SXSW live shot
Reviewed by Dan Oko, Fri., March 24, 2006
Stubb's, Saturday, March 18
With SXSW 06 in its last throes, the question of what sort of set the Pretenders might deliver hung over the capacity crowd like the threat of rain. Earlier in the week, frontwoman Chrissie Hynde had dropped the bomb that the Pretenders might never record another album. Yet when she took the stage, dressed in a white jacket, black biker T, and blue jeans, the first lady of rock didn't look ready for retirement. Digging deep into a catalog of nearly lost classics from her heyday with the band's first, late-great guitarist James Honeyman-Scott, including "Kid" and "Pack it Up," Hynde teased the crowd that "we're only doing the songs real die-hard fans will know." The strategy worked to showcase Hynde's strengths as a performer, especially her still-potent punk sensibility. With her sheep-dog shag intact, she swiveled her hips through songs familiar and unfamiliar as if the Pretenders had first come out of the gate last week. Sure, the kids were puzzled that she balked at yelled requests for "Middle of the Road," but by the time Hynde rolled with "Back on the Chain Gang," the crowd was all contenders no, um... pretenders. With a graying Martin Chambers still on drums, and longtime collaborator Adam Seymour playing a searing lead guitar, the set could not have been tighter. The rain held off, and after a pair of encores, a final SXSW clinic was complete.