14 February 2009: Akron Civic Theatre, Akron, Ohio
I didn’t spend Valentine’s Day evening with my wife. I would have loved to have her join me, but she decided she didn’t want to see the Pretenders, so instead we went out to dinner Thursday night, and I went to the Pretenders show with my buddy Dennis Saturday night.
I have wanted to see the Pretenders live for years. I almost saw them in the fall of 2007, also at the Akron Civic Theatre. I even had tickets for that show, but I ended up having to back out of that one because of another commitment that came up. So when we found out the Pretenders would be playing the Civic again, my wife knew there was no way I was going to miss it.
Friends since high school, Dennis is one of my reliable concert-going companions. It was at the Civic Theatre that Dennis and I saw Chrissie Hynde perform a three-song acoustic set back in October at the Summit County Democrats fundraiser with the Black Keys on the bill and headlined by Devo. That was all the appetite-whetting I needed to know that no matter when she came back around with the full band I was going to see them.
As is always the case for concerts at the Civic, pre- and post-show drinks were to be had at The Lockview (once the Lime Spider and before that the old Mr. Bilbo’s) across the street. And as seems to always be the case for my concert going in general these days, we ran into David and Gina there before the show.
(I was also glad to finally meet Dave and Amy, who I know through our blogs, in person at the show between American Bangs’ opening set and the Pretenders, and have a chance to chat briefly with Dave back at Lockview after the show as well. I’m looking forward to getting together with them more down the road.)
Courtesy of the 91.3 The Summit presale, we had incredibly good seats – front row of balcony two, just left of center stage, and a perfect unobstructed view to witness a rock legend on her hometown stage. And Chrissie Hynde delivered on all counts.
Hynde is an incredible, raw-power rocker, but all woman. I was floored by the energy, vitality, and sexuality she was projecting from this classic stage. New songs like “Boots of Chinese Plastic” and the killer title track from the support album, “Break up the Concrete”, were fantastic. The high points for me, though, were “Thumbelina”, "Tequila", "Rosalee", and “Brass in Pocket”. “Thumbelina” and “Tequila” are Learning to Crawl era tunes that fit perfectly in the reinvented rockabilly sound of the current band. “Rosalee”, off the new album and written by Bob Kidney of Akron's 15 60 75 - the Numbers Band, and “Brass in Pocket” were the perfectly rendered as well.
The crowd was an interesting mix that skewed decidedly older (as expected), but seemed strangely subdued to me throughout most of the night (not expected). The crowd came alive and out of their seats a number of times, but it wasn’t quite like the David Byrne show up at the Allen Theatre where folks were outright dancing in the aisles by the final encore.
My only real disappointment, though, was the absence of “My City was Gone” from the set list, but that is outweighed by the brilliance of the overall song selection and thrill of seeing this legend in the perfect venue. I can add another artist to my list of Rock Hall inductees I’ve seen live, but this night was about more than that: this was a chance to glimpse a rock goddess in the temple.