This shamelessly flattering review is probably the kind of shamelessly flattering review that would make Chrissie Hynde heave; but The Pretenders aren’t just ‘Special’ – they’re fucking incredible. Die hard fans and newbies were hooked on their timeless rock at their Hammersmith Apollo gig on Sunday night.
Entering the stage in a dazzling sequin blazer, Chrissie Hynde kicked off proceedings with ‘Alone’, the title track from The Pretenders’ latest album and an anthem that champions independence. Original drummer Martin Chambers smashed away on his kit in a vest that read “cocaine & caviar” and stood up front with Chrissie were the equally as cool bassist and guitarist. It didn’t just sound like pure rock and roll, it looked and felt like it too.
Unpretentious and unapologetic, Chrissie’s between-song observations were delivered with the slickness of a stand-up comic. She said she wouldn’t name drop as she mentioned Dan Auerbach, Bob Dylan, and Neil Young – and Labour MP Angela Eagle who ran to the front to join in the party as the band began playing ‘Back On The Chain Gang’. Security tried to guide fans back to their seats unsuccessfully, and Chrissie was more than happy to aid their anarchy: “I’m 65 and I can barely stand, if they wanna stand up, let them!” followed by a quip about her real age: “Okay, I’m 66”.
If fans weren’t dancing and cheering at the front with her, they were applauding her from a distance, and something which warranted a standing ovation was her mid-song take down of a fan filming the band. There were notices throughout the venue asking fans not to record the show on their smart phones, but several people ignored the request until Chrissie reprimanded an individual about ignoring the policy. She (quite rightly) reminded everyone that live music is about dancing and having a scrap, before reassuring security “if anything bad happens, you can sue me”.
The band proceeded to tear through classic tracks ‘Don’t Get Me Wrong’, ‘I’ll Stand By you’, ‘I Hate Myself’ and a superb rendition of ‘Tequila’, which Chrissie stated to be the first ever Pretenders song. It was clear from the crowd’s reactions to lesser known songs however, that this gig was more than a greatest hits record played live. Chrissie handed over her mic to an eager fan who wanted to tell the venue about the time she took her 16 year old sister to her first Pretenders gig decades ago, and now they were both back watching the band together again. Hynde labelled the memory “Heartwarming” before continuing to sound impeccable whilst singing, and playing guitar & harmonica throughout the set.
The band performed a double encore before closing the night with the inimitable ‘Brass In Pocket’, proving that The Pretenders are still as vital and adored now as they were in the beginning in 1978. If you ever get the chance to see them live, take it (and leave your smart phone in your pocket where it belongs).
The Pretenders latest album Alone is available now.