Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Backfired

So when news broke that my favorite singer of all time, Deborah Harry, was going on the road with Cyndi Lauper's True Colors gay rights awareness tour this summer, I made a conscious decision not to buy tickets. I figured a five-hour show with a dozen acts on the bill was not only unappealing to me timewise, Debbie would probably sing a few Blondie hits and then disappear. Having seen Blondie a number of times since their triumphant return in 1999, I decided to leave well enough alone. Then I heard from a few different people that Debbie's set wasn't going over all that well, confirming my decision not to go.

One friend in DC said: I was especially disappointed with Debbie Harry, who appeared to have sent a high robot to sing in her place. She sang mostly new songs, and I recognized only one, "French Kissing in the USA." As soon as she was done, she just walked off the stage like she was over it. So were we.

Nate Chinen of The New York Times said: The new songs offered by Deborah Harry, in a preview of her coming album “Necessary Evil,” were firmly tethered to a style: the new wave she epitomized with Blondie. This worked well enough on “Two Times Blue,” the driving lead single from the album. But elsewhere Harry seemed betrayed by the thinness of the material and by the slickness of her musicians. And there was a kind of cruelty in her avoidance of the biggest Blondie hits.

But then I heard from a fellow hardcore Deb fan (who, between you and me, is actually a Madonna queen at heart) and I began to realize how badly my plan had backfired. My friend explains: Debbie was good, but her set went over the heads of most people. When Cyndi & Erasure did fans' hardcore faves, they were songs that back in the day were Top 10 singles, whereas Debbie's were all failed solo efforts that nonetheless delighted fans at the time. "French Kissin'," "Rush Rush," "The Jam Was Movin'"-- so that limited her response. Also, she was aloof and the evening was very rah-rah Gay Pride, so that made her more of someone who got respectful applause but did not ingratiate herself. I creamed when she did "Rush Rush."

"Rush Rush"???? "The Jam Was Moving"???? "French Kissin'"???? LIVE!! Somebody just shoot me -- now! Talk about a plan that backfired. What I'm thinking is this: Debbie's been touring with Blondie again for nearly 10 years -- and I mean touring A LOT. So it seems she's using this Tour Colors tour as a chance to reconnect with her solo material -- stuff I've never gotten to hear live. (How could I have been so off the mark?) As for Debbie's aloofness, I wouldn't be surprised if she found Cyndi Lauper's personality as annoying as I do, so decided to stay out of her way. Cyndi's a great singer, but the second she opens her mouth I lose all interest. New Yorkers know that when it comes to actions vs. words, Cyndi looks out for herself first and foremost. That lawsuit she filed to try to knock her cut-rate rent on a luxury apartment on the Upper West Side down even further really rubbed a lot of people the wrong way. (And need I remind you about Captain Lou Albano?) And when your fans scream "I love you!" and you feel compelled to scream back -- every single time I've seen her live over the past 20 years -- "No you don't! You don't even know me" -- it gets really annoying. (Just yell "I love you, too!" and move on with it, honey!) And Cyndi's self-conscious gay-flag-waving antics might have been just too trite for downtown's coolest chick, even if she did sign on for the cause. (Just a theory.)

I'm hoping Debbie's retro-solo set was a warm-up for a solo tour to promote her upcoming album. I'd really hate myself for missing this chance otherwise.

I guess my brother Bill summed it up best when he said: I can't believe you would have even begun to accept normal people's judgment that the show was "bad."

Just drop to a dead stop.

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

I saw the tour in Boston. Ms. Harry started off rather lackluster, but improved over her set. Sadly, I'm not familiar with her oeuvre, so although I enjoyed her set by the end, there was no special meaning to me of her songs.

BTW: at least in this concert, when people shouted at Ms. Lauper that they loved her, she responded with "I love you, too". Perhaps she read your post before you posted it?

NATHANIEL R said...

whats with the Cyndi dissing? I've seen her several times and she's been nothing but warm and generous to the audience. She's one of the best live performers there is --always energized compelling and with the crowd.

one of the most underappreciated musicians of my lifetime.

and i don't see the gay rights support as calculated but a blessing for everyone. if more stars appreciated their fanbase to that degree the world would be lovelier.

