The Donnas Search for a Spark in L.A. Before Blondie Tour Launch

July 20, 2009 2:06 PM ET

"It's been a while since we played this stage," Brett Anderson of the Donnas announced halfway through the band's Friday-night set at the Troubadour in Los Angeles. Then the frontwoman dedicated "I Didn't Like You Anyway," from 1999's Get Skintight, to any Troubadour employees who might have been working at the 500-capacity club the last time the Donnas were there. "It's amazing we're all still alive!"

True dat: Since forming in high school (originally as the Electrocutes), these Bay Area garage-rock brats have spent the past decade and a half pumping out cheap thrills for underground diehards and Top 40 tourists alike. If you ever took the Donnas' girls-gone-wild shtick as a cynical pop-punk marketing ploy, their unexpected endurance (as reflected on a cheekily titled new best-of, Greatest Hits Vol. 16) has proven you wrong. They're definitely for real.

Of course, realness is no guarantee of a good time (especially as compared to a cynical pop-punk marketing ploy), and the Donnas' hour-long Troubadour gig sometimes felt more like an exercise in proficiency than a show of inspiration. You couldn't fault their playing: Anderson delivered her tough-chick vocals with sass to spare, while Allison Robertson peeled off killer guitar solos in "Who Invited You" and "Smoke You Out," the latter from the Donnas' most recent studio disc, 2007's self-released Bitchin'. (Longtime buddy Amy Cesari filled in for drummer Torry Castellano, who's out with an injured shoulder.)

But there was a lack of danger or grit on Friday as Anderson and her bandmates got ready for a summer tour with Blondie and Pat Benatar that kicks off tomorrow night at the Mountain Winery in Saratoga, California (they played similar club gigs in San Diego and Long Beach). There's no doubt the Donnas know how to ignite a spark — and they'll likely find it back on the road.

Set list:
"Who Invited You"
"Get Off"
"Hey, I'm Gonna Be Your Girl"
"Smoke You Out"
"Like an Animal"
"I Didn't Like You Anyway"
"Perfect Stranger"
"Fall Behind Me"
"What Do I Have to Do"
"5 O'Clock in the Morning"
"You Make Me Hot"
"Take It Off"

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