Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Pretenders in Aspen

The Pretenders poster in front of Belly Up in Aspen On Wednesday night, Nan and I were in Aspen to see the Pretenders at Belly Up. They are on tour promoting their new album, Break up the Concrete, and passed through western Colorado between gigs in Denver and Dallas. Belly Up's owner, Michael Goldberg, has done an amazing job booking first-rate bands into his popular nightclub. In the last couple of years, we have seen the English Beat, Deep Purple, Todd Rundgren, and the Dandy Warhols. There are some important factors working in Belly Up's favor: the nightclub is small so most big acts sell out, even with high ticket prices; it is located in an area that makes it a natural link to larger cities; and musicians enjoy playing in Aspen, despite the high altitude, some even treating it as a vacation from their busy tour schedules. Whatever the particular reasons, we are more than happy to take advantage of the opportunities as often as we can.

The Pretenders were terrific. They opened with "Boots of Chinese Plastic" and another one off the new album, and then launched into "Talk of the Town" and "Message of Love", two of their classic hits. They continued in that mode, switching between new material and old, for a solid hour and a half, ending with two two-song encores. The crowd went wild with every familiar song, like "Brass in Pocket" and "Back on the Chain Gang", singing the lyrics back to the band and bouncing around the dance floor like it was still the early 1980s. The place was packed so Nan and I stayed in our seats near the bar, where I took the photo below using my iPhone, which I have decided takes pretty bad photos in concert settings. The shutter is just too slow for the lighting, so the photos are always blurry. Photoshop helps but not much. Click the photo for a larger view.

Chrissie Hynde and the Pretenders on the stage at Belly Up in AspenThe best thing about the concert for me was a new appreciation for how talented and unique singer/ songwriter/ guitarist Chrissie Hynde is. She has fronted the Pretenders since 1978, through the deaths of two original band members and a constantly changing line-up of musicians, but her music has never wavered. You can tell a Pretenders song in the first few seconds, or as soon as you hear her distinctive voice. Chrissie's guitar playing was incredible. I don't know what I expected, never having seen even a live video, but she played her silver Fender Telecaster like a rhythm guitar rock god, like Keith Richards if he could also sing like Mick Jagger at the same time. It made me think she must be the most talented woman in rock and roll. At age 57, she looks the same as she always has, with her trademark dark bangs and tight jeans, and shows no signs of slowing down. Go, Chrissie, go!

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