The Pretenders + Cat Power + Juliette Lewis | August 12, 2009 at Bank of America Pavilion
The Pretenders | August 12 at Bank of America Pavilion, Boston | Photo: Carina Mastrocola
Not for nothing, Hynde's got a fucking amazing band behind her: founding drummer Martin Chambers provided booming backbeat, and bassist Nick Wilkinson and pedal steel player Eric Heywood added muscular flourishes to songs like "Thumbelina" and "Night in My Veins." And lanky young James Walbourne (Pernice Brothers, Pogues) is simply a beast on the guitar, manhandling it with manic intensity.
(Hynde, of course, was sure to dedicate a sweet and sad version of "Kid" to founding Pretenders James Honeyman Scott and Pete Farndon, who overdosed within a year of each other in 1982 and 1983.)
After a wow-worthy charge through "Message of Love," Hynde declared her intention to test drive some new songs. If we didn't like it, she said, we were "welcome to fuck off." We kindly declined her offer.
And good for us: "Love's a Mystery," "The Nothing Maker," and (later) "Boots of Chinese Plastic" from the band's most recent record, Break Up the Concrete were punchy and commandingly catchy. "Rosalee" climaxed with a scorching guitar solo from Walbourne, after which Hynde stopped the proceedings cold: "Pretty good, huh?"
One weird thing: maybe it's because I'm usually at club shows, but I've never really seen a crowd sit or stand en masse, depending what song was being played. In a phenomenon that did not go unnoticed by Hynde, as soon as there was a newer song - or even the whiff of an acoustic instrument - everyone sat politely. Whenever a hit was recognized they stood up and cheered.
Luckily there were plenty of the latter: "Talk of the Town," "Back on the Chain Gang," "Don't Get Me Wrong," "Precious," "Mystery Achievement," "Middle of the Road," "My City Was Gone" ("A song about my beautiful hometown," Hynde called that last one, as I scrawled FUCK RUSH LIMBAUGH in my notebook). Feisty as ever, Hynde has recently moved to moderate her wild ways off-stage. She's quit drinking, apparently, and at one point dedicated a song to "Dr. Bob." Nonetheless, she assured us with a wicked laugh, "I'm just as fucked up as ever ... I'm fuckin' rarin' to go."