There were at least two big reasons to celebrate last Friday night in downtown Santa Barbara. First, the annual Holiday Parade brought glad tidings and good cheer to State Street with marching bands, dancing troupes and giant inflatables. Second, Chrissie Hynde played an amazing concert at the Arlington Theatre in support of this year's album, Stockholm, the first-ever credited to her own name.
Hynde and her band took the stage as Sam Cooke's version of "The Great Pretender" played on the PA, a song that is reportedly the inspiration for the name of her longtime band, The Pretenders. One was immediately struck by how good she still sounds as she opened with "Don't Lose Faith in Me," a newer one from the Pretenders catalog. Plus, it has to be mentioned that she looks great at 63 years young, wearing a rock star outfit of jeans, black vest and loose tie, sparkly earrings and jacket, and leather boots up over her knees.
This was followed by "Biker" for which her jacket was replaced with a sparkly Fender Telecaster. During this song, Hynde showed some fire by coming to the front of the stage to tell an audience member to "put the phone away," reinforcing her clear wishes that people should experience the concert in the moment rather than trying to capture it on a tiny screen. As a frequent concertgoer who is tired of seeing phones held up in my line-of-sight, I applaud her efforts.
Hynde proceeded to play a couple of fine songs off Stockholm, but things really took off when she said, "Here's a little nostalgia" and launched into the Pretenders hits "Talk of the Town" and "Kid," which got most of the crowd up on their feet.
After another block of fine songs from Stockholm — "Sweet Nuthin'," "You or No One," "Down the Wrong Way" and "A Plan Too Far" — it was back to The Pretenders for the Akron, Ohio-themed "My City Was Gone" and "Downtown (Akron)." Next came "The Phone Call," further proof that the first Pretenders album has aged as well as Hynde has. More Pretenders hits followed — "Don't Get Me Wrong" and "Back on the Chain Gang" — before the main set ended with "Adding the Blue" from Stockholm.
Even though she was often annoyed during the set with people trying to sneak photos, Hynde also joked a bit with the audience. When someone threw a Santa Barbara protein bar onto the stage, she threatened to put it, well, let's just say somewhere where the sun doesn't shine. Later she said, "I hear there's a lot of celebrities that live in this town. Oprah, she lives here. Is that right? But they're not here tonight. You see, rock and roll is not for everyone."
The two encores included the early Pretenders rockers "Precious" and "Tattooed Love Boys," the latter having one of my favorite Hynde lyrics: "You're gonna make some plastic surgeon a rich man." Here, Hynde finally allowed the patient and not-so-patient to take the photos and videos that they'd been itching to take.
The second encore also included "Dark Sunglasses," the catchiest of the Stockholm material, showing that Hynde can still deliver the goods decades into her music career.
In the end, Hynde tied the concert to the "charming parade" that had earlier passed through downtown, closing with the Christmas song "2000 Miles." It may have been a few weeks early, but that night in downtown Santa Barbara really did feel like Christmas time.
Don't Lose Faith in Me
In a Miracle
Like in the Movies
Talk of the Town
You or No One
Down the Wrong Way
A Plan Too Far
My City Was Gone
The Phone Call
Night in My Veins
Don't Get Me Wrong
Back on the Chain Gang
Adding the Blue
I Go to Sleep (Kinks song)
Tattooed Love Boys
— Jeff Moehlis is a Noozhawk contributing writer and a professor of mechanical engineering at UC Santa Barbara. Upcoming show recommendations, advice from musicians, interviews and more are available on his web site, music-illuminati.com. The opinions expressed are his own.