Pretenders at the Royal Albert Hall, London - Live Review

Chrissie Hynde and co. deliver the timeless hits and more

Pretenders on stage

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The Pretenders always were the most classy of the new wave bands. Tonight the audience witness a celebration of classic virtues; old-fashioned, even: we are requested to put mobile devices away and “enjoy the show in real time”.

Only two original members remain, but it’s enough: Martin Chambers is introduced as “the world’s greatest rock’n’roll drummer” by Chrissie Hynde, who many would argue is (still) the world’s greatest rock’n’roll frontwoman. She struts on stage in a military tunic and spangly jeans, still skinny, her voice the last word in steely insouciance.

Opening number Alone sets out her stall: ‘Nobody tells me I can’t/Nobody tells me I shan’t’. Not that she’s beyond crowd-pleasing; the set is half-hits. Message Of Love, Stop Your Sobbing and Talk Of The Town induce rapture in the Albert Hall’s staid environs, while Hymn To Her and Private Life sustain the momentum even at power ballad/reggae pace, the ‘And she will always carry on’ of the former delivered pointedly/poignantly.

The repartee has rather less panache. “Does my bum look big in this?” she asks, and she dedicates Back On The Chain Gang to Chambers, her musical partner for 39 years (“You only get 10 for murder”). And we could have done without the audience participation. When she hands the mic to a woman in the front row during Brass In Pocket it sounds like a cat being garrotted. Hynde, though, sings like a defiled angel. She’s special.

The Story Behind The Song: Brass In Pocket by The Pretenders

Chrissie Hynde: Going It Alone With The Pretenders

Paul Lester is the editor of Record Collector. He began freelancing for Melody Maker in the late 80s, and was later made Features Editor. He was a member of the team that launched Uncut Magazine, where he became Deputy Editor. In 2006 he went freelance again and has written for The Guardian, The Times, the Sunday Times, the Telegraph, Classic Rock, Q and the Jewish Chronicle. He has also written books on Oasis, Blur, Pulp, Bjork, The Verve, Gang Of Four, Wire, Lady Gaga, Robbie Williams, the Spice Girls, and Pink.