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Pretenders - Rough Trade East, London, 10/6/2009

  by Anthony Strutt

published: 24 / 6 / 2009



Pretenders - Rough Trade East, London, 10/6/2009

intro

Nearly 30 years on after he first saw them live as a teenager, Anthony Strutt finds the Pretenders still as powerful a live force as ever at an acoustic free gig at the Rough Trade East record shop in London


The 10th June was the day of a tube strike. Originally I was down to work overtime that night, so I was a bit hacked off at having to miss a free gig by a band that have been with me since my most early days of liking new wave. In 1979 they made a massive impression on me. My mate Dave got the best James Honeymoon Scott autograph that I have ever seen at what was only my second ever gig on the 29th December at the then Hammersmith Odeon. At the time I would see guitarist Honeymoon Scott and drummer Martin Chambers around Soho a lot in the time before it became trendy. I remember buying ‘Kid’ on 7”, seeing both go to a cinema, a multiplex which was on the same site that the New Marquee in Charing Cross Road was, and waiting until they came out just to get it signed. It was the only time that I met James Honeymoon Scott other than at a Pretenders gig. Those early gigs of mine and seeing the Pretenders live in between 1979 and 1981 opened up my eyes. An absolute rock chick, Chrissie Hynde was and still is sex on legs. The band and the crowd both built up a really hot sweat. I even met Steve Jones at a show, not long after the Sex Pistols were no more. Needless to say, those shows remain with me forever, James died in June 1982 of a drugs overdose and was followed in April 1983 by Pete Farndon, the bass player, who died from a similar hard drugs overload. In 1984, when the Pretenders had their second line-up, I followed their whole tour around the UK. By the end of it, I still loved the band, but it was well rehearsed and every night was the same bar a few requests in Scotland. Bad weather chased me around the country, but I got to meet the band, even went to their after show party in London, and Martin put me on the guest list for the shows that I couldn’t get tickets for. What a cool guy! 2009 sees a new line up again. Both Chrissie and Martin are still involved, but even Martin doesn't play on their ninth and latest album, ‘Break Up The Concrete’. The drumming is done instead by ex-Beatles session head Jim Keltner, who has played on solo LPs by John, George and Ringo. As an album by one of my all time favourite bands, it is another good record. Country-influenced, it is, however, different and doesn't really sound much like a Pretenders album, Live, however, it definitely does. In the UK, Rhino, their record label, have issued it with yet another ‘Best Of’ to sell it. After fighting my way to get to Rough Trade, I find out that no one is interested in this chick from Ohio, anymore. Wrist bands are still on the door at opening. They play sitting down, so I can't really see much, and they do an acoustic set. The last time I saw them do this was at the Union Chapel, in the mid to the late 90s and over ten years ago. This is the first time that I have seen them in this new line up, which also consists of Eric Heywood on pedal steel, James Walbourne on guitar and piano and Nick Wilkinson on bass guitar. I wasn't too impressed with them on ‘Later...’ when I saw them a few weeks before thuis, but when they come on just after 7 p.m. it doesn't take me long to admit that I am still a fan and proud to be. As I had just bought the new album/’Best Of', I hadn't heard the new songs, but tonight in their stripped down forms they work well. They open with new LP opener, ‘Boots of Chinese Plastic’, after which Chambers comments that they are making this up as they go along as usual. Chrissie introduces the next number by saying, “This is for all the gentlemen in the house, if there is any.” It is ‘Don't Cut Your Hair’, another of the tracks from ‘Break Up the Concrete’, which works better here than it did on ‘Later...’. She starts ‘Kid’ by saying,“We remember James Honeymoon Scott and Pete Farndon without whom we wouldn't be here.” It brings tears to my eyes. It doesn't to anyone else here but maybe that is because I have been with the Pretenders from the very beginning, and of course ‘Kid’ was the single I got signed outside the cinema all those years ago. After this Chrissie asks for any requests and ignores the audience’s to play the Ray Davies-penned ‘I Go to Sleep’, a song which was written when Ray's daughter was born when he was 19. I recently met Ray and had nine Kinks CDs signed, just because of their influence on the pretenders. ‘Don't Lose Your Faith in Me’ is another track from the new album. It is very slow, full of country sadness, a bit like Primal Scream's ‘Damaged’. ‘Love's a Mystery’ sounds old but is another new song. This is classic Hynde, as good as anything from her past. ‘Brass in Pocket’ was their second single, and, released in 1979, their biggest record to date. It still sounds special, so special after all these years. ‘Thumbelina’ comes from 1984’s ‘Learning to Crawl’. It is a real on-the-racks rollercoaster of a track. ‘Don't Get Me Wrong’, comes from 1987's ‘Get Close’ LP, which saw the band move from halls and theatres up to arenas. Sadly, however, Martin was fired at the time and they replaced him with Blair Cunningham from Haircut 100, which was a bad mistake. It is, however, another classic Pretenders song. After this, Chrissie asks for any other requests. ‘Stop Your Sobbing’ is requested and played within a few seconds. Their very first single, it is far superior to the original by the Kinks, and has the crowd wildly clapping and cheering. ‘Talk of the Town’ is another early single which goes down well with the crowd and brings tears to my eye. After this they try to play another new one song, before taking a request for ‘I'll Stand by You and playing that instead. A modern torch song and a perfectly- performed number for couples everywhere, it brings the set to a beautiful close. After that they sign everything put in front of them, and I even have my picture taken with the two most important musicians that shaped my future musical direction. It has been thirty years of joy.



Picture Gallery:-
Pretenders - Rough Trade East, London, 10/6/2009


Pretenders - Rough Trade East, London, 10/6/2009



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