The Pretenders were formed in England, in March of 1978 and burst on the scene with its self-titled debut Sire Records album in 1980. The original band consisted of Chrissie Hynde (lead vocals, rhythm guitar); James Honeyman-Scott (lead guitar, backing vocals, keyboards); Pete Farndon (bass guitar, backing vocals) and Martin Chambers (drums, backing vocals, percussion). Over the years the band has experienced several personnel changes. Hynde has been the only constant member. Chambers, left the band for a period of time in the mid-'80s, but has been back manning the drum kit since 1993. The band's current lineup features Hynde; Chambers; James Walbourne (guitar/vocals); Nick Wilkinson (bass/vocals); Ricky Peterson (keyboards) and Eric Heywood (pedal steel). In 2005, the Pretenders were inducted into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall Of Fame.
During the course of its career, the Pretenders have released numerous beloved tunes and hit singles including: "Stop Your Sobbing;" "Kid;" "Brass in Pocket" (which hit #1 in the U.K. and Australia and reached #14 in the U.S.); "Talk of the Town;" "Middle of the Road;" "Show Me;" "Precious;" "I'll Stand By You;" "Don't Get Me Wrong;" "Cuban Slide;" "Back on The Chain Gang" and many others. The band has released ten full-length studio albums; the mini-album Extended Play (Sire Records, 1981); a greatest hits collection, The Singles (Sire Records, 1987) and the live Isle of View (Warner Bros. Records, 1995). In 2005, Rhino Records released a four disc and DVD box set Pirate Radio 1979-2005 which spanned the group's entire career. Its most recent studio release, Alone was released, to positive reviews, by BMG Rights Management in 2016.
On a cool and somewhat rainy April 3, 2017, on a day off from its world tour with Stevie Nicks, the Pretenders touched down at New York City's Terminal 5 for a rare club date. The intimate venue was teeming with Baby Boomers, some older Gen X-ers and a few Millennials. All were excited to see the legendary group perform its hits.
First up was Lowlight. At precisely 8pm, Lowlight took the stage and delivered a rousing 25-minute set that had the somewhat jaded audience taking notice. The on-the-rise local band (it hails from New Jersey) delivered a short but strong set featuring "'86 Parisienne" and the title track from its independently released 2016 CD Where Do We Go from Here.
Chrissie Hynde and the Pretenders hit the stage at exactly 9pm. With fans crammed into the tight confines of the ballroom's floor in front of the stage and even more fans lining the balcony railings, Hynde (dressed in red Colonial army topcoat, a T-shirt that read "I'm Sexy & I Know It" and dark skin-tight jeans) led the band through a tight 15-song career-spanning set that leaned heavily on the hits and the "classics." Opening with two powerful songs from the Alone CD--the title track and "Gotta Wait," Hynde and company then took the crowd on a joyous trek through the band's and Hynde's back catalog. The set included: "Private Life," "Down the Wrong Way (from Hynde's 2014 Caroline International Records solo CD Stockholm), a beautiful version of "Hymn to Her," "Talk of the Town," "Back on the Chain Gang," "Stop Your Sobbing," "I'll Stand By You," "My City Was Gone" (which Hynde explained was written about the changes that she observed when she went back to her native city of Akron, Ohio), a pounding and driving version of "Mystery Achievement," "Middle of the Road" and "Brass in Pocket." Audience members who had worked their way to the front of the balcony overhang, gripped the rails and they danced, screeched, bopped and generally lost their minds. Each song sent an already delirious crowd further over the edge.
Following "Brass In Pocket," Hynde and the band thanked the, by now very sweaty crowd, for its support, took their individual bows and exited the stage. After a very short breather, the group returned to the stage and delivered a four song encore featuring "Let's Get Lost," "Thumbelina," "Up the Neck" and "Precious" that included John McEnroe on guitar jamming with the band.
Hynde is the consummate front-woman. She commanded the stage. All eyes were on her and her voice was amazing. Her attitude and "prove-it" demeanor brought the crowd back to the '80s. It sounded as fresh and strong as it did in the early days. During the performance it was hard to not take a moment and wonder why Hynde and her band don't get more accolades. Being elected to the Rock 'n' Roll Hall Of Fame is a nice thing, but based on this performance and the iconic songs that its is known for, the Pretenders should be revered, honored, respected and valued in much the same way as Elvis Costello, R.E.M., the Smiths, U2 and the Clash.
The Pretenders Setlist at Terminal 5 - April 3, 2017
Message of Love
Down the Wrong Way (Chrissie Hynde solo song)
Hymn to Her
Talk of the Town
Back on the Chain Gang
Stop Your Sobbing (The Kinks cover)
I'll Stand by You
Don't Get Me Wrong
My City Was Gone
Middle of the Road
Brass in Pocket
Let's Get Lost
Up the Neck
Precious (John McEnroe guests as additional guitarist)