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.