Eric said...

I liked Debbie's set. A lot, actually. But a part of me still thinks it was more than a bit arrogant to not perform even one hit. One "Heart of Glass," that's all it would've taken to get the crowd on her side.

The Cyndi comments... well, that's just your loss, frankly.

David said...

Ken -- Gonna have to disagree with you on this one. I saw the show and Cyndi was just incredible. Not only was she in fine (fuck -- AMAZING) voice and spirit, but her comments were sincere and at times heart-wrenching. She put this tour together because she felt like she could and should say and something in support of gay rights. How many gay celebs, let alone straight allies, do that?

Debbie on the other hand, just fell flat. If her music "went over my head" as one of your friends said, then so be it but I think I was in the majority. She did come across as aloof -- no patter, no shout outs to the audience. I was disappointed.

Anonymous said...

Wow, why the bitterness against Cyndi? I saw the True Colors concert in Denver and thought she did an amazing job, not only with her music, but in arranging the concert and talking to the crowd.

Debbie Harry's performance was very flat. She didn't seem very happy to be performing -- and, she didn't even bring her own back-up singers, choosing to sing with recorded back-up singers. No energy, no passion -- just another day at the office. At the end of her performance, she just waved and walked off the stage. But, I guess her performance "went over my head." Either that, or it just wasn't very good.

Anonymous said...

I first saw Debbie with you at Blues Alley in DC some 10+ years ago and I was awestruck. I thought the choices of songs and her voice was amazing. You even took me upstairs to her dressing room to meet her. When other fans asked her questions, and she was unable to answer, you answered for her, "No, that song was never recorded, but it is available on the bootleg video from your London concert of 1988." This performance was a very different experience...perhaps I was spoiled by my other Debbie Harry experience, but I really don't think so.

Kenneth M. Walsh said...

New Yorkers know that when it comes to actions vs. words, Cyndi looks out for herself first and foremost. That lawsuit she filed to try to knock her cut-rate rent on a luxury apartment on the Upper West Side down even further really rubbed a lot of people the wrong way.

jon in astoria said...

yikes. that article is pretty damning.

i realize no good deed goes unpunished but while the concept of this whole true colors tour is a nice one, ultimately it created a job for her.

sounds like ticket sales have been anemic though. maybe she needs the rent reduced more on that $989/mo. FOUR-BEDROOM spread she has (hee hee)!

johnny said...

Woa. She tried to get her $989 four-bedroom luxury apartment's rent reduced to $500 -- and she was living there under false pretenses all along?

So much for looking out for the disadvantaged. Maybe she feels needy compared to Madonna!

Anonymous said...

Oh, okay, so this blog entry isn't really about Cyndi and her performance, it is about New Yorkers disgust with her that she tried to reduce the rent on her apartment? Well, now I see how that makes her singing and performing just terrible! That TOTALLY explains why a money-grubbing Cyndi would participate in a concert that gives a portion of the proceeds to HRC (www.hrc.org/truecolors/). It is all just a big scam!! She needed a job!!

Kenneth M. Walsh said...

No, I said Cyndi's a great singer (I have everything she's ever recorded and have even made bootlegs of her nonaalbum material so I don't miss a song!). It's her personality I find less appealing at times and I was wondering if perhaps Deb felt the same way. It was just a guess.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes I wonder how people can be so ignorant! Cyndi Lauper happens to be a friend of our community, I don't see Madonna doing anything for us. Madonna's own religion is against our community. New Yorkers are different and they do have a very unique personality, after seeing Cyndi in a SOLD OUT RED ROCKS(Denver) I have so much respect for her and will support her music for years to come.
Bitter Queens will always be unhappy ..Glad I am able to see her True Colors!

Anonymous said...

