Chrissie Hynde's voice has not changed since the Pretenders released its first album in 1980, a fact she confidently demonstrated Saturday at Ovens Auditorium playing tracks by her band and material from her first solo album, "Stockholm."
She may now be 63, but age was never a factor for Hynde. Beneath shaggy black hair that hid her eyes, it was hard even in the early days to tell her age. That hasn't changed. I had to wonder early on when she shed her sequined blazer revealing bare arms, a simple black vest and man's white tie if this is what a lifetime of vegetarianism does for you. As she sauntered to the front of the stage in skinny jeans and Doc Martens during the new song "In A Miracle," she exuded a kind of sex appeal that can't be trumped by skimpy clothes and twerking. Like fellow sexaganarian Lucinda Williams, she's just got it.
Notoriously honest, funny, and outspoken, it shouldn't have been a surprise that Hynde played what she felt like. She hit on a handful of Pretenders' hits, but it was not a hits set. The show flowed almost opposite of most concerts from slower, almost adult-contemporary openers to full-on punk, yet it was so good that first 17 songs whizzed by within the first hour.
She opened with "Don't Lose Faith in Me," a slow bluesy burner from her the last Pretenders album and followed it with a few more methodical mid-tempo numbers, "Biker" (which closed 1999's "Viva el Amor!"), 1994's "977," and "In A Miracle."
Another new song, "Like in the Movies" helped segue from moody to pop to rock. "Talk of the Town" kicked off the latter, raising the tempo and energy and bringing the crowd to its feet. It remained there for "Kid." The surf guitar and girl group feel of "Talk" and "Kid" were well matched with the Wall of Sound spirit of the new solo song "You or No One" which opens "Stockholm."
Guitarist James Walbourne (Son Volt, Pernice Brothers and with Pretenders since 2008) proved a consummate, flashy sideman delivering ripping bluesy solos with animated expressions.
Instead of classic rock staples "Middle of the Road" and "Brass in Pocket" and the monster `90s ballad "I'll Stand By You," she opted for lesser hits "Night in My Veins" and "My City is Gone," obscure album tracks and early tracks "The Phone Call," "Precious," "Pack It Up," and "Tattooed Love Boys" (the latter three played during two encores) aptly plucked from the late `70s/early `80s punk and post-punk new wave period that birthed Pretenders.
The Kinks' "I Go To Sleep" opened the second and final encore. It was a really beautiful rendering that the group first covered on its sophomore album in 1981. For those still expecting "Brass," Hynde threw another curve breaking out her current single "Dark Sunglasses" as the final song of the night.
The crowd - many of them baby boomers like Hynde and the generation that followed - didn't seem to mind the omissions as they grooved and danced like it was 1984. The biggest hits "Don't Get Me Wrong" and "Back on the Chain Gang" enjoyed the biggest response from the crowd, as expected. This was MTV pop music in the early `80s when female rockers like Hynde, Pat Benatar, Debbie Harry, and Stevie Nicks - fully clothed musicians I might add - were our role models. Today's girls and even women her own age can still learn from Hynde's confidence and preservation.