Chrissie Hynde saw a familiar face among the few hundred fans crowding the aisles Monday at the Pretenders' in-store performance at Amoeba Records in Hollywood. It was Sex Pistols drummer Paul Cook, and Hynde waved happily from the small stage, declaring "It's always good to have the Sex Pistols in the house."
It's a connection that dates back to her days in England during the punk rock '70s, when she worked briefly as an expat American rock critic and then began her three-decade success as leader of the Pretenders. (She was set today to join another Pistol friend: guitarist Steve Jones, on his freeform Indie 103.1 FM show "Jonesy's Jukebox.") The singer-guitarist had come to L.A. and Amoeba to celebrate Break Up the Concrete, the first new Pretenders album in over five years.
With the help of fiery new Pretenders guitarist James Walbourne, Hynde translated new and old songs into vivid acoustic performances at the in-store. She was in great voice both during and between songs. "I like that Amoeba Records trusts everyone not to shoplift," she joked to fans pressed against the CD racks. "If anyone wants to borrow my hoodie..."
The nine-song, half-hour set began with the straight-ahead acoustic chords of the new album's "The Nothing Maker" and soon moved onto the early Pretenders classics "Talk of the Town" and "Kid," finding a rich vein of passion in the raw acoustic format. The duo ripped through some urgent rockabilly riffs on "Boots of Chinese Plastic" and the electric "Don't Cut Your Hair," both from the new album. Before it was over, they had also slowed down for the delicate, jazzy sounds of "Almost Perfect" and the bluesy torch song "Don't Lose Faith In Me."
After that last one, Hynde leaned forward in her chair to hear the reaction of a female fan wearing a Pretenders jacket in the front row. "Did you?" Hynde said as she sat back. "It brought tears to my eyes too."
"The Nothing Maker"
"Love's a Mystery"
"Don't Lose Faith In Me"
"Talk of the Town"
"One Thing Never Changed"
"Boots of Chinese Plastic"
"Don't Cut Your Hair"