Live Review: The Pretenders – Limelight, Belfast 23.05.2023

Phot credit David McEneaney

Photos and words David McEneaney

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, they don’t make ‘em like they used to.
These days, in the Spotify and TikTok universe, it seems that kids don’t listen to bands or albums anymore, they listen to songs and playlists. This makes it even more difficult for artists to stand out or create a fan base because it seems like you have one shot at making it onto a playlist curated by an algorithm or 15 seconds of your song being used for a TikTok dance, and if lightning doesn’t strike at exactly the right time then that’s it.
Which is why seeing gigs like The Pretenders and watching artists like Chrissie Hynde is getting more and more special as time goes on.
I sometimes wonder who kids today see as role models in music. I mean real role models like there used to be, who could sing onto tape without needing auto tune, who wrote their own songs and played their own instruments, not who has the most Instagram followers or can fit the most amount of colours into a Nike.
I didn’t expect to see The Pretenders playing a smaller venue such as The Limelight, but my god was it fantastic.
Every single person in the sold out venue seemed to agree.
This is an artist who has written some of the most well known and infectious songs of the last four decades. Songs that you would recognise even if you didn’t know who sang them, that have been used in everything from films to tv shows to advertisements. Songs like ‘Brass in Pocket’, ‘Don’t Get Me Wrong’ and ‘I’ll Stand by You’ that have been played consistently on the radio for the last 40 years and will probably still be played for the next 40. How many current artists can make that claim?
How many songs can you name in the top 10 charts right now?
It’s people like Chrissie Hynde who will stand the test of time, who can still put on a show as if it was their first, who can play to a ‘smaller’ venue and still be humble enough to make statements like ‘Why are the lights on me, they need to be on you. I came here to see all of you’ and mean it.
From start to finish, weather it was new songs from the upcoming album or stone cold classics, The Pretenders played one of the best shows I’ve seen in a long time. The sound was perfect, Hynde’s voice was as good as the recording. She can still stand on the stage like a badass rock chick and make it all look so effortless. I wonder how many singers will still be able to do that in the next 5 or 10 years, never mind four times that.
This is a rare event, a huge band with such a back catalogue playing a smaller, more intimate tour where they can just enjoy themselves and play to their fans.
No pretence…excuse the pun. If I were you and you can find a ticket, I would try to catch them while they’re still on tour, as who knows when you’ll see a show like this again.

Intro (Habanera: L’amour est un oiseau rebelle, Georges Bizet)
Losing Sense
A Love
Turf Accountant Daddy
Message Of Love
The Adulteress
Downtown – Akron
The Buzz
Domestic Silence
Time The Avenger
Talk Of The Town
Don’t Cut Your Hair
Back On The Chain Gang
Hate For Sale
You Can’t Hurt A Fool
Don’t Get Me Wrong
Let The Sun Come In
Junkie Walk
Cuban Slide

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