Outside, pre-show, it’s insightful to watch snarls disappear from the faces of, adjacent, North East Calling punk festival attendees as they realise it’s the Pretenders playing the City Hall tonight , not some middle class claptrap.
The reaction of the punks perfectly demonstrates the difference between credibility and counterfeit in the genre; punks essence, continually exemplified by the Pretenders, steadfastly being about individualism rather than conformity to any uniformity in style, sound or beliefs.
Opening night of their UK tour and Ms Hynde is already match fit; playing and singing like every action could, as it should, make a difference. Her performance, poised and rebellious, is justification that rock stars can get old gracefully and remain purposeful. She’s still not content and still angry.
Honouring the past, Hynde dedicates early Pretenders tracks to Honeyman-Scottt and Fandon (“we wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for them, but they’d probably be here if it wasn’t for us”). It’s a nice way of demonstrating her charm and insight, as well as reminding us that the Pretenders were always a dangerous band, a point often overlooked by their sugar coated, post debut album, material.
Sam Cooke quoting ‘Chain gang’ is delivered in classic outlaw style, while both ‘Brass in pocket’ and ‘Night in my veins’ demonstrate the full lust and seduction of Hynde, reminding us that the Pretenders were as much about sexual liberation and good time rock and roll, as they were about political activism
Highlight of the night, ‘I’ll stand by you”, does a great job of both reclaiming the single from various awful cover versions, and also reminding us that the song was always about our responsibility to play a part of society and look out for others. Hydne’s emotive delivery is enough to bring tears.
The punks were right in giving the Pretenders the respect they deserved. Few bands do it as well.