ORIGINALLY POSTED ON STRAIGHT.COM, MARCH 5, 2010
By Steve Newton
The last time I saw the Pretenders in concert was in 2007 on a bill with the Stray Cats and ZZ Top, and they definitely held their own with the rockabilly hepcats and the bearded boogie-bluesmen. Though pushing 60, lead singer and rhythm guitarist Chrissie Hynde was still an incredibly potent force. She didn’t falter once, and neither does she on Live in London, a two-disc CD/DVD set recorded at London’s Shepherd’s Bush Empire last July.
The coolest thing about the Pretenders these days is the addition of fulltime pedal-steel player Eric Heywood, whose sweep and twang permeates every track. His tasty interplay with lead guitarist James Walbourne on tunes like “Don’t Get Me Wrong” is a delight, and his soaring licks adds poignancy to “Back On the Chain Gang”, which was pretty moving to begin with.
Besides Hynde, the only original Pretenders member on board (and still breathing) is drummer Martin Chambers, who is exactly three days her senior, but still plays with a lot of gusto. Judging by the way he punishes the skins in the familiar intro to “Middle of the Road” you’d think it was 1983 all over again.
”Want something a little cheesy, a little trite?” asks Hynde at one point. “Well, you must or you wouldn’t be here.” Then the band rips right into “Brass in Pocket”, the slinky hit that helped break the Pretenders in North America back in ’79. That tune —as well as the Hamer guitars of original members James Honeyman-Scott and Pete Farndon—left a huge impression on brothers Pierre and Francois Lamoureux, the Grammy- and Emmy-winning producers and directors behind the accompanying DVD. They recorded the gig with no cranes, dollies, or steadicams, and made sure no pesky overdubs were added.
This is an honest document of what today’s Pretenders are like in concert, which is nothing short of spectacular.
And if you’re one of those fancy-pants types for whom regular DVDs just don’t cut it anymore, the Live in London Blu-ray version is a must. The concert was originally shot in high-definition video at 23.976 frames per second and 1080 lines of resolution, but in layman’s terms the Blu-ray is shit-hot, earning a full five stars on its own.