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Kevin Caulfield

In early 1982 when the dates were announced for the first Australian tour by the band, my entire Pretenders collection consisted of the first two albums and Concerts For The People of Kampuchea. Due mainly to the string of brilliant singles released in 1981, I was fairly sure that I was a serious fan. But as the day of the show drew closer I had to organise a way of getting there. After all the gig was in Melbourne, I was attending school seventy miles away, and we lived a further fifteen miles away. My father used to occasionally travel to Melbourne for work, and he kindly arranged to be working there on the day of the show so that I could get back home. So after school I caught the train to Melbourne and arrived at the Palais Theatre, St Kilda. It was March 17th, 1982. The band had played their first Australian show the previous night at the same venue.

I couldn't wait for the support act, The Young Home Buyers, to finish their set. There was already a real buzz in the audience, who looked very cool, very leather-clad and very old (well at least a lot older than this seventeen-year-old). The Young Home Buyers eventually finished their rather dull set and made a sarcastic comment about the Pretenders, along the lines of them being "not a bad up-and-coming band". I went into the foyer and bought a souvenir Pretenders t-shirt.

Back inside the house lights dimmed. I remember thinking at the time that the intro music was "Land Of Hope And Glory" but realised years later that it was in fact the standard Wagner's "Flight Of The Valkyries". The band exploded on stage and belted into the opening chords of The Wait. Within nanoseconds I was completely stunned. You could almost smell the raw energy. I'd read a little about James Honeyman-Scott. I'd heard him on the albums hundreds of times. But I wasn't quite prepared to be absolutely blown away by his dazzling guitar work. And I'd heard Chrissie Hynde's mesmeric voice on record but didn't expect to hear an even stronger, richer and more powerful vocal performance live. Meanwhile the rhythm section of Pete Farndon's fluid, driving bass, and Martin Chambers' frenetic drum work, complete with cascading water fountains and sticks regularly launched into the audience, provided a rock-solid foundation. Pete was playing the white Hamer bass with the red rising sun logo, and wore a matching bandana, and a moody look. If Pete was the mood and Jim was the spirit, then Martin was the heart and Chrissie was the soul.

Highlights early in the show were Message Of Love, The English Roses and Up The Neck, with the latter featuring a final vibrato note from Hynde which sent chills down my spine and seemed to never end. At one stage Chrissie observed that "You're a pretty old audience here tonight", and said she was nearly as old. If the audience weren't already aware of Jim's talent, his work on Private Life would have convinced them. He tore into a scorching solo, each note resonating warmly in the beautiful old theatre. For Day After Day Chrissie swapped guitar for tambourine. At the end of the song she hurled it into the audience, causing a near-riot, with the lucky recipient pounced on from all sides.

The main set lasted an hour and the band returned on stage for their first encore, Brass In Pocket, which had been a huge hit in Australia. They left the stage again but the crowd went wild. Once again they returned for more with Chrissie announcing "Now we're going to do a song for all the mothers in the audience". They then launched into Wild Thing, making it their own. The show finished with Mystery Achievement, Chrissie introducing the others, and then Jim introducing her as "the woman who gives us all our ideas".

Just three short months later, tragedy would strike the Pretenders. And although they would never be quite the same band again, Chrissie and Martin kept them going. We can never thank them enough for that.

I was lucky enough to meet the whole band and producer Chris Thomas on their next Australian tour in 1984 and I was overwhelmed by their friendliness. But the defining moment for me in realising how much I love this band was that night in St Kilda back in 1982.