The Pretenders proved to be the real deal when they made a tour stop during the busy July Fourth week in Nashville, Tennessee. The new wave and punk gods led by rock goddess Chrissie Hynde preached their message of mayhem and melody on July 2, 2018 from the stage of the hallowed hall and one-time house of worship known as the Ryman Auditorium during their satisfying and succinct set in Music City.
But, we already knew they were something special as 2005 inductees in Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. That accolade was never guaranteed as early on the band were almost put of out business by the doubly unlucky drug-related deaths of guitarist James Honeyman-Scott in 1982 and later, bass player Pete Farndon in 1983.
This tragedy just a few shorts years on from their 1979 emergence should have been enough to slow their momentum and put the band out of commission. But, then we learned of Hynde’s resiliency. She literally regrouped and soon released the touching tribute and anthemic resolve to carry on with new members in the form of their radio favorite “Back On The Chain Gang” along with the equally successful and observational B-side “My City Was Gone” that cemented Chrissie as the driving force in this fan favored foursome.
Both of these tracks were aptly played on Monday night that found the famous front woman still confidently strutting the stage in knee-high crushed leather boots and blue jeans at the age of 66 years old but who’s counting. What mattered most was that her singing voice was as pleasing as ever. She took a few moments to pay tribute to the two fallen members of her founding band before carrying on with longtime drummer Martin Chambers, bassist Nick Wilkinson, guitarist James Walbourne and multi-instrumentalist Carwyn Ellis who together produced a fine version of The Pretenders for the Tennessee faithful seated in the wooden pews of the Mother Church.
“Middle of the Road” was a fast-paced way to end the main set proper that found Hynde and her mates seemingly rejuvenated on this headlining tour. Some surprising recent and upcoming pairings have seen the group team up with Stevie Nicks in addition to select opening slots on this summer’s blockbuster Journey and Def Leppard trek. It’s not make believe – there’s a late career resurgence underway for a group whose biggest moments came in the nineteen eighties including an appearance at the now legendary Live Aid concert in 1985.
If it at all seemed like this concert was a throwback to the 1980’s you have the lead singer to thank or blame for that one. Chrissie Hynde – with trademark bangs in place and bluster aplenty for all to see – led The Pretenders through an efficient and triumphant 19-song set. You just couldn’t record it and capture it in any way. A strictly enforced no cell phone or camera policy put in place by the artist herself guaranteed that this room was as dark and distraction free as any building they might have played in the MTV era.
Currently, The Pretenders have been pretty active since 2016 following a four year period when they were dormant as Hynde pursued a solo tract. In that year the group released Alone with Nashville’s Dan Auerbach at the helm. The title track opened the show while Hynde slowed down the proceedings with the pensive and foreboding “Death Is Not Enough” from the same album as the first of a three song encore. Also included was the Johnny Cash meets alternative rock rarity “Thumbelina” that Chrissie said she had worked up “especially for this town”.
The Rails – folk rock band duo from London, England, composed of husband and wife James Walbourne and Kami Thompson opened the night by showcasing several of their vocally rich acoustic tracks that were well suited to the Ryman’s reputation for delivering amazing acoustics and appreciated by the attentive audience.
The Ryman Auditorium is the Mother Church of Country Music and she continues to host a wide range of artists such as The Pretenders. Upcoming events at the well-respected venue include Donnie & Marie, Indigo Girls, Ted Nugent, Boy George and Culture Club and O.A.R.
Longtime members of The Pretenders – founder Chrissie Hynde and Martin Chambers.