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CONCERT IN THE GARDENS ****
PRINCES STREET GARDENS, EDINBURGH


AFTER last year’s washout, this little rainbow at the end of 2004 was as well received as it was feverishly anticipated. The Scissor Sisters and Blondie, New York’s spanking, sparkling new and their illustrious pop-punk forebears have experienced vastly contrasting 12 months, the former scaling stratospheric heights of public adulation even as the latter’s latest album, The Curse of Blondie, flumped to widespread indifference, failing even to secure a release in the US.

But Debbie Harry’s mesmerising aura is still such, and the Blondie back catalogue so infectious, that from the first resounding chords of Atomic, the evening was hers.

First, though, came local boys and girls doing good, Aberfeldy. The Edinburgh five-piece paint wistful vistas of summer and love not a million miles from Belle and Sebastian. Behind singer-songwriter Riley Briggs’s catchy melodies, it’s the tinkling xylophones and close harmonies of Ruth Barrie and Sarah McFadyen that define their buoyant folk-pop.

Even clad in nondescript black, it’s remarkable how far back guitarist Chris Stein and the rest of Blondie recede behind the stage domination of Harry. Swirling in tartan shawl, the stately singer morphed exquisitely to match her band’s slide between genres: stomping, Cruella de Vil-style through the lazy funk and rap of Rapture; a coquettish ingenue recalling the woozy Dreaming; an out-and-out flirt imploring the crowd to Call Me; and a Madonna inspiring the anthemic singalong to Maria.

New song Good Boys confirms there’s life in their songwriting yet, and Heart of Glass’s disco swoon with a full-hearted Auld Lang Syne made for a bizarre yet appealling bells finale.

A calendar year later, and Jake Shears literally leaped onstage in natty tartan dungarees, romping with the campest of abandonment through Take Your Mama, his fellow Sisters affording him ample room to give the Elton John-style tune its full honkytonk head. Filthy Gorgeous remains a self-parody rather than a song, but Shears and the Saltire-sporting Ana Matronic have tremendous empathy for each other’s vocal stylings, the girl in a drag queen’s body delivering a superior Tits on the Radio.

Highlight of the night, though, could only be the majestic Pink Floyd mash-up Comfortably Numb, the sound of a band propelled by pure audience love. Marvellous.

SUSAN NICKALLS
Mon 3 Jan 2005
THE SCOTSMAN

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