January 27, 2003
The Pretenders came out firing with the thundering new tune Lie To Me. The whole band seemed extremely relaxed even as the acerbic, repetitive chorus pummeled the crowd. Surprisingly, new cuts like this and the disco-reggae-soul bounce of Time were not only better than they are on the strong new record Loose Screw, but stood out above big hits like Dont Get Me Wrong and My City Was Gone. Chrissie Hyndes post-Ronnie Spector voice was sinewy, pretty and dead-on for every single song of the night, but was used to best advantage on ballads such as Ill Stand By You and The Losing which were performed almost like lounge numbers. She laid down her ever-present Tele and worked the front of the stage in true Vegas style, which was odd (but truly effective) for such a new wave icon. In addition to Chrissies uniquely beautiful voice, the instrumentalists were truly phenomenal. Guitarist Adam Seymours use of tone and layering was both tasteful and pyrotechnic. On My City Was Gone, he built the song to such a crescendo it seemed like his guitar might catch fire.
The literal heart of The Pretenders, though, is the only other surviving original member of the band, plexiglass-ensconced drummer Martin Chambers. Just to hear him on Message Of Love was inspiring. Going all the way back to the beginning of the group, Chambers thrashed his way through a blistering version of Precious that laid down strong evidence that The Pretenders were a devastating punkish rock band before helping to define early 80s jangle pop. When Chrissie yelled Fuck off! with a sneer near the end of the tune, the place erupted. Speaking of the jangle, Talk Of The Town and Back On The Chain Gang were crowd favorites even if the group didnt seem as interested in them as some of the new songs.Perhaps the most poignant moment of the night came at the beginning of Kid, which Chrissie dedicated to the drug overdosed half of the original lineup. This dedication led her to confess, without them, we wouldnt be here. Then she visibly slumped for a second and added, without us, they probably would be here. For encores, drummer Martin Chambers kicked and flailed like a madman through Middle Of The Road which didnt end before Chrissie dished out some pretty stellar harmonica work to the delight of the up and dancing crowd that had the balcony throbbing to the beat. Of course, the band couldnt leave without doing their breakthrough hit, Brass In Pocket, which inspired Chrissie to break out some not so fancy dance moves that the audience couldnt help but smile about. Chrissie Hynde is the prototypical punk chick. Shes unrelentingly tough, but generous with affection and clearly vulnerable. She rocks hard, but can seduce with a drawn out, vibratoed syllable. For a group with a name like The Pretenders, they were startlingly real.