JIM DAVIS/GLOBE STAFF
Debbie Harry, at 66, led Blondie through their hits and new songs. (Jim Davis/Globe Staff)
As they lustily sang along to “One Way or Another,’’ Debbie Harry surveyed the excitable, multigenerational crowd of Blondie fans on the other side of her extended microphone Wednesday night at the Wilbur Theatre. She liked what she saw: “You may all graduate tonight,’’ she said.
But far from a schoolmarm, Harry, looking fit and fresh at 66, was the life of the party. She kicked up her heels under her tulle skirt during “Call Me.’’ Roamed the stage with a grin during “Maria.’’ And generally worked herself into a spirited lather without ever losing an ounce of her icy new-wave queen cool.
She and the rest of the band were clearly jazzed to play songs from “Panic of Girls,’’ Blondie‘s first new album in eight years, and that enthusiasm bled into the tried-and-true hits.
To its credit, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame-enshrined group has perfected the art of freshening up familiar tunes without obliterating their original charms. The audience was still able to sing along to “Rapture,’’ but it gained a satisfyingly grungy punk-rock coda, and a snippet of the Beastie Boys’ “(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (to Party!)’’ for good measure.
Blondie also received the rarest of gifts from the not-quite-capacity audience: loud, hearty, sincere cheers for “the new stuff.’’ Harry and her bandmates clearly benefited from playing an intimate venue filled with diehards instead of a big one dominated by hit-seeking casual fans.
The recent songs were justifiably applauded since several of them hold their own against older material. “What I Heard’’ is a pulsating dance rocker. “China Shoes,’’ a rare ballad for the band, showcased the more tender side of Harry’s voice, which has a few rough edges but remains remarkably stable. And the giddy Spanglish dance-rock jam “Wipe Off My Sweat’’ was an unexpectedly frothy treat, complete with nimble Spanish guitar picking from Tommy Kessler.
And a pause for a genuflection to drummer Clem Burke, who was reliably metronomic and powerful. He switched seamlessly from the sizzling cymbal splashes, rapid fire fills, and strutting disco groove of “Heart of Glass’’ to the reggae rhythms of “The Tide Is High’’ to the angular slashes of “Horizontal Twist.’’
Model-turned-rocker Lissy Trullie and her band were politely received for their short set of spartan post-punk.
Sarah Rodman can be reached at email@example.com.