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January 28 - Nashville, TN - Ryman Auditorium

by Paul P.

It's been several years since I saw the Pretenders at Antioch Tennessee's Starwood Amphitheatre, so I was naturally very anxious to see if the band was as good as I remembered them the last time I saw them. As it turned out on Tuesday evening, January 28, 2003, hundreds of rabid Nashville Pretenders fans were NOT disappointed in any way, and most of us left the auditorium thinking we had underpaid for the performance. Chrissie Hynde is a seasoned performer who has filled football stadiums and undertaken many tours over the last 25-years. She quite simply took Nashville by storm, and appeared to do so with ease.

Looking back from our 6th row seats in the Ryman Auditorium, home of Nashville Tennessee's revered Grand Ole Opry, "the home of Country Music", it was apparent that this was an older crowd. Many of we baby boomer rock and rollers now have gray hair or less hair. Realizing that everyone is aging at the same rate, one wondered if the band would still have that tight cutting edge. As the evening unfolded, nobody left the hall with any question about the ability of the Pretenders to perform. The band came back to play two long encores after a thundering round of applause and calls for more. Nashvillians know good music when they hear it, and the Ryman Auditorium's 1897 Confederate Gallery literally shook with the thunder of stomping feet, applause, whistles, and screams of appreciation. Each encore was significant, long, and savored. Entertainment like this only comes around to Nashville once in a while. The band was clearly enjoying themselves and did not seem to be in any rush to leave the hall, even though they were embarking on a 700-mile drive to their next destination later that evening, heading to Virginia. The last encore was long and greatly savored by the audience as well as the band. At the end of what must have been an exhausting evening for the performers, the band took their final bows and paused on stage for a moment, as if to soak up that last bit of adoring Nashville ambiance, and they took a few moments to shake some hands with the people at the front of the auditorium. I am very pleased to have been able to shake the hand of the most awesome drummer in the business, Martin Chambers, who has been with the band for 25 years. Thank you Martin, it may have been a small gesture from you but it sure was a big impact on me. None of us can really tell you how much we have enjoyed your career, the contribution you have made to the band over the years; as you still do today. Lead guitarist, Alan Seymour, has gotten even better, if that can even be imagined. I would have to rank him as one of the best guitarists of all time. This is a guy who is obviously serious about his music, having no intention of stealing the show, having no demand for attention through antics, makeup or attire, but just confidently laying down some of the hottest blistering instrumentals of all time. I don't think Eric Clapton has anything in the talent department on Alan Seymour when it comes to technique on the guitar and ability to play virtually any kind of music exceptionally well.

And of course, Chrissie Hynde was in rare form. Her voice was as strong and clear as any produced recording in the past. She was as good as ever. Absolutely no disappointment here. She obviously enjoyed the evening, being in the intimate setting of the Ryman where none of the seats are very far from the stage. The event was personal and very relaxed, with some good exchange with the audience. During some of the songs, the audience was singing along so loudly in the intimate acoustic space of the Ryman, that the volume could easily be heard on stage. It obviously energized the band. "The Woman" is still a very big star, a very big force in music, very polished, incredibly relaxed and confident on stage. There were lots of smiles and she appeared to enjoy sharing as much as the audience enjoyed receiving. Certainly, she has an impressive reputation and portfolio, but the ability to face the audience and perform to that level of excellence is impressive and admirable. Interaction between members of the band was great, and the quality of the music was exceptional. Songs included old hits and new material. Chrissie dedicated the performance of "The Chain Gang" to Pete Farndon and James Honeyman Scott, both of whom passed away in the 1980's. This is the song that got people out of their seats and down to the edge of the stage. During the second encore, the band broke into "Middle of The Road", and the audience went wild with Chrissie directing the outstretched arms of "the human wave" back and forth. Chrissie snarled "I can't get from the cab to the curb without some little jerk on my back", pulled out the harmonica and just rocked into the evening to thundering applause after thundering applause. What an absolutely incredible evening. I can tell you now, any Pretender fan young or old, do NOT miss this tour. The tour is intentionally seeking out the intimate and relaxed performance halls, and the result will be an up close evening with one of the all time great rock & roll bands in history.

Thank you Chrissie, for including Nashville on your tour, and for expending the dollars and energy it took to give Nashville another taste of what rock & roll is supposed to sound like. The musicians you have always had in the band have been exceptional, and this tour certainly keeps the bar as high as ever. Great job. Pretenders, we thank you all, and we are already looking forward to the next time we are privileged to see another one of your fantastic performances.

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