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October 23, 2001 - Brussels, Belgium - Forest National

by Andreas Volkert

The Pretenders in Brussels (Belgium)
venue: Forest National/Vorst Nationaal (indoor arena, capacity approx. 10.000)
(due to Brussels being a billingual city the venue has two names, a
French and a Dutch one)
October 23, 2001

0. Space Invader (from tape)
1. Message Of Love
2. Talk Of The Town
3. Kid
4. Thin Line Between Love And Hate
5. unknown reggae-style song
6. Don't Get Me Wrong
7. Back On The Chain Gang
8. Night In My Veins
9. Middle Of The Road
10. Stop Your Sobbing
11. Brass In Pocket

duration: 8.05PM - 8.50PM

Just got back from seeing the opening show of the UB40/Pretenders tour in Brussels, Belgium. As you know The Pretenders were opening for UB40, so we got 11 songs - the "greatest hits" as Chrissie herself remarked during the show. Of course you cannot compare this show to a "regular" Pretenders concert, so I won't. I will concentrate on what was there and not on what was missing. I guess Chrissie has to do this kind of tour - like the B52 and Neil Young tours - to keep this band together and in shape. And a great band it is! Definitely worth the trip!

The show took place in the beautiful city of Brussels (the Belgian capital), a three-hour train ride from my German hometown of Cologne. The venue is in fact the only large indoor concert arena in Belgium, so all major international touring attractions passing through the Benelux countries (Belgium, The Netherlands and Luxemburg) have played there. It's a huge block of concrete sandwiched between a park and a large area of apartment buildings in the south-western part of the city. I guess it was build in the '50s or '60s. The Rolling Stones played there in 1973. Bob Dylan has played the venue seven times between 1987 and 2000. By the late '80s it started to look a bit rundown, but it was renovated in the mid-'90s. It's kind of nice, not too large and the round structure of the building gives everybody a good view. Usually (including yesterday) the shows there are general admission with standing room in front of the stage and lower and upper balcony seats on the sides and in the back. It's a great venue for concerts!

On the walk from my hotel to the concert I passed lots of really beautiful Art Nouveaux and Art Deco buildings, of which there are many in Brussels. Almost all of the streets in that and many other parts of the town have not really changed a whole lot over the past 70 or 80 years. It's like a trip into another period of time. Then again other parts of the city have been changed completely over last few years because of the need for new, large and modern buildings for everything to do with the European Union.

I arrived at the hall at 6:00PM, the doors opened at 6:45 and I made it into the front row with ease. A huge silvery/grey curtain covered the back of the stage and the UB40 equipment already set up. Shortly after 8:00 the house lights were turned down and from a tape we heard Space Invader. By that time the hall was not yet full, some people arrived during The Pretenders' set. For UB40's performance I'd say the hall was 90% full. Martin, Adam, the keyboard player (the same guy as in 1999?), Andy and then Chrissie appeared from the left, Chrissie strapped on her metallic powder-blue Telecaster with white strap and they started the show with Message Of Love. Talk Of The Town followed. Next Chrissie greeted the audience with "It's great to start this tour in Brussels, my home away from home!". She seemed to enjoy being on stage again even if just as "very special guest" (ironically UB40 started life as opening act for The Pretenders in 1979!). She threw lots of "guitar-hero" poses and shook her head like Ringo on Ed Sullivan in 1964. The band played really tight and powerful. Martin injecting some new elements here and there and looking pretty cool in brown retro Adidas track pants. The show strangely enough seemed more focused in a way than the last regular Pretenders show I had seen (Cologne '99). The essence of The Pretenders, presented in 45 minutes.

Fashion report: Chrissie wore tight, faded blue jeans, customized with what looked like black felt-tip pen drawings of a small bunch of keys on the upper front and a pair of hands (one on each back pocket), all with soft red border. Black high-heeled boots. Tight white jacket with large fake fur collar (sandy in color) (Wow!!!!). Black tank top underneath (she took off the jacket after Thin Line). Silver hoop earrings. Hair as usual. Eternal cool incarnate. I have said it before but ... whenever I see Chrissie and the boys on stage like that I have to think about the 1966 photo of 15 year old Chrissie at home in Akron holding her guitar, a Stones album and a Dylan album, looking exactly like she does now. Not only physically but also in the attitute she embodies. It's all there in that one photo and it's still there up on stage, in front of us: an artistic, musical vision dreamt up of the best America and England had to offer at the time, a guitar and a sense of fashion that in my mind has taken on iconic, timeless proportions. The tight pants, the short, tight jacket, the hair style ... Her gaze in the photo is directed downward, away from the camera. Maybe she's daydreaming about the one thing missing from the photo: her own British band. Well, it's there on stage, today. It's so good to see somebody stay so absolutely true to the vision they had early on in life. All great artists do. And that is what the show in Brussels is a powerful reminder of. That's what I take home from the show. Not the less than ideal circumstances. I hope they manage to put together a new album that captures the essence of Chrissie's vision undilluted by management and record company input, so that they can move away from the package tours and get proper gigs of their own again.

Third song: Kid. Dedicated to "People who cannot be here today because of drug overdoses - James Honeyman-Scott and Pete Farndon." Adam played some cool guitar on that one. Next up: Thin Line Between Love And Hate graced by a really nice solo from Adam. Some new approaches in Chrissie's vocal delivery, too. After that they played an unknown (to me) reggae-style song that featured some adventurous singing from Chrissie and heavily tremoloed guitar by Adam. Chrissie didn't play guitar on this one and Thin Line. She introduced the unknown song by saying "Here's one you haven't heard, 'cause we never played it before." During the song she took a white handkerchief with the initials CH from one of the backpockets of her pants, used it to dry her face and threw it into the crowd. "Here's one you might remember a little better": Don't Get Me Wrong was next, followed by the guitar intro by Chrissie to Back On The Chain Gang, which was as great as always. Night In My Veins rocked hard. Chrissie introduced the band. Adam introduced Chrissie: "On guitar and vocals, from Akron, Ohio - that's in America, but that doesn't matter (reference to Chrissie stressing the British origin of the other players in the band) - Chrissie Hynde!" Explosive version of Middle Of The Road complete with harmonica solo by Chrissie. Big cheer from crowd. They left and came back on for an encore consisting of a driving version of Stop Your Sobbing and Brass In Pocket laced with Chrissie's seductive body language (no guitar from Chrissie on that one). They took a bow together and left, Chrissie saying "We'll be back!" Chrissie reappeared during UB40's main set but only for a little dancing during Red, Red Wine. They did not do any of the two songs she's recorded with UB40. UB40 played for about two hours, the crowd loved it.

Thanks Chrissie!

All the best

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