Blondie and Elvis Costello Play the Santa Barbara Bowl

Historic New Wave Double Bill Featured Covers, Hits, New Material

Blondie opening for Elvis Costello and the Imposters at the Santa Barbara Bowl | Credit: Courtesy

It’s the first time these artists have toured together, and they make an effective pairing, in part because they don’t follow the co-headlining practice of switching off who opens and who closes. Blondie starts the party with a danceable, reggae-tinged set, and Elvis Costello delivers a harder rocking finish. At the Santa Barbra Bowl on Wednesday, August 7, sunset provided an awesome ambient lighting shift to underscore the contrast.

Debbie Harry sported a lightweight silver hooded coat and matching reflector sunglasses. Guitarist Tommy Kessler added spark to a lineup that included original members Chris Stein and Clem Burke. Blondie’s set wove their biggest hits together with a cleverly chosen handful of covers. “Rapture” segued into “Old Town Road” by Lil Nas X, and “The Tide Is High”—which is itself a cover of the Paragaons, but was a bigger hit for Blondie—included an interlude of Deee-Lite’s “Groove Is in the Heart.” 

Elvis Costello came out blazing with “Pump It Up,” his standard opening song, followed by three of his best shots from the period 1979-80, “Clubland,” “Green Shirt,” and “Accidents Will Happen.” A pair of co-writes, with Burt Bacharach and Carole King no less, represented his most recent album, 2018’s Look Now, and at the midpoint, Costello took to the piano for a preview of a Broadway musical he’s writing based on the 1957 Elia Kazan film A Face in the Crowd. Later in the set, he made a shout-out to a real life face in the crowd, Joni Mitchell, who he said was in attendance, and the audience roared in approval.


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