Live Review: Chrissie Hynde and James Walbourne of the Pretenders – Amoeba Music

Monday September 29, 2008
Week of Shows
, Episode One

Amoeba Music In-Store Performance

In yet another testament to the irrelevance of the old record industry, the Pretenders are experiencing a resurgence in popularity, despite a track record of well-received but commercially short-falling albums in recent years.  Arguably, liberal recurrent airplay on JACK-formatted radio stations, the re-issue of classic Pretenders albums, the inclusion of “Tattooed Love Boys” (with its appealing, fidgety time signature) in the first Guitar Hero game and Chrissie Hynde’s emergence as a gay icon of sorts have done more to further the Pretenders’ career than payola schemes and corporate marketing plans could ever conceive.

A "pretend" picture of Chrissie Hynde and James Walbourne performing at Amoeba Music.  Hynde promised Amoeba she\'d leave the stage if any cameras were present.

A "pretend" picture of Chrissie Hynde and James Walbourne performing at Amoeba Music. Hynde promised Amoeba she'd leave the stage if any cameras were present.

At the same time, Hynde’s never ignored the songs that made her.  Pretenders shows always include the hits, and Monday was no exception.  She was generous and direct with her audience, particularly with fans that seemed present more to connect with her on a conversational level rather than just in communal appreciation of her music — and that’s the hallmark of artists who appreciate not only their place but how they got there.

Though she made comical faces as she fumbled through the opening chords of the set-starter “The Nothing Maker,” it was apparent as soon as she opened her mouth that this was Hynde at her finest – her familiar, distinctive voice riding effortless over the music, having lost none its luster and in fact more nuanced and confident in its delivery.  Other stand-outs included “Don’t Lose Faith In Me,” and a sublime take on “Talk Of The Town,” which she threatened would be the only old song she and Walbourne would be performing.

Shortly after, Hynde had to channel a bit of free association as she admittedly forgot the lyrics to the enticing “Almost Perfect,” filling with verses with nonsense to get through it.  “Let’s play one we can remember,” she commented to Walbourne after, rewarding the audience with “Kid” off the first Pretenders record. 

It wasn’t until the last two numbers of the set that the material truly spilled over into hootenanny territory. “Boots of Chinese Plastic” in particular represented the country idiom more so than anything played up until that point; except for stylistic tinges provided by Walbourne, other new songs came across no more country at face value than the two classic Pretenders songs that were performed.  While it remains to be seen if the produced album treads heavily in the country genre as promised, it’s fair to say regardless that on at least this occasion, Hollywood received a rare and very special glimpse of the Pretenders.


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