Flash back to 1980. The Pretenders at the Paradise. Their first Boston date. Tickets are $3.50. Their homonymous debut isn’t even out yet — just three perfect singles. Chrissie Hynde, with her long bangs and her “Have a Nice Death” T-shirt, is flanked by bassist Pete Farndon and guitarist James Honeyman-Scott, spitting out “I’m too precious, I had to fuck off.” That was the Pretenders.
But all good things must come to an end. First Honeyman-Scott and then Farndon overdosed, and the Pretenders forever became Hynde and powerhouse drummer Martin Chambers. On their current tour, which hit Avalon last Friday, Andy Hobson’s on bass and Adam Seymour’s the guitarist. There hasn’t been a new studio disc since 2002’s Loose Screw (Warner Bros.), not counting the new five-disc, career-spanning Pirate Radio box set. But sometimes it’s a relief when older bands don’t have a new, lesser CD to push in concert.
Hynde, 54, was her charming, petulant self. She called us “cunts,” “twats,” and “tossers.” She championed animal rights, realized most of the crowd wasn’t into it, and moved on with a “fuck it.” After cursing during the intro to “Birds of Paradise,” she offered, “Sorry, I don’t mean to spoil the atmosphere of this gorgeous song.”
The music was, indeed, gorgeous and crackling and snarling and cooing. Hynde’s vocals remain as sultry as ever. Seymour played succinct, spiky leads. Chambers kept the beat heavy and hard. The band were most comfortable in the mid-tempo range: “Message of Love,” “Night in My Veins,” “The Adulteress,” “Back on the Chain Gang,” and “Middle of the Road” all came through with stick-like-glue melodies.
Only one complaint: after a generous hour-and-50-minute set including two encores, Hynde still hadn’t touched “Tattooed Love Boys,” “The Wait,” “Talk of the Town,” “Mystery Achievement,” or “Precious.” Don’t know about the rest of the crowd, but I wanted just one more “fuck off” intro from Chrissie.