Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Photo from the Grove of Anaheim (03/09) by Kelly Swift

The Show at Agua Caliente Casino
Rancho Mirage, Calif.
Sept. 4

After waiting seven months, I finally had an opportunity to attend a concert at Agua Caliente’s 2,000-capacity arena The Show, which opened earlier this year with Billy Joel. Having been to gigs at several local casinos, I have to say this one is the best of the lot.

The pastel-colored seats are very comfy, have cup holders (always a good thing) and plenty of leg room. Two screens on each side of the stage projected what looked like hi-definition images of the Pretenders. The sound was crisp. We were seated in the loge section right up off the floor and had a perfect vantage point. I’d recommend trying for this area when purchasing tickets, although the mezzanine and balcony levels didn't appear to have a bad view either.

Veteran rock band the Pretenders opened its taut 75-minute, 18-song set with “Break Up the Concrete,” the title track from its rootsy 2008 album. Other shows on the tour spotlighted more new tunes. In Rancho Mirage, the final stop of the North American tour, they just did the bluesy “Rosalee” (featuring an amazing solo guitar spotlight for James Walbourne), “Don’t Cut Your Hair” and “Boots of Chinese Plastic.” Maybe it had something to do with the unexplained absence of pedal steel player Eric Heywood.

Still, the crowd had plenty to get excited about in a performance that leaned heavily toward the band’s 1980s heyday, including a tender “Kid,” wicked “My City Was Gone,” stomping “Mystery Achievement” and “Back on the Chain Gang.” Then there was a gorgeous, rare cover of “Angel of the Morning” (popularized by Merrilee Rush in 1968 and Juice Newton in 1981) – worth the price of admission alone.

Singer/guitarist Chrissie Hynde - a staunch animal activist and vegetarian - made snide comments about gluttonous meat eaters she saw earlier at the casino buffet, her breasts (“they’re all mine”) and the band’s best known hit “Brass in Pocket” (“want to hear something cheesy and trite?”).

There was a special festive air to the concert since founding drummer Martin Chambers celebrated his birthday (the audience sang to him) and the Palm Springs area was where Walbourne made his debut with the group a year ago. Chambers was solid throughout and Hynde never seems to age.

After concluding with the always exciting “Middle of the Road,” Chambers left the stage and returned donning a clown wig and everyone toasted the tour’s end with wine.

Break up the Concrete/Message of Love/Talk of the Town/(Happy Birthday)/Kid/My City Was Gone/Back on the Chain Gang/Rosalee/Angel of the Morning/Stop Your Sobbing/Don’t Cut Your Hair/Thumbelina/Boots of Chinese Plastic/Night in My Veins/Mystery Achievement/Precious
Encore: Brass in Pocket/The Wait/Middle of the Road

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