Clem Burke & Bootleg Blondie play Parallel Lines

BOOTLEG BLONDIE together with drummer Clem Burke certainly sound like the real thing but ultimately try too hard to imitate the iconic band

BOOTLEG BLONDIE is the official Debbie Harry & Blondie tribute band and the only Blondie tribute to play the legendary CBGBs in New York City. They’ve also been mentioned by Blondie themselves on their 2017 album POLLINATOR. In celebration of the 40th anniversary of the iconic Parallel Lines album, Blondie drummer Clem Burke joins the tribute band for their UK tour, in which they play through the album, followed by some of the band’s greatest hits.

Fronted by Debbie Harris, Bootleg Blondie began when Harris was chosen to represent Debbie Harry on ‘Even Better Than The Real Thing’ on BBC1. Harris does resemble the band’s iconic frontwoman, aided by a plethora of costumes and accessories. This does come across as slightly tacky and try-hard at times though, as Harris attempts to recreate the videos and images we know so well.

The band also sound very convincing, and it’s great to hear these classic songs played live. Harris sounds spookily alike to Debbie Harry at times, especially in songs such as PICTURE THIS. She’s supported by extremely talented musicians, playing the well-known songs effortlessly, though they do lack some charisma, and seem to just be going through the motions. There seemed to be some sound issues, as the band was far too loud and we struggled to hear Harris singing at times.

Harris herself tries very hard to recreate the moves and attitude of Debbie Harry but is lacking any of the swagger required to pull them off. She comes across as awkward and uncool, especially when wearing an elaborate mirrored coat or singing into a telephone. Harris seems to be trying too hard to be Debbie Harry, and it results in an embarrassing caricature, rather than the effortlessly cool demeanour this frontwoman should give off. She’s also strangely expressionless, which makes it difficult for the audience to connect with her.

Perhaps it was due to it being a cold Wednesday night in Salford, but the atmosphere in the room was quite lacking. The audience joined in when prompted, but otherwise, the energy was quite low. This wasn’t aided by the placement of an interval just as things were picking up, at the end of the Parallel Lines album. The album also doesn’t lend itself very well to being played live in order, and it might have been better to rearrange the songs to fit a live performance.

Bootleg Blondie might benefit from taking a leaf out of the book of “Rumours of Fleetwood Mac”. Fully endorsed by Mick Fleetwood himself, this tribute band sounds very alike to the real thing, but have their own personalities onstage and it’s obvious they work well as a band. They don’t try to fool you into believing you’re actually watching Fleetwood Mac, and therefore avoid the “impersonator” factor that Bootleg Blondie seems to have.

Overall, BOOTLEG BLONDIE is very convincing if you close your eyes, but Debbie Harris is awkward to watch. Perhaps a fun, group night out, if you don’t take it too seriously.

2 out of 5 stars

CLEM BURKE & BOOTLEG BLONDIE PLAY PARALLEL LINES played at The Lowry, Salford on 23 January 2019.