THE PRETENDERS at the Hummingbird Centre (1 Front East), Monday (February 10), 8 pm. $35.50-$49.50. 416-872-2262, 416-870-8000. Rating: NNNNN
Sure, she did a dippy guest stint on Friends and scored her last major hit with the cringe-inducing balladry of I'll Stand By You, but don't think for a minute that Chrissie Hynde has punched her rock 'n' roll time card yet.At 51, she's still more punk than any ingenue keening on the airwaves today. Need proof? On a recent tour, she spent a night in lockup after trashing a Gap window display to protest the bully-boy corporation's use of leather from illegal Indian and Chinese slaughterhouses and showed up for a gig at the Roseland Ballroom the next day looking suitably rough around the edges.
Unbelievably, the Gap had already sent a letter to the PETA crusader asking if they could spin one of her tracks into a commercial for their -- wait for it -- Everybody In Leather campaign. You can figure out her answer.
When she's not raising hell for animal rights, Hynde's still making right-on music that resonates. After 25 years as a rock babe, she and the Pretenders (original drummer Martin Chambers is still on board, too) dropped their eighth studio album, Loose Screw (Artemis), last year. It beefs up the Pretenders' characteristic straight-up hooky, garagey rock assault with dubby reggae rhythms and clubby dance beats.
The chick who once wrote a how-to guide for women in rock is not impressed with the new breed.
"It's all about the spectacle and the special effects and all the costume changes. I mean, "Watch out, 'cause I might take my jacket off!' Don't expect anything else," she snorts on the line from England.
"When I started out, it was a much more androgynous thing. The guys all looked like girls. The most glamorous woman we had was Janis Joplin, and although she was a bit more girly, you wouldn't have seen her in a Vogue magazine.
"But now they all want to be in fashion magazines. And they all look like porn stars."
Hynde wasn't fazed when Warner ditched the Pretenders after 1999's Viva El Amor. Free of commercial constraints, she settled into a groove in her long-time home across the pond and basked in the newfound artistic possibilities till New York-based Artemis picked up the disc.
"It's great for me, 'cause nothing's really going on over here. I haven't seen any reviews or anything. We'll just go over and do the tour with no fuss. It's nice and low-key, which suits me fine. I don't need all the celebrity stuff -- I'm happy just to be a legend."
And she enjoys all the privileges afforded rock superstars, like shagging groupies, right? She's been romantically involved with at least two rock legends (the Kinks' Ray Davies and Jim Kerr from Simple Minds). But word is that lately Hynde has a bit of a proclivity for younger men. Rumour has it she pursued Urge Overkill's Nash Kato vigorously when Urge played the Phoenix a couple of years ago, hovering outside their trailer in the parking lot.
She laughingly sidesteps the Kato query.
"Well, if you're saying younger men as opposed to older men, I'd have to say yes. I don't meet as many men my own age. I mean, in my workplace, people aren't my age any more. I'm 51. How many people are doing this at 51?
"But don't worry. It's not ugly yet. I've learned my lesson -- anything below 38 and I'd have to look twice. I don't wanna scare my daughters' friends off, y'know -- although there's always the exception to the rule." email@example.com