Cyndi does have a unique sense of humour. She is a true hero and a legend! She's been nothing but nice and generous to our community.
I like to support music that supports our community- Cyndi Lauper Rocks!She does so much for our community and gets nothing in return. Her music is so underrated!
Nobody's supported the Gay and Lesbian community longer than Cyndi has).
She's worked with PFLAG, and Matthew Shepard Foundation, and she was at the very first AIDS Benefit in LA,
and she was the first to donate all the profits from a song to AIDS research.
Cyndi's Version of "When You Were Mine" was about her still loving a guy who was going with another guy
(anyone else do a song like that in the mid-80's?). Don't think so....

John said...

Cyndi Lauper is one of the most underapprecited musicians of our generation. The woman has sold more than 30 millions albums, do you really think that she needs a job? Gosh, I feel sorry that people are unable to see how amazing this woman is. Her sister is a lesbian and she loves our community, Is it really that hard to appreciate all her hard work?

Steve said...

Cyndi Lauper is a champion of Gay Rights!

Eric said...

It is so important to be well informed:
Lauper and her husband, actor David Thornton, sued the owners of their luxury apartment building, claiming they were cheated out of thousands of dollars in a scheme to end rent stabilization for their residence.n 1992, 390 West End Associates entered into a lease with Shlomo Baron for an apartment in the Apthorp building. While the prior tenant paid just $508 monthly for the apartment, Baron agreed to pay $2,400 a month under an agreement that he wouldn’t use the dwelling as his primary residence. Baron then sublet the apartment to the couple for $3,250 a month.

In 1996, the Thorntons sued Baron, seeking to recover what they paid in excess of the legal stabilized rent plus damages. They later sued 390 West End, seeking to have their rent reduced to the stabilized price of $508 a month.
She wasn't being cheap, before talking about someone without really knowing you should be well informed. PERIOD!
Cyndi Lauper is brilliant!

Paul said...

Cyndi Lauper
Are you concerned that people will assume you're queer because you've put together the True Colours tour?

I'm a gay man in a woman's body - everyone knows that! Seriously, if people assume I'm queer, let them. I'd rather they know there are straight people who are concerned with things that affect the GLBT community and who celebrate that community - I am that type of person. I hate the us-and-them categories.
I really enjoy her music and her beautiful personality.
Please watch her interview on The View:
http://youtube.com/watch?v=JMyMUFqXCA0
If more stars appreciate their fanbase to that degree the world would be a much better place! We love you Cyn!

Bryan said...

Oh Cindy dear, U know U are still my number ONE!
Kenneth: when it comes to actions vs. words, YOU ALSO look out for yourself first and foremost.

Joshua said...

Cyndi Lauper is amazing! Don't know why you have a problem with her personality. Maybe you are just not able to handle someone with a strong personality. The unusual girl is one of the best live performers in the world!

mrdithers said...

Maybe you all need a history lesson... Debby has ALWAYS had a rather flat-affect, on and off stage!
Yet her talent and her music continue to shine well into the new millenium! I have seen her perform live a few times, and she is always great! I saw the tour in SLC and she was absolutely amazing: Warm, friendly, and most importantly, she rocked the crowd! Her set was impeccable from start to finish. A great performance!
I, too, was initially put off by the 5 hour time-frame of the True Colors tour, but I have to say that it went by in a flash. I wasn't ready for it to be over!
All of the performers were in fine form, and did an amazing show! It was quite clear that they were there for US, raising money and awarness for OUR issues, not their's. They don't have to stand-up and speak-out for us!
It sickens me that members of our community choose to denigrate those who try to help us. If we don't help ourselves, and support our allies, who will? Paris...?
Those who missed the show for reasons of negativity and pessimism missed-out on a truly powerful and affirmational event.

Anonymous said...

I'm a straight gal from seattle and flew to san fran for the concert to support HRC since it wasn't coming here. I thought Debbie's performance was pretty flat too, and agree...would it have killed her to throw us one friggin' bone from the 80's???? C'mon, if yer goin' to a concert with an 80's theme, do you really think people wanna hear yer new stuff?? Maybe a few songs, but get real. Cyndi rocked the Casbah but to me the real show stealer was Erasure...dang, homeboy still gots it!!!

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