Earlier this Fall I experienced my first arena show in more than six years… It turned out not to be something I had missed… However, sometimes I do crave a live experience with an icon of my youth… someone unlikely to find themselves on the stage of Johnny Brenda’s or Boot & Saddle… who I’m willing to venture into a “mega-venue” to see… and who actually makes immersing myself in a room packed full of new found seniors from the suburbs worthwhile… Pretenders mainperson Chrissie Hynde has proven to be the best reason to venture into such a territory in 2014…

This Tuesday, Chrissie Hynde played the 3,000+-capacity Tower Theater in Upper Darby to a room comprised primarily of couples who, likely, just months ago saw their final child off to college… But it was far from an dull night… This June Chrissie Hynde released her “solo debut,” Stockholm […although she’s remained the only constant member of The Pretenders… for the past 39 years…]  While the album might lack the sexually subversive potency of “Bad Boys Get Spanked” or the balladic, sentimental potency of “2000 Miles,” it embodies the same sonic aesthetic that we’ve loved about her for thirty years now: a matured punk with a knack for exceptionally poignant singing/songwriting.

The tour has Ms. Hynde playing a mix of songs from her recent “solo debut,” combined with some of The Pretenders biggest hits… and also some of their best music that never necessarily attempted to compete on the charts (Two of the evening’s highlights were hyper-sensual bluesy opener “Don’t Lost Faith in Me” from 2008’s Break up the Concrete and “Tattooed Love Boys,” arguably the band’s “punkest” song, which has become an anthem for those of us Gen X and Gen Y “rebels” who have broken into the best parts of our parents’ record collection.)  The set neither pandered to those who wanted to hear her “other” band’s “greatest hits” (“Brass in Pocket” and “Middle of the Road” were actually left out.) nor relentlessly pushed her latest output on a crowd that would likely be hearing it for the very first time… She managed to be both credible and satisfying to a degree that peers who have been in the industry for those four decades could be counted on one hand.

The Tower Theater’s audience was quite accommodating in Chrissie’s choice of songs, not leaving their seats to pee or re-beer during the Stockholm tunes, but also getting exceptionally enthusiastic during their favorite Pretenders numbers (“Talk of the Town,” “Kid,” and “My City Was Gone” certainly evoked deservedly profound responses, but so did the recently released “Dark Sunglasses,” Stockholm’s first single, which is just as catchily and badassedly sassy as anything we’ve heard from Hynde in the past twenty years.)  There was a bit of the Catholic-church-inspired-step-aerobics-routine going on, with an audience that would seem to sit and stand arbitrarily, but everyone seemed more than honored to be in her presence, regardless of what she was playing.  That being said, the night’s high point was 1994’s “Night in my Veins,” back-to-back with 1986’s “Don’t Get Me Wrong,” two of the most brilliantly uplifting pop songs of the past forty years… and arguably the two greatest makeout songs of all-time…

But not only did Chrissie Hynde manage to please her decades-long fans without seeming to rely on a crutch of previous triumphs, but she, in her early sixties, appeared as her coolest self in my three-decade lifetime.  Donning a fitting, printed blazer; glittered tie; black vest on top of nothing but her torso; and skintight, ripped denim tucked into vegan Docs, the androgynous vixen would seem to embody a fashionably chic affront to middle-American gender norms better than anyone who could potentially even be her full-grown kid

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