Lucid Culture


Chrissie Hynde Plays Rockwood Music Hall

Chrissie Hynde’s new band made their US debut, playing their first-ever full-length concert at Rockwood Music Hall last night. To say that JP, Chrissie and the Fairground Boys are the best project she’s taken on in over twenty years is not the compliment it could be, but she proved that she’s still got a way with a catchy hook and a spine-tingling vocal style that just keeps getting more and more exquisite. Hynde has never sung better: what a voice, what subtlety and nuance. She said more in just the minute inflection of a blue note, or those little melismas that she lets fall away, wounded but graceful, than most singers can relate over the course of a whole album. Yet what was most inspiring about the show – which went on for over an hour – was that much of the material was up to the level of that voice. Alongside Hynde, her boyfriend JP Jones (formerly of tuneful, anthemic British rockers Grace) and lead guitarist Patrick Murdoch switched back and forth between acoustic and electric guitar: when all three were playing, they frequently evoked the swampy Americana of Moby Grape, the 1960s Bay Area band they credit as a primary inspiration.

The best song of the night was Hynde’s, a slow, jangly lament possibly titled Misty Valley, blending the counterintuitive chordal structure of the Pretenders with a more traditional Americana vibe. Another even more vividly evoked her main band circa 1980 with its deluge of rapidfire, angst-tinged but disdainful lyrics. Other songs tinted the ramshackle jangle and clang with shades of powerpop, blues or, on one number where Jones hung on his open strings, indie rock. As much as this is clearly Hynde’s project, Jones impressed with a big, swaying, unhinged anti-trendoid anthem possibly titled Portobello, about the spoiled, aimless milieu of the former slum that’s now the London equivalent of Williamsburg: “You burn up money, you think it’s funny, you can laugh til you die,” he railed, after which Murdoch launched into a fiercely flailing minor-key solo.

But some of the songs were simply too much information. Beyond the obvious: he likes a drink, she likes a smoke (and has her California medical marijuana card – or did, anyway, before she lost it), two or three songs were simply uncomfortable to hear. Chrissie Hynde can do what she feels like at this point in her career, but hardly anyone in the demographic she most appeals to knows what couplecore is (or should, really, other than it’s a genre to avoid). This was most obvious when the duo tried to wring some humor out of all the gratuitous references to their May-December romance: several times throughout the set, the otherwise very friendly crowd couldn’t help roaring with laughter at some of their couplets. And watching Jones play straight man to Hynde on a song about a couple of misfits in love was nothing short of cringe-inducing, evoking Tina Turner turning to Ike onstage and trying to channel some semblance of devotion: “Yes, love.”

To the Rockwood’s considerable credit, the room was sold out, but not oversold: the club could have squeezed a few dozen others in on top of the standing-room crowd and would have gotten away with it, but they didn’t succumb to that kind of greed. And the sound was superb as always: they even sent one of the crew into the thicket of bodies to make sure that the vocal levels were up to snuff.

Afterward, a trip down the block and around the corner to Small Beast at the Delancey (our usual Monday night haunt) offered an intriguing reminder that different versions of the edgy female-fronted rock that Hynde made her mark in are still very much alive, in vividly intense sets by guitar/cello noir rock duo Nihla and the fearless grand guignol sway of Vera Beren’s Gothic Chamber Blues Ensemble.

August 10, 2010 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments