Chrissie Hynde & Co Sing Bob Dylan And Other Songs (4 stars)

Chrissie Hynde & Co Sing Bob Dylan And Other Songs

Pretenders frontwoman makes a triumphant return to the live stage at a stripped-back Fringe show featuring original numbers and Dylan covers

It feels novel after all this time to be in a (semi) packed room full of music lovers. To be in a venue as striking as The Queen's Hall with a true icon of rock, however, actually borders on surreal. But tonight, Chrissie Hynde is really here, live and onstage, and not on a computer screen in a virtual format. And for many in the audience, this may well be their first taste of live music in 18 months.

The night is finely kicked off by The Rails – Kami Thompson (daughter of Richard and Linda) and James Walbourne (guitarist with The Pretenders) – who open with a gorgeous cover of 'All I Have To Do Is Dream', in tribute to the late Don Everly. This London duo remain perfectly in sync throughout their short set, performing folk-rock tracks like the gently waltzing 'Mossy Well' and the punchy 'Ball And Chain' from their 2019 album Cancel The Sun.

When Hynde finally takes to the stage, accompanied by Walbourne on guitar, Carwyn Ellis on keys and Danny Williams on upright bass, the cheers epitomise an excitement and adoration for this unapologetically badass musician. Her decades-long career as The Pretenders frontwoman speaks for itself, but the way in which she has consistently navigated the male-dominated rock landscape with confidence and conviction has been a source of inspiration for fellow women in all walks of the music industry.

Standing In The Doorway: Chrissie Hynde Sings Bob Dylan was originally released as a download to mark his 80th birthday, with tracks recorded during lockdown. Tonight, she performs songs from Dylan's vast back-catalogue, but also numbers by Léo Chauliac and Charles Trenet, Ray Davies and, of course, The Pretenders. Despite a few false starts here and there, the show is a wonderful snapshot of a unique and intimate project, with highlights including covers of Dylan's 'Blind Willie McTell' and 'Don't Fall Apart On Me Tonight'.

Hynde is at her most powerful when she puts down her guitar towards the end and stands boldly at the front of her stage, mic in hand. The raspy and characteristic timbre of her voice fills all the empty spaces here, as she belts out 'You Can't Hurt A Fool' and 'Crying In Public' from the 2020 Pretenders' album Hate For Sale. The night's final song, the beautiful 'Que reste-t-il de nos amours?' is imperfect in its delivery but those flaws suit the evening's overall tone. After so much time away from the live stage, we're all feeling rusty, whether that be as performers or audience members. Tonight's show is a reminder of the magic that's been missed, but also that it won't be business as usual immediately, even when it comes to legends of the genre. Nevertheless, Chrissie Hynde in her homage to Bob Dylan ultimately succeeds in providing a taste of that remarkable ambience and affinity that only exists in live settings.

Chrissie Hynde & Co Sing Bob Dylan And Other Songs, The Queen's Hall, until Wednesday 25 August, 8pm, £34.50.

Chrissie Hynde, The Rails

  • 4 stars

Stripped back sets featuring songs from Chrissie’s recent Bob Dylan covers album, Standing In The Doorway: Chrissie Hynde Sings Bob Dylan and more. Covid safety measures, Strong language/swearing Age category: 14+