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Rag / May 1984

By Buzz B. & Gail Spinelli

…I'm not the cat I used to be
I got a kid, I'm thirty-three
Ba-a-by I'm hittin' the road"

From beneath her black bangs Chrissie Hynde belts out these "Middle of the Road" lines in her own defiant way.

The Pretenders swept into the Sunrise Musical Theatre for two rapidly sold out shows. In fact almost all of the previously promoted dates on their MTV sponsored tour are sold out, through the concluding May dates in New York.

Shearing glares and tough guitaring, Chrissie's trademarks, takes us into the raucous opening of "The Wait" and "Message of Love." Although this unique stage image of the past remains, her latest lyrics reveal a few undeniable changes, no matter how unwelcome. The deaths of two original band members to drug habits and her experience of motherhood were bound to change life for this rocker.

Hynde continues to dismiss any romantic references in her recent compositions about former Pretenders James Honeyman-Scott and Peter Farndon. Yet Chrissie does admit her feelings for them. As quoted (in Musician Magazine) recently "…These were people I loved. But I do think about death all the time … as a reality…" An example of her absurdist acceptance of life, good and bad, is the group's pre-show intro music of Frank Sinatra singing "That's Life." Hynde's themes of how our lives differ as people and places change with time pervades the latest release Learning to Crawl. This night they covered these themes with "Back on the Chain Gang," "My City Was Gone," "Show Me," and "Time, The Avenger."

They rocked straight ahead through "Pack It Up," "Talk of the Town," "Mystery Achievement" and the spunky "Bad Boys Get Spanked." Ballads like "I Got To Sleep," "Message of Love," and "Thin Line Between Love and Hate" were carefully spaced to compliment the kickass rockin'.

Original drummer Martin Chambers drives the Pretenders' heavy beat. This year he is touring with an unusual custom made white PVC tube framed drum set. The curvilinear arms suspending cymbals, water topped drum splashing, and an occasional smoke backdrop left deep visual impressions. Simmons electronic drums and a high pitched snare helped create Martin's special sound. He led exciting drum introductions on "Middle of the Road" and the hard edged "Time The Avenger."

Robbie McIntosh displayed his prowess on electric lead guitar only occasionally. Most of his solos were played note for note, seemingly in tribute to the originals of his friend, Honeyman-Scott. Being accepted as a new member McIntosh was free to play as he wished.

New bassist, Malcolm Foster had formerly played in groups with McIntosh and upon Robbie's recommendation joined The Pretenders. Foster's bass lines were featured in "The Adultress" and the melancholy "Waste Not Want Not."

Even members of the band have voiced their opinion that since her pregnancy Chrissie does not have much of her old terror left. At this show she did appear quite pleased with the group's efforts and enjoyed performing. Surprisingly she smiled a couple of times. The band so enjoyed playing that they added a second encore with an obscure Hendrix song and a finale of "Tattooed Love Boys."

Those present for the following nights show missed this enthusiasm and the additional songs. During the added nights first encore, a beach ball was tossed around the crowd and eventually it was thrown into Chrissie's face. This forced the band to cut short their encores and jump directly into "Brass in Pocket" in conclusion.

Unfortunately the crowd control for these shows was not what one usually expects at SMT. The all too enthusiastic fans up front and in the aisles caused the entire audience to stand most of the time. But this is to be expected perhaps - after all, this is rock and roll. If anyone doubts the energy that created The Pretenders, it is still there. As Hynde puts it, with an angry glance, "I'm too precious - F--- off."

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