San Francisco, CA
March 15, 2009
The Pretenders: No Bullshit
1. One who simulates, pretends, or alleges falsely; a hypocrite or dissembler.
2. One who sets forth a claim, especially a claimant to a throne.
It is easy to take the Pretenders for granted. They have been around for a pretty long time creating consistently punchy songs full of catchy hooks. This made them a favorite of MTV during that network’s early glory days, before they became a reality show channel- and made the Pretenders popular on AOR radio, before Clear Channel and the internet killed FM radio. Few people would fail to recognize some of their biggest hits: Brass in Pocket, Back on the Chain Gang or even Middle of the Road. Yet, for me, the Pretenders have always been there sort of in the background while other bands have grabbed my immediate attention. But, the older I get, the more I can appreciate the accomplishment of longevity. Lead singer Chrissie Hynde is certainly a pioneer female rockstar. So, rather than blaze briefly through the rock and roll stratosphere, the Pretenders have become journeymen, part of the history of rock music. How could I pass up a chance to see them at the legendary Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco?
The Pretenders probably have the greatest band name in rock history. Full of irony, humor, savoir faire, it is everything that rock and roll is about: rebellion and fun. The Pretender’s name also nicely contrasts with Chrissie Hynde’s no-bullshit, biker chick persona. The Pretender’s music oozes earnestness and honesty even if occasionally dark- it is punk rock after all. Their name was also well contrasted by the horribly-named opening act on Sunday at the Fillmore: American Bang. American Bang was a tight, but otherwise forgettable Kings of Leon clone. Of course, their name might have been an homage to Chrissie’s eternal hair-style which, like the Pretenders, seems to be immune from the aging process. Chrissie Hynde is probably the sexiest 57 year old on tour.
With Chrissie Hynde being the face of the band, it is easy to mistake them as American, but Chrissie is an ex-pat living in London and the Pretenders are definitely in the British mold of 1970s garage punk rock bands including the Clash and the Sex Pistols. This might make you think that their concert at the Fillmore would have been more raucous than it was. Don’t get me wrong, it was definitely a great show, but perhaps the years have mellowed Chrissie or perhaps it is just the familiarity of the songs that took away some of the edge. It could also be that this was the last night of a long tour, but it would have been nice if they had varied the script a bit - maybe thrown in an Iggy Pop cover. Then the night would have been complete. Still, the band members did toast the crowd and danced a little jig at the end of the night to celebrate the end of the tour. It was an accomplished set from a great group of professional musicians in front of a loud and appreciative crowd. But, I would have liked a little bit more.
Big songs from the show: Message of Love, Tattooed Love Boys, Boots of Chinese Plastic. Sadly, no Mystery Achievement.