On Nov. 12, Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders unleashed on Chicago at the historic Chicago Theater. The show proved Hynde’s longevity as an artist, showcasing much of her brand new 2014 record, all while giving her audience a perfect blend of Pretenders tunes. Her tour continues onward to Detroit this weekend, and after that, a stay in the south moving through Texas and Oklahoma.
As Hynde was about to take the stage in Chicago, the lights dimmed and a song began to play: The Great Pretender by the Platters. The crowd erupted, immediately recognizing the quirky introduction to Hynde, who was indeed the great Pretender. Her performance began softly, with the 2008 Pretenders ballad, Don’t Lose Faith in Me. The songs she performed from the band’s catalog were eclectic, focusing on some deeper tracks from their entire catalog, maneuvering through nearly forty years of content. She did not play some of the bigger Pretenders hits, songs like Brass in Pocket and I’ll Stand By You, a decision that may have upset some patrons. Regardless, her set was powerful and provocative, not necessarily needing the big numbers to stay afloat.
Most of Hynde’s set list revolved around her recent July release, Stockholm. Considering the record itself is a very strong solo debut, it translates well to her live performance. Songs like Dark Sunglasses and In a Miracle hold their own against Pretenders tracks. In perhaps the strongest performance of the set, Hynde donned an acoustic guitar for Like in the Movies, a new song that the audience responded particularly well to.
When Chrissie Hynde unleashed on Chicago, she exhibited why she is such an important figure in the progression of rock and roll. When Hynde hit the stage in 1979, electric guitar in hand, she changed history. The Pretenders came to prominence at the height of the punk movement, though their music was much tamer than most punk. Hynde reminded the world that a female front man could not only perform and live the male-dominated rock lifestyle, but she could also hold her own on the guitar. Very few prominent female figures contributed to this notion, making her even more important, save rockers like Joan Jett or Nancy Wilson.
Despite most of the set consisting of new outings and deeper Pretenders tracks, the punk legend still hit home hard with a few well-known tracks from her famous band. A three song series during the latter half of the show consisted of Night in My Veins, Don’t Get Me Wrong, and Back on the Chain Gang. She has found a good blend of the past and present, allowing her to provide her audience the nostalgia they are so seeking at her shows without dating herself.
Chrissie Hynde’s show in Chicago unleashed her as an artist that has stood the test of time. While the Pretenders will always be excellent, she has an intriguing offering available with Stockholm. She is a superb songwriter and performer, one that has many shows still left to play.
Review By Brett Stewart