The Pretenders, Austin Music Hall, February 4

Live Shots

Live Shots
Photo By John Carrico

The Pretenders

Austin Music Hall, February 4

The reason to watch the pros is to see them be pros. Such was the case with Chrissie Hynde at the Austin Music Hall, decked out in a black waistcoat and attacking her Telecasters like she was betting with the devil. It's almost a cliché to point out Hynde as a role model for women in rock, but there she was -- tough, political, and feisty, but never self-deprecating ("I never have a bad hair day. I always look fantastic."). One moment she was graciously accepting a yellow rose and the next she's stopping in the middle of "Kid" to ask the front row, "What is the problem?" She passed the mike down and when a lame "power to the animals" was pronounced she snorted, "Is that all?" and picked up where she left off. Then came her usual pro-PETA stage rap, met with general disinterest in a state where barbecue is considered a food group. This did not escape her and she capped off the speech saying, "Those of you who do not join this [anti-meat] campaign can fuck off." And isn't that what we really came to see Chrissie Hynde do in concert, tell the world to fuck off? Austin has loved her since she did it the first time in "Precious" at the Armadillo in 1979, and apparently she hadn't forgotten that; it was her parting shot at the end of the second encore. At the Music Hall, she did it over and over, stacking songs from the Pretenders' latest album Viva el Amor ("Legalize Me," "Baby's Breath," "Pop Star") and old favorites like a multi-layer cake and frosting it with her delicious guitar. Lit in brilliant jewel tones, she fired off hit after hit ("Middle of the Road," "Message of Love," "Talk of the Town," "My City Was Gone," "Stop Your Sobbing") with all the panache you expect from a pro. Oh yeah. It bears mentioning that original drummer Martin Chambers played heroically, having two broken bones in his foot, and the other three Pretenders were uniformly excellent. Still, they all pale beside the blazing fireball that is Chrissie Hynde live, and don't you know that each of those men knows it? Now that's professional for you.

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