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The Pretenders, Subterania, London, 26.04.18

April 27, 2018

Written for Record Collector magazine

View: Bopping at the back

I loved the original line-up of the Pretenders. One-and-a-half strong LPs and an unbeatable run of hit singles up to and including Back On The Chain Gang. Never saw them live – they came to Manchester where I was living in May 1980 but we elected to see The Fabulous Thunderbirds instead. It sounded like we made the right choice, as at this stage the Pretenders were doing the “everyone louder than everyone else” thing Chrissie Hynde documented in her autobiography. Reports suggested the gig was a cacophony of woolly metal sludge.

I did see Chrissie on her own, in 1999 recording a TV programme called Songwriters Circle with Nick Cave and John Cale (it’s great, see it here ). By coincidence that programme was filmed at Subterania, the 600 people capacity club under the Westway where last night the Pretenders played a sold-out benefit gig for PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals). Chrissie thanked Vince Power for re-opening this venue, which was as good as I remember it – clear sight lines throughout and room to dance downstairs, seats upstairs.

The current Pretenders are a fine combination of youth and experience. Original drummer Martin Chambers was caged in Perspex but still managed to drum immaculately throughout and provide backing vocals. Young Pretenders James Walbourne (guitar), Nick Wilkinson (bass) and Carwyn Ellis (keyboards, acoustic guitar and maracas) did everything needed to serve the songs. Chrissie Hynde was in excellent voice throughout, that low Sandie Shaw vibrato still seemingly effortless. She looked more at ease wearing a Telecaster than singing unencumbered. Her onstage patter included a heartfelt thanks to PETA founder Alex Pacheo and a diatribe against pedigree dog breeders, possibly a first for a rock’n’roll concert.

From that sparkling first LP we got a stomping Mystery Achievement and a concise Private Life. Sprinkled throughout the set were the irresistible singles Kid, Talk Of The Town and Stop Your Sobbing. Encoring with a brace of B sides (The Wait and Tattooed Love Boys) would have been risky for a lesser band, but finishing with Brass In Pocket meant that everyone exited on a high.





From → Gigs, Music

One Comment
  1. Joe permalink

    Not really a risk with the b-sides in the encore. “The Wait” was a perennial show opener back in the day, and “Tattooed Love Boys” has always been positioned late-in-the-set or in the encore…they are indeed b-sides, but also well-known classics from the first album.

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