Chrissie Hynde and the Pretenders Play Warner Theatre

Monday, August 17, 2009

Chrissie Hynde is a true throwback, coming from an era when the term "rock" wasn't always preceded by a couple of descriptors. The frontwoman -- and only constant member -- of the Pretenders brought the band's latest incarnation to the Warner Theatre on Friday, and though the faces around her have changed, the toughness and tenacity of Hynde and her songs keep the band in top form.

The 57-year-old native of Akron, Ohio, remains the queen of cool onstage. Her trademark bangs covered her eyes, she wore a tank top, necktie, tight jeans, big heels and acted like she owned the room -- which she surely did -- as she confidently led her band of mostly much younger men through a parade of classic-rock radio staples. "Back on the Chain Gang" had a light swing to it and was one of the first songs to get audience members out of their seats for some awkward dancing. "Middle of the Road" and "Mystery Achievement" were the best examples of her brand of barroom rock, which contains just the right mixture of swagger, smarts and hooks.

The current band features original drummer Martin Chambers along with a trio of new members on guitar, bass and lap steel. Lead guitarist James Walbourne especially stood out, but not always for the right reasons; his playing was as crisp, precise and flawless as could be, but a few of his flashy solos betrayed the understated modesty of the songs. There's no reason to go for over-the-top cool when you've got Chrissie Hynde just a few feet from you. She's got plenty for everyone.

-- David Malitz

© 2009 The Washington Post Company