Pretenders rock Leede Arena

by Susan Zieger | 10/31/94 6:00am

The Pretenders commandeered Leede Arena Friday night, reminding the crowd of more than 1,000 what hard-driving, melodic rock 'n' roll is all about. Blistering through a nearly two-hour set of their classic hits and newer material, the group proved that, more than ten years after its first album, it can still deliver an excellent show.

The Pretenders' current tour promotes "The Last of the Independents," their latest release and supports the singles "I'll Stand By You" and "Night in My Veins." Material Issue opened for the group with a competent show of generic rock.

When Chrissie Hynde (vocals, guitar), Martin Chambers (drums), Adam Seymour (guitar) and Andy Hobson (bass) took the stage, one could immediately sense a refreshing unpretentiousness. The music -- hard-rocking and catchy but persistently unpredictable -- became the main attraction.

Hynde's enthusiasm electrified the audience. As chief songwriter and mainstay in the midst of the constantly shifting Pretenders personnel, she is largely responsible for the band's distinctive style and wide influence; as the band's front she controlled the modulations in mood but always held the audience's interest. Her voice, vulnerable on ballads and strong on the hard-hitting pieces, was in top shape.

The Pretenders are so firmly established as a seminal force in rock that they shouldn't be thought of as plotting a comeback; nevertheless, their heyday was in the early and mid-eighties, and they were smart to include many of their hits on the playlist. The concert peaked on favorites such as "Back on the Chain Gang," "Kid," "Don't Get Me Wrong" and "Message of Love" but did not flag at all on numbers like "Precious" from their first album or "Night in My Veins" from their latest.

The audience, the youngest of which had been moshing and body-surfing throughout, showed its appreciation by calling the band back twice, and were rewarded with the current hit "I'll Stand by You" and the classic "Brass in Pocket," which closed the show. It's a testament to the Pretenders' incredible appeal that they attracted both high school kids and graying hipsters -- the only criteria was an appreciation of honest, quality rock 'n' roll.