Monday, August 24, 2009

The Pretenders Reign Supreme At Red Butte

Posted By on August 24, 2009, 8:40 AM

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An early-evening rainstorm threatened to drown out Sunday's concert at Red Butte Garden, but attendees came prepared to the outdoor venue armed with umbrellas, ponchos and whatever else they could grab to stay dry for headliners The Pretenders.--- Some of us had high hopes for opening acts Juliette Lewis and Cat Power, but for the majority of folks both acts were background music for the main event. And by the time Chrissie Hynde and Co. stepped onstage under a nearly clear sky it was clear her tour mates have a long way to go before they achieve her breathtaking and unforgettable stage presence.

Juliette Lewis is certainly fun to watch. The last time I saw her she shared a bill with Kings of Leon during Sundance several years back and proved to be more successful at making the actress to musician leap than most Hollywood ingenues. At Red Butte, she flew through a pretty random set of songs, from punk to come-to-mama blues numbers, making good use of her outfit's kneepads and serving as a prime example of yoga/pilate's benefits. Lewis frequently engaged the audience and got a good portion of the lower lawn area to sing along to a rather milquetoast tune about shining on, or something. Ultimately, her energy is better suited for a smaller, more intimate venue. At least, until she finds a consistent, undeniable voice.

Cat Power followed in a skinny tie reminiscent of Hynde's sexy tomboy style. Power, aka Chan Marshall, was once known for having terrible stage fright, occasionally breaking down mid-set. For the most part she's conquered those onstage jitters and has developed a strange, awkward stage presence that's endearing and overshadowed by her gorgeous, booming/raspy voice. She played a little bit of old, a little bit of new and a few covers but didn't pull out any tracks from The Greatest, arguably her greatest album. I would have settled for "He-War." Again, good stuff but nothing jaw-dropping.

Nothing like The Pretenders.

From song one they commanded the audience with Hynde dressed in black thigh-high boots and a blue suit-coat with tails. She lead her group of boys - including Martin Chambers back on drums - through a set of mostly classic hits plus songs off the new Break Up the Concrete which by each track's last note sounded almost as familiar and welcome as the old favorites indicating The Pretenders have serious staying power. Still, there's nothing like hearing the strut and swagger of "My City Was Gone," "Back On The Chain Gang," and "Don't Get Me Wrong," up close and personal. Ditto for the Chip Taylor cover "Baby, Oh, Baby," and her former long-time beau Ray Davies' band's "Stop Your Sobbing."

The new Pretenders held their own and occasionally outshined their fearless leader, particularly one young guitarist and a pedal-steel player whose blistering solos brought to life the recent studio recordings "Boots of Chinese Plastic" and "Rosalee."

We are more in awe of Chrissie Hynde than ever, now. The bad-ass rocker will be at McDonald's on 700 East between 200 and 300 South at noon today protesting with PETA if you want to help further one of her passionate causes - or just to tell her thanks for being such an awesome role model for future generations of female artists.

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