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March 6 - Portland, OR - Schnitzer Concert Hall

by Greg Levine

There is no better location in Portland for a concert than Shnitzer Hall in downtown Portland. Great vibe, gorgeous antique décor, huge ceilings, antique fixtures and moldings. And though these qualities speak to the age of the hall, they have nothing in common with the age of the Pretenders and the ferocity in which they attacked the stage with "Lie to me".

"Loose Screw" is without doubt the most solid and cohesive effort from the band since quite possibly "Learning to Crawl" (although that is my opinion). That the band spent more of the show focusing on the past material than the new record does not discredit how strong "The Losing", "You know who your friends are", and "Fools must die" sounded this evening.

More compelling to me was the choices in the selections during this show. Obscure songs like "The Homecoming", a B-side from the "Packed" era, mixed in the middle of a "My city was Gone" and "Up the neck" (from the first record) sandwich sounded wonderful mixed in with other selections from the first 3 records.

Rather than give a blow by blow song approach in this review, I will tell you what you need to know. The Pretenders in 2003 are as valid, and important to rock-n-roll and music in general, then they ever have been. And that's saying a lot. I saw the first tour with the classic lineup of Farndon/Honeyman-Scott/Chambers/Hynde and I will tell you that Adam Seymour, Andy Hobson, and the esteemed gentleman that played keys (I unfortunately did not catch his name) are equal and in some ways more superior to the classic lineup. In Adam Seymour, Hynde has found a true foil worthy to share her stage show and supreme voice. He can play all of the parts that Honeyman-Scott made so famous as well as the terrific roots based playing of Robbie McIntosh from the "Learning to Crawl" period. His own style alone is astounding but the fact that he can add his own voice to the entire history of the band is testament enough that this guy is seriously the real deal.

Then there's Martin Chambers. Forget that he is my inspiration as a drummer of 30 years. Forget that I think he is far and away one of the greatest rock drummers of all time. He plays with as much ferocity and intensity today as he did in 1980. And clearly, Chrissie is extremely happy to have him in the band again. The banter between the two last night was hilarious.

Finally I must tell you how unreal and strong Chrissie's voice was last night. The woman clearly is the cherry 68 'vette of all female lead singers. It seems that with each passing year, her voice grows stronger and more dynamic. The band played 20+ songs and could have easily stretched the list by another 15 songs and she would have stayed right "there" with every one. Every single note, inflection, and quality that is her vocal trademark were displayed with power and precision. And she was in one of her trademark moods too. Oh man. Was she ever funny. It would take another 4 paragraphs to give you all of her one liners and epithets that were directed at the band members, roadies, and audience members. So, I'll just tell you that she was f**king hilarious.

To close, I will leave you all with this. If you missed this tour, you really missed out. If they come back to play the states again this year, go see them. I also encourage all of today's so called rock stars to get off of their collective ego posturing pedestals for an evening to see what a true kick ass rock band is all about. In an era of more and more disposable schlock music, I'm proud to hang on to the bands I grew up with. And the Pretenders are now clearly at their finest performing moment. If you miss out now, you'll have to spend eternity reading about nights like this one from die hard lovers of the band like me. So get off your ass and destroy your preconceptions that women in their late 40's and bands pushing a collective age of 50 can't rock. Let me tell you, they can, they do, and they ARE.

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