The Pretenders / The Rails @ Stifel Theatre, St. Louis, MO

Words and photos by Duane Clawson
Chrissie Hynde? Wasn’t she the lead singer for that band The Pretenders? What’s she up to now? Knitting scarves? If this was your response, you’re sadly mistaken. Chrissie still rocks!  And doing it with that same take it or leave it attitude that has made her a rock and roll survivor. The modern-day version of The Pretenders consists of two original members, Hynde and drummer Martin Chambers. Carwyn Ellis on keyboards/guitars, bassist Nick Wilkinson, and guitarist James Walbourne fill in as current members of this iconic group.

Making a powerful opening statement with 2016’s “Alone”, Hynde and company quickly remind the newly-christened Stifel Theater (formerly The Peabody), they are still a driving force in the world of rock and roll. Hynde, now 66, has a certain je ne sais quoi that sets her apart from other rock stars. Even when she removes her black leather jacket during the show opener, it is done with a punk rock sexiness. Not only was the music enjoyable, the overall show experience was something quite rare, as Hynde had requested a no cell phone policy. And it was honored!

The familiar opening grooves of hit after hit were intermingled amongst a few of The Pretenders lesser known songs such as, “Gotta Wait”, from the 2016 album, Alone. A rarity from the band’s self-titled, first album, “Cuban Slide” reaffirms their commitment to rock and roll, with it’s Bo Diddley styled guitar riffs. The angst of Hynde’s youth is still a vibrant, driving force in her music. This is best demonstrated in a more recent song, “I Hate Myself”. As she sang the song I felt the strong presence of a meld somewhere between the, Sex Pistols and Lou Reed.

Capping off the main set, Chambers plays a mini drum solo that evolves into the opening of “Middle of the Road”, not one seat in the house had a butt in it!  After making the audience work a bit, The Pretenders emerge for two encores, with Hynde opting for something a bit less. She opens the first with the stirring, “Death Is Not Enough” and the second with “I’ll Stand by You”. The house is brought down with the driving country thump of “Thumbelina”. So there you have it, four paragraphs, one for each decade, The Pretenders have been doing what they do, rockin’ places and melting faces! A big thanks to The Stifel Theater for their hospitality and to The Pretenders for allowing MTC MAG to be in the moment!

I would not be giving you the complete story if I did not mention the opening act, The Rails. This duo is comprised of Kami Thompson, daughter of the elusive English folk rockers Linda and Richard Thompson, and James Walbourne, whose name you may have seen at the beginning of this article. This husband and wife team explore the mellower side of music, focusing on harmonies, and acoustic tones. The fun these two have both on and off stage shines through on their 2017 album, Other People. Give em a listen, you’ll be glad ya did!

Photos of the show are below:

The Rails
The Pretenders
Contributed by Duane Clawson
The Pretenders / The Rails @ Stifel Theatre, St. Louis, MO The Pretenders / The Rails @ Stifel Theatre, St. Louis, MO Reviewed by Scott Rowe, Editor on July 23, 2018 Rating: 5
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