ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, FEB. 24, 2000
It didn’t take animal-rights activist Chrissie Hynde long to start preaching at the Orpheum last Saturday (February 19). Just a couple of songs into the Pretenders’ nearly two-hour show, she gave a nice big “Fuck you!” to everyone who wears leather or fur, or eats meat. (The info tables in the Orpheum lobby for PETA—People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals—hinted at what to expect.)
Hynde, who also took a shot at the lumber industry, preceded her tirade by explaining that she didn’t feel as threatened in Vancouver as she did in Texas, where they all have guns. “But you’ve got chain saws,” she added, “so I should be a little worried.” Since none of the local steak-lovers who paid good money to be reamed out by Hynde stormed the stage with their Husqvarnas, she let up a little.
“We’re gonna play some songs,” she said, “and I’m gonna shut up now.” But of course she didn’t. And nobody expected her to.
“It’s good to see some older people in the audience,” said Hynde after noting a “pathetic” crowd reaction to 1980’s “Talk of the Town”. “It’s good to see you can still sit down.” Then she got a few of those codgers up to shake their flabby booties to “My City Was Gone”, which featured some snazzy boogie riffs from guitarist Adam Seymour.
After “Baby’s Breath”, one of the top tracks from the Pretenders’ most recent CD, ¡Viva El Amor!, Hynde sassily announced, “Now that we’ve got you standing up, it’s time for the ballad part of the program.” Then she yelled “Costume change!”, donned a black cowboy hat, and slowed things down with “Thin Line Between Love and Hate”. Partway through the boppy “Don’t Get Me Wrong” Hynde motioned to her bandmates to stop playing, proclaimed “This isn’t working,” and switched to a kitschy lounge version of the tune. That worked, strangely enough, although not as well as the rocking “Night in My Veins”, which brought a much-needed edge to the proceedings.
After an encore that showcased the superior talents of drummer Martin Chambers on the raucous “Middle of the Road”, the quintet was called back for a second encore, which started with Hynde doing an extended dance at the front of the stage. Evidently her guitar tech didn’t see her signal for her Telecaster—a lovely white one flaked with silver—and by the time he got it to her she was looking mighty pissed off. I can’t read lips, but there was no mistaking her angry comment of “For fuck’s sake!” as she grabbed the instrument, swung around, and just missed slamming it into the poor guy’s head.
I think a call to People for the Ethical Treatment of Roadies may be in order after that display.
Hynde followed a strong version of “Stop Your Sobbing” by crooning a few sultry lines in Spanish from ¡Viva’s “Rabo de Nube”. Then she declared “You don’t want to hear that,” and closed the show with the band’s first big hit, “Brass in Pocket”. Smart move. When it was all over I was so impressed by the Pretenders’ performance, and Hynde’s outspoken approach, that I didn’t eat any meat until the next night’s dinner.