Chrissie Hynde waves an Israeli flag during The Pretenders's concert in Tel Aviv .
(photo credit: LIOR KETER)
It was no coincidence that the piped-in song wafting across the nearly sold-out Menorah Mivtahim Arena on Saturday night just before The Pretenders hit the stage was “She’s About a Mover,” the great 1969 Tex-Mex hit by the Sir Douglas Quintet. Its lines, “Well, she was a-walkin' down the street, lookin' fine as she could be. Hey, hey!,“ precisely describe Chrissie Hynde, the 66-year-old co-founder of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame-inducted band which was making its first appearance in Israel since 1987.
Only the age-defying Hynde and superman drummer Martin Chambers remain from the original band that recorded such late ‘70s-early ‘80s classics like “Talk of the Town” and “Brass in Pocket.” But inspired by a trio of young upstarts on bass, keyboards and especially lead guitar courtesy of James Walbourne, Hynde and Chambers attacked their deep catalogue of 40 years with vigor, good cheer and rock & roll panache.
Strolling onstage brandishing a huge Israeli flag on a pole, Hynde didn’t even have to play a note of music to win over the crowd. But when she and the band did, the two-way love affair between crowd and performer only intensified.
After boldly opening with two songs from the band’s relatively obscure 2016 album Alone
, they settled into a groove or familiar classic rock ,with “Message of Love,” “Stop Your Sobbing” and “Back on the Chain Gang” leading the way. Hynde was energetic, engaged and oozing with attitude, whether laying down her trademark rhythm guitar or emoting on the ballads “Hymn to Her” and “I’ll Stand By You,” defiantly dedicating the latter to cows.
Between song, the outspoken animal rights activist praised Israel’s animal rights movement, dedicating songs to members of the Israeli organization Animals Anonymous whom she had met during her brief stay in the country and sporting an animal rights t-shirt in Hebrew.
“I learned a lot of Hebrew today in Jerusalem but I forgot it all, so let Mick Jagger speak in Hebrew,” she joked at one point, referring to the Rolling Stones’ vocalist’s liberal use of Hebrew phrases during their 2014 show in Israel.
The 90-minute set flagged a little with a couple slower, more unfamiliar tunes from Alone
, “Let’s Get Lost” and “I Hate Myself,” a self-reflective dirge that Hynde introduced by saying it was for “the Jewish holiday you guys have but I can’t remember what it’s called.”
But they roared back with 2008’s “Boots of Chinese Plastic” and “Mystery Achievement” from their 1979 debut to close the show on a rousing note.
The multi-song encore upped the ante, with a delicate version of the Kinks’ “I Go To Sleep” from Pretenders II, a ferocious “Middle of the Road” from 1984’s Learning to Crawl that featured Walbourne’s skills to the max and finally, Hynde’s signature tune “Brass in Pocket” to close.
Hynde, with nothing left to prove, sang triumphantly: “Because I’m gonna make you see, there’s nobody else here, no one like me. I’m special, so special, I gotta have some of your attention, give it to me.”
Those lines, written some 40 years ago, still ring true today. There’s nobody around like Chrissie Hynde, and the audience, all standing and singing along, gave her and The Pretenders the attention they earned.