in performances: the pretenders

chrissie hynde of the pretenders. photo by jill_furmanovsky

Anyone doubting the current vitality and validity of Chrissie Hynde should have stuck around for encore time last night at the Louisville Palace. Armed with her current batch of Pretenders, the singer ripped into “Thumbelina,” a 1983 gem that roared with a monstrous, percussive shuffle (courtesy of the band’s only other surviving original member, drummer Martin Chambers) and an electric bravado that sounded like a cross between Merle Haggard and Iggy Pop (courtesy of Son Volt/Pogues alum James Walbourne, possibly the most animated guitarist to pass through the Pretenders ranks).  But it was Hynde that lit the fuse by singing the lyrics in a kind of sly howl where post punk urgency and neo-country narrative crashed head on. Does that sound like an artist going through the motions to you?

Hynde looked the part, too. Dressed in black t-shirt, jeans and thigh-high boots, the 66 year old “proud grandmother” looked fit enough to take out the front row of the Palace with just a few punches. One can only imagine, then, how an audience patron near the front of the stage felt after breaking the performance dictum of no camera or cell phone use to earn a personal rebuke from Hynde during “Down the Wrong Way.” There was no further confrontation, though. None was needed. Hynde succeeded in letting everyone know who was boss.

Beyond that, she was an enthusiastic, spirited and fearless chieftain. It took the show-opening “Alone” and “Gotta Wait” (both 2017 tunes) for her voice and the sound mix to find a compatible balance. But by the time “Back on the Chain Gang” commenced five songs in, the familiar – and, frankly, ageless – clarity of her singing surfaced.

What gave the 90 minute performance such spark was the same thing that has made the Pretenders, despite scores of personnel changes, such as an enduring act. Last night, it sat in Hynde’s stylistic prowess. The post punk vigor of the band’s initial albums was still in abundance, especially in a riotous “Middle of the Road” that plowed along like a locomotive with a culminating harmonica break by Hynde serving as a train whistle. But the singer also revealed repeatedly a well-schooled degree of pure pop smarts. You heard it in the sleeker, slower reflection of “Let’s Get Lost” (another tune from 2017’s “Alone” album), the summery stride of the 1986 hit “Don’t Get Me Wrong” and especially in the evening’s biggest surprise, “Hymn to Her,” an affirmation Hynde sang with only Carwyn Ellis’ church organ-like keyboards as support.

But when it came to rock ‘n’ roll, Hynde was equally in command. On the Bo Diddley style “Break Up the Concrete” as well as the effervescently chunky “Precious” (tunes cut over 35 years apart, but performed as encore tunes last night), her sense of drive never waned. In short, Hynde confidently showed, as she has for four decades, that the Pretenders are the real deal.

Comments are closed.

Terms of Service | Privacy Policy | About Our Ads | Copyright