Main Menu

Articles, Interviews & Reviews

Melody Maker / August 8, 1981

By Allan Jones

The Pretenders/The Bureau
Hammersmith Palais, Hammersmith Odeon

Muscles straining, lungs bursting, pop-eyed and purple faced, Archie stamped his feet, jumped up and down on his monitor and shook a fist at the Palais. "We're not a support band!" he ranted noisily. We're THE BUREAU!"

Actually, they were both.

Didactic, scolding, clumsily aggressive at their worst, the Bureau were as often thrilling, commanding, fiercely persuasive.

Inclined toward blustery melodrama, they need to learn to breathe between onslaughts; too much of their material is presently suffocated by the weight of their arrangements, the dense barrage of horns. Too often, they seemed locked in an internal conflict: this was invariably exciting, but they'd surely achieve a greater impact if they stopped squabbling.

Outmanned and outgunned by the virtually tribal presence of the Bureau, the Pretenders reminded their support band what can actually be achieved when four mutually sympathetic imaginations are locked into the same socket.

By turns flamboyant, delightfully crass, sensitively discreet, the Pretenders negotiate every twist and manoeuvre in the textbook, and then pile on individual flourishes that take them sailing beyond the familiar.

Perfectly balanced, almost insolently assured, they partied with a vengeance at the Palais, turned down the heat a little for the more sober confines of the Odeon. At the Palais, there were occasional lapses in tempo and concentration, but the vibe was on a continual up and no one really cared, lost as most of us were in the heady rock 'n' roll tumult.

Ironically, amid the general informality of the Palais gig, the singular highlight of the Pretenders' set was a new ballad, "Birds of Paradise".

Framed by a gloriously cascading guitar signature from James Honeyman-Scott, "Birds Of Paradise" is one of Chrissie Hynde's finest ever shots. A fugitive love song, full of heartache and poignant eroticism, "Birds of Paradise" swells with enough emotion to pop the buttons of your vest.

Where the atmosphere at the Palais had been described most accurately by the more rumbustious sweep of songs like the new "Louie Louie," the rampant sexual paranoia of "Jealous Dogs" (whose piercing spite brought to mind Neil Young's "Revolution Blues") and the familiar fury of "Tattooed Love Boys" and "Precious," the mood of the Odeon performance was predicted by the steely glint of "The Adultress."

Again, the heart of the group's performance was located in an astonishing central section that began with a deliriously expansive "Talk Of The Town," was carried through the delicate pose of "The English Roses" and "I Go To Sleep" (preferred here to "Birds Of Paradise"), the luscious textures of "Kid," through a new, sensuous arrangement of "Stop Your Sobbing," and into the more brutal contours of "Private Life."

Both gigs climaxed with the Bureau joining the Pretenders for a spirited romp through Jackie Wilson's "Higher And Higher."

As the Bureau horns blew gloriously, and Chrissie swaggered into the final chorus, I swear I felt the earth move.

back to top of page