunion viable. Shot in the spring of 2004, Live By Request represents the resuscitated Blondie as they promoted their 2003 album The Curse of Blondie.

As featured on the show, Blondie includes three original members: vocalist Deborah Harry, guitarist Chris Stein and drummer Clem Burke. Keyboardist Jimmy Destri played with the “classic” lineup and apparently was on Curse, but here he’s replaced with Kevin Topping for reasons I can’t discover. The band supplements their current group with bassist Leigh Foxx and guitarist Paul Carbonara.

Hosted by the adorable Jules Asner, Request presents a mix of old and new material. From The Curse of Blondie, we find “Good Boys” and “Undone”. 1981’s Autoamerican presents “The Tide Is High” and “Rapture”, while we examine 1980’s American Gigolo soundtrack for “Call Me”.

Off of 1979’s Eat to the Beat, we locate “Dreaming”, “Union City Blue”, and “Accidents Never Happen”. 1978’s breakthrough hit Parallel Lines provides “Hanging On the Telephone”, “Heart of Glass” and “One Way or Another”. Finally, 1977’s debut Blondie gives us “X Offender” and “Rip Her to Shreds”. Nothing comes from 1982’s The Hunter, while to hear anything from 1999’s No Exit or 1977’s Plastic Letters, you’ll have to head to the bonus features.

In addition to the musical performances, Asner chats with Harry and Stein in between songs. (Burke fields one question but mostly sticks to the skins.) She talks to them about aspects of their music and career but keeps the bits short and fairly superficial. As part of the By Request format, viewers occasionally call in and ask to hear certain songs. Apparently these shows like celebrity callers as well; the k.d. lang episode includes a ring from Tony Bennett, while here we get a call from director John Waters, with whom Harry worked in a couple of flicks.

Frankly, the request format doesn’t add much to the presentation, and Asner’s softball questions don’t give us depth either. That means the show lives or dies with the music. Despite my fairly unenthusiastic attitude toward Blondie, I think the performances succeed pretty well.

The setlist nicely melds old and new. The audience’s rapturous response to the Curse tracks feels somewhat artificial, as though they go nuts more because they’re supposed to do so than because they want to do so. However, I do kind of like the new stuff, and “Undone” sounds particularly good. It fits with the earlier material nicely.

The quality of the older tunes varies somewhat but usually plays up the band’s strengths. I don’t care much for the Autoamerican experiments, though. The lounge reggae of “Tide” and the white girl rap of “Rapture” fail to connect. Those songs may be seen as classics, but I don’t know why they attract such popularity.

Otherwise, the tunes from the albums prior to that fare well. Parallel and Eat are probably their best releases, and those songs kick. “One Way”, “Dreaming”, “Telephone” and others are quite memorable, and they sound solid here.

Blondie don’t put on the most magnetic stage show in the world, at least not as exhibited here. Harry tends to sing/speak songs a little too much as well. Still, she looks good, at least for a woman pushing 60, and her voice holds up well when she uses it more actively.

I liked Blondie as a kid but lost touch with them years ago. Live By Request shows there’s some life in the old beast. With a good mix of old and new, Request gives us a fine show.

The DVD Grades: Picture A-/ Audio A- (DTS) B+ (DD)/ Bonus C-

Blondie: Live By Request appears in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. That came as a surprise, as I anticipated a standard fullscreen presentation. Instead, I found a very nice widescreen image that consistently excelled.

Sharpness looked crisp and detailed. A few wide shots betrayed very minor softness, but these were rare and not a real concern. Overall the picture appeared well-defined and distinct. It showed no jagged edges or moiré effects, and I also saw no problems related to edge enhancement. As for source flaws, I witnessed none; the material came across as clean and fresh.

Request used a subdued palette that fit the show. Basic black was the order of the day for clothes, as the most prominent color onstage came from Harry’s pink shawl. Otherwise, lighting provided the only semi-bright hues, and even those remained mild. Overall, the disc replicated colors with fine accuracy and clarity, and they always looked real and natural.

Blacks also appeared to be deep and rich. As noted, the participants mainly wore dark outfits, and these looked nicely dark and solid. Shadow detail seemed to be concise and appropriately opaque without any form of excessive thickness. Ultimately, I found Request to provide a very strong picture.

Nearly as good was the audio of Live By Request. The DVD provides both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 tracks, and although both were strong, I preferred the latter. Essentially it offered all of the positives of the Dolby mix, but it seemed to integrate elements a little more cleanly, and it featured modestly tighter and deeper bass response. The differences weren’t extreme, but they were significant enough for me to give the DTS version an “A-” while the DD one settled for a “B+“.

In both cases, the soundfield neatly presented the live concert. The audio remained oriented toward the front channels, which made sense for this kind of show. Instrumentation appeared distinctly placed and accurately located, as all of the pieces showed up in the right spots. These elements blended together well and created a clean and immersive presentation. As for the rears, they mainly they stayed with general reinforcement of the music as well as crowd noise. Overall the mix presented an engulfing and rich soundfield.

As for the quality of the sound, it seemed to be positive. I thought the vocals remained natural and warm. Voices sounded clear and lush, and they helped contribute to the realistic atmosphere. Most of the various instruments also added strong support. Guitars and keyboards were crisp and precise, while drums and bass seemed detailed. Low-end response was a little lackluster at times, especially during the Dolby track, but bass mostly came across as warm and natural. In the end, I found Request to present fine sound.

When we looked at the DVD’s extras, we found a few nice bits. Of prime interest are the four bonus songs. We get “The Dream’s Lost on Me”, “End to End”, “Hello Joe” and “(I’m Always Touched By Your) Presence, Dear”. “End” and “Joe” come from The Curse of Blondie. “Presence” comes from Plastic Letters while “Lost” emanates from 1999’s reunion album No Exit. Just like the main program, these boast anamorphic 1.78:1 video along with the same three audio options. They make for a nice addition to the DVD.

A bland Photo Gallery presents 41 images from the show. Lastly, we discover a music video for “Good Boys”. Shot like a silent movie with a little circus love story, it’s more creative and interesting than most videos.

A good representation of the modern Blondie, Live By Request provides a nice performance. The band sounds solid and the concert mixes a variety of eras cleanly. The DVD offers excellent picture with positive audio and a minor mix of extras. I wouldn’t call Blondie a great band, but they have their moments, and Request aptly demonstrates their strengths.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.5 Stars Number of Votes: 4
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