The Pretenders, O2 Apollo, Manchester

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Chrissie Hynde and her latest crop of Pretenders rock a Manchester stage.

It has been 14 years since The Pretenders played Manchester and John Hayhurst went along to review for Flick of the Finger to see if Chrissie Hynde still packs a post punk punch.

I have a history with the Pretenders. It appears that every time I see them live something untoward happens, in the eighties at Newcastle I had my camera confiscated (I wasn’t an official photographer at that time) and at Manchester a few years later I had my car broken into at the Apollo car park. Tonight, I’m parking a mile away in a secure car park, I also have an official photo pass this time – so nothing can go wrong can it, it’s Friday the 13th too?

Let’s face it Chrissie Hynde is the Pretenders and whilst another founder member, drummer Martin Chambers, is also in the band tonight, Hynde has actually fired him once. Pete Farndon and James Honeyman-Scott long since departed this world after the first 2 albums, Chrissie has constantly recruited and fired a selection of other players. Hynde herself is the last great pretender, and remains a formidable character, a force to be reckoned with and not to be crossed. For the latest album ‘Alone’ Chrissie Hynde is the only musician to feature on the album and in the current live band.

She walks out on stage doing a Manchester monkey dance saying “Lets F*ckin’ have it Manchester” and they burst into 2 new songs – title track Alone and then Gotta Wait, the latter is a stomper but sadly the audience seem rooted into their seating. Guitarist James Walbourne has already been on stage as part of the support act The Rails, but his guitar work is nothing short of phenomenal, adding generous licks, slide and accompanying facial expressions.  In fact the band are mainly from the UK, a welsh keyboard player, Bass player is from Norwich and Walbourne is from London.

The first dip into nostalgia territory comes with Message of Love still sounding relevant and much needed some 36 years later, Hynde looking a little more wrinkly but isn’t everyone at 66 years old. This post punk queen is still looking very sprightly and in tight jeans, boots and black Pretenders shirt, she still cuts an image better than most her age. Grabbing the mic and stepping forward, her trademark vibrato vocal is given a full work out when Hymn to Her is delivered out to the crowd. A latecomer trying to find his seat (on the front row!) is given a personal serenade by Chrissie as he embarrassingly struggles to get there. It disrupts the song so much that afterwards one woman shouts out that she should sing it again – which Hynde duly does, and even dedicates the next song to her new shouty friend.

Back on the Chain Gang starts one or two people dancing and occasionally some brave couples wander into the aisles, only to be halted by the security. Hynde finds this all amusing and decides to make a point in coming to the front where security are stopping people coming forward. Eventually stopping a track to say “Look at them, they aren’t going to riot, most of us struggle to stand up these days, this is a rock show – let them dance if they want to” and with that a big cheer goes up and few more join the happy bunch down at the front.

From that point on we get peppered with hits Middle of the Road (after the inevitable brief drum solo), Don’t Get Me Wrong, Talk of the Town and Stop Your Sobbing. It is like a crescendo of nostalgia and all with that incredible voice from Chrissie Hynde. Never waivering and always on pitch I’ll Stand By You brings out her big dramatic vocal range guns and then she introduces the next song as “written by one of the greatest songwriters of any generation – Morrissey”. Everyday is Like Sunday is an interesting choice of cover, I’m guessing it is being in Manchester that brought it out, although one guy at the front disagreed with her introduction, to which she happily said “I’ll fight you”. Hynde is not frightened of a fracas or two, particularly when it comes to her vegan beliefs much like Morrissey himself.   She also doesn’t take too kindly to mobile phones being produced either, several times she would interrupt a song to say “Put that phone away, we are not doing pictures here”.

Whilst I Go To Sleep is a break from the rockers and dance tunes, during the encore I get a complete blast from the past with Precious which takes me back to my adolescent bedroom hifi and vinyl collection. The Pretenders debut and second album were played most weeks but Precious was always a favourite, a tune very much in the post punk vein and the band pulled it off so well tonight with James Walbourne making his guitar screech and wail. That left Brass in Pocket and Chrissie Hynde using her arms, legs, style, fingers and side-step – no imagination needed, she is a queen of the stage tonight getting all the attention, and I just hope it isn’t too long before they return again.

So thats it, I broke the Pretenders curse and had the time of my life with one of my heroines from the late 70’s early eighties. Now! what we need to do next is get Siouxsie Soux back on a live stage, that would be something!


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5.0 rating

Over 30 years’ gig going and has t-shirts older than most punters. Frequently found in pubs, concert halls and festivals avoiding any form of normal work

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