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The Rage & Rapture Tour: Blondie, Garbage, John Doe & Exene 07/19/2017

The Rage & Rapture Tour
Stir Concert Cove
Council Bluffs, Iowa
Blondie, Garbage, John Doe & Exene Cervenka
July 19th, 2017

Tonight was the night I’d been waiting for. Not only were Garbage returning to the Omaha Metro Area, but I would finally get the chance to see Blondie too. As an added bonus, Punk icons John Doe and Exene Cervenka of X would be opening the show.
Not knowing what to expect from John Doe & Exene, I was pleasantly surprised by their acoustic performance. While I was expecting the duo to play X’s tracks, I was not thinking they’d cover songs from The Stanley Brothers, and Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs. Their classic heavy punk music transitioned well to a bluesy/country style. Combined with the 100 degree heat index of the day, it was refreshing to just enjoy these two amazing musicians. While Exene thanked the crowd for their time, Joe Doe reassured us that the rest of the night would be filled with rock, and that we’d not hear another country track for Garbage or Blondie.
Garbage were one of the first rock bands I was drawn too back in the mid-90’s. Their self-titled debut album, that I initially bought on cassette, was one of my go to albums during my junior year of high school, and their opening slot on Smashing Pumpkins’ Infinite Sadness Tour in 1996 were one of the first concerts I’d experienced. Tonight would be my fourth time seeing the band live, and I knew I was in for an amazing night.
With the exception of nothing being played off of the band’s 5th studio album, Not Your Kind of People, Garbage’s 15 song set was nothing less than perfect. The band used this tour to debut their current single, No Horses, and shifted their focus to playing their fan favorite hits.
Even with the one hundred degree heat index, Garbage hammered Stir’s crowd for nearly an hour. Vocalist Shirley Manson flirted with the crowd as she stalked the stage like a caged tiger ready to pounce.
As the guys thrashed through I Think I’m Paranoid, Manson left the stage and took the time to sprint through the crowd, singing the track’s second chorus at the soundboard, and stopping to take a few selfies with fans before heading back to the stage.
Manson addressed the crowd several time throughout their set, commenting on the ungodly heat or giving us a deeper glimpse into various songs before they were performed.
One of favorite moments of the set was the band’s performance of Night Drive Loneliness. Manson asked the crowd to “Close your eyes and imagine you’re driving down and long dark road in a David Lynch movie.”
“Sometimes it’s ok to play in the darkness,” Manson reminded us. Having only been played 4 times during the Rage and Rapture Tour, it was great to hear one of my favorite tracks off of the band’s Strange Little Birds release.
Manson joked with us on how she was apprehensive about taking the stage in the heat. “Where I’m from, it never gets about 65 degrees and it’s always raining. I was seriously questioning tonight’s show, but this heat isn’t so bad.”
Needless to say several thousand of us were very happy that tonight’s show was cancelled or delayed for the extreme heat.
Not satisfied with simply performing their music a la carte as it would be found on their albums, tracks that have been played for the past few decades were given a heavier vibe, or rearranged intro. Obviously the stand out cut of the evening was Only Happy When It Rains, which found several thousand voices singing in unison with Manson, but it was the special touches on other tracks which peaked my interest even more. Stupid Girl was preceded by the intro for Push It’s  Boom Boom Satellites mix, immediately followed by Push It’s original version.
The band closed their spectacular set by coming full circle with their debut single, Vow. The lyrics for “Vow” are rather dark, dealing with themes of revenge and retaliation. Manson was inspired to write the track in 1994 after reading a newspaper article on domestic abuse.
Since their inception, Garbage has taken elements of glam rock, punk, and art rock and combined them into their own unique sound. Opening their set with their newest single and closing with the first was a brilliant statement from the band, and left everyone in attendance wanting more. Hopefully the band will continue their yearly visits to the Omaha metro area.
After a brief cool down thanks to the setting sun, massive LCD screens lining the back of the stage burst to life and heralded the return on Blondie to Omaha. It had been almost 6 years since Debbie Harry and her band of merry men had graced the stage of Stir Concert Cove and Blondie’s return was welcomed with thunderous applause. Harry walked on stage wearing a full length black cape emblazoned with STOP FUCKING THE PLANET in large white letters.
Harry, still stunning in her seventh decade, began Blondie’s set in full honey bee regalia. A fledgling beekeeper, Harry made it a point after performing their cover of The Nerves’ Hanging On a Telephone Wire to draw attention to and create some serious buzz for the world’s dwindling bee population, and the health of the environment.
For over an hour, Blondie proved relevance in today’s music era to an utterly enthralled crowd. The band’s set highlighted tracks off of their current release, Pollinator, and their greatest hits from the past 4 decades. Mixed in with Rapture and Heart of Glass, the band also covered Bob Dylan’s Rainy Day Woman #12 & 35, An Unkindness’ Fragments, and their cover of The Paragon’s The Tide Is High, one of the band’s tops hits from the 1980’s.
Fun fact, 1981’s Rapture was the first No. 1 song in the U.S. to feature rap vocals.
It was simply amazing to finally get the chance to see Harry on stage with Blondie co-founders Chris Stein and Clem Burke. What’s even more impressive is that these three friends have remained true to their pioneering new wave and punk sound since their inception. Blondie have definitely earned their position as one of the most influential bands of the 20th century.

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