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Unplugged but Sizzling: Pretenders Pack a Punch

November 01, 1995|SANDY MASUO

With their current live album, "The Isle of View," the Pretenders have proved that even in acoustic mode, they still pack a powerful charge. The fresh arrangements highlight head Pretender Chrissie Hynde's subtler strengths as a singer-songwriter, not just a dynamic front person. Featuring those same arrangements (including strings courtesy of the Duke Quartet), there weren't any big surprises when the Pretenders took the stage at the Wiltern Theatre on Monday night.

Classics like "Kid," "Brass in Pocket" and "Private Life" were every bit as compelling as they are on "View," and the band's inspired playing prompted waves of fervent cheers from the audience.

There were some equally captivating additions to the set list. "Thumbelina" came off as brash and twangy as it originally did on "Learning to Crawl," although fiery fiddle strains replaced some of its rockabilly edge with a more down-home country feel. After introducing it as "the song I wish I wrote," Hynde launched into Radiohead's stellar 1993 hit, "Creep," wringing all her own nuances out of Thom Yorke's words. The encore included Merilee Rush's '60s pop-folk hit "Angel of the Morning" and Neil Young's "Needle and the Damage Done."

Between songs, Hynde punctuated the concert with her piquant sense of humor, aiming friendly quips at her fellow musicians as well as at the exuberant audience members, who shouted their praises and requests into the occasional lulls. For an unplugged evening, the results were quite electric.

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