Chrissie Hynde shared a scene with Bob Dylan in 1984 at Wembley Stadium in London for a meteoric update to “Leopard Skin Pill Box Hat”, and sheer excitement is palpable on her face. A similar look of joy could be seen on Hynde’s face on Sunday as she performed Dylan songs for a live audience.
Featured as Chrissie Hynde & Co. Sing Bob Dylan (and Other Songs), the performance took place at the Royal Opera House in London. It marked one of Hynde’s first live appearances since the pandemic began, and followed her May 2021 LP Standing in the Doorway: Chrissie Hynde sings Bob Dylan. The Pretenders singer’s streaming performance was created via Veep, the same platform that hosted Dylan’s “Shadow Kingdom” stream in July.
Take the stage in a casual ensemble – jeans, knee-length leather boots and a t-shirt that read “Don’t Pet Me, I’m Working” – Hynde wasted no time to jump into the covers that she and Pretenders guitarist James Walbourne had started meddling in everything during the lockdown. Alongside Carwyn Ellis on keyboards and Danny Williams on double bass, the band sat tightly together among the bright lights on the stage, creating an intimate setting contrasting with the opera’s cavernous audience area.
“The light in this place is so bad, makes my head sick“Hynde sings on Time out of mind‘s “Standing in the Doorway”, before the camera cuts off Hynde’s perspective on the audience – which, of course, isn’t bad at all.
Hynde performed every song on her tribute album, but the live energy, especially from Walbourne, is more exciting than the LP version. “Same [Dylan’s longtime guitarist] Charlie Sexton wrote to [Walbourne] and told him how much he loved his game, ”Hynde said from the scene.
Walbourne’s talent particularly shines on “Don’t Fall Apart on Me Tonight”, by infidels, a song Hynde joked about was written about him. Gone is the song’s original ’80s luster, replaced by Walbourne’s stunning slide deck. “Give it up for Bonnie Raitt,” Hynde joked.
Dylan’s songs carry a different weight when sung by women, and Hynde seems to know it. It avoids over-reconfiguring the arrangements of the songs, and previously noted that the decision to keep some gender-specific lyrics intact was a deliberate one, even if she uses tactics sparingly.
Hynde, for example, doesn’t change the genres for “Honey like you” or “You’re a big girl now”, but she does for “Tomorrow is a long time”. There is a cool irony in watching one of rock’s most impressive figures sing the line “What’s a sweetheart like you doing in a slum like this?“in one of London’s most prestigious locations.
“Bob, are you looking?” One viewer wrote in the comments section of the feed. Probably not, but he obviously shares Hynde’s sentiment that “Every Grain of Sand” from the 1981s Love stroke is worthy of the resurrection. Dylan returned the song to his latest touring set list for the first time since 2013.
Like Dylan, Hynde is somewhat of a fan of telephone politics. At one point during the stream, in the middle of the song, she told a woman to put her phone away. Once the song was over, she apologized to the woman, realizing that she had mistaken it for the brightly lit “EXIT” sign.
Hynde shifted gears after Dylan’s update on songs from Ray Davies (whom she had a daughter with in 1983), Hoagy Carmichael (“I get along just fine without you”), songwriter – French performer Charles Trenet (“Que Reste-T -Il De Nos Amours?”) and some extracts from the most recent album Pretenders, 2020’s Hate for sale. (A full list of sets can be viewed below.)
Much like Dylan, Hynde now performs, sings, writes and records with a voice that is both familiar to dedicated fans and entirely new – the result of the inevitable passage of time. But Hynde seems to embrace all aspects of it, and by revisiting Dylan’s work she has revitalized not only the songs, but herself as well. Perhaps even more live than in the studio, his covers respect the integrity of the original recordings while reminding audiences that nothing about Hynde’s career path or professional brand has ever been traditional.
“In rock ‘n roll, there are rules, but there are no rules,” Hynde confirmed in the recent documentary, Tomorrow is Long: Chrissie Hynde sings Bob Dylan. “My version of rock and roll is very different from someone else’s version.… For me personally, there was nothing else. There was no rule.”
Chrissie Hynde & Co. Sing Bob Dylan (and other songs) ticket holders will be able to see Hynde’s performance on demand until January 3 at 2:59 am EST.
Chrissie Hynde & Co. Sing Bob Dylan (and other songs), Royal Opera House, London, Set List
1. “In summer”
2. “You are a big girl now”
3. “Standing in the doorway”
4. “Honey like you”
5. “Blind Willie McTell”
6. “Love minus zero / no limit”
7. “Don’t collapse on me tonight”
8. “Tomorrow is a long time”
9. “Every grain of sand”
10. “I’m going to sleep”
11. “Stop sobbing”
12. “Maybe love is in New York”
13. “You can’t hurt a fool”
14. “Crying in public”
15. “I get along very well without you”
16. “(You don’t know) how happy I am”
17. “What Remains Of Our Loves?”
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