Big Hassle
The Pretenders

THE PRETENDERS, CAT POWER, JULIETTE LEWIS, Red Butte Garden Amphitheater, Aug. 23

When Pretenders lead singer Chrissie Hynde asked audience members if they knew who Chip Taylor was, some did and some didn't.

Then she launched into a passionate version of "Angel of the Morning," penned by Taylor for Marrilee Rush in 1968, and the audience did a collective forehead slap.

That was one surprise of the evening when the Pretenders played Red Butte Garden on Sunday.

The other surprise occurred right after a sassy execution of a new tune called "Rosalee."

That's when PETA vice president Dan Matthews took the stage and threw out some T-shirts.

Matthews was in town to join animal-activist Hynde for an Aug. 24 protest at the McDonald's on 700 East and 200 South.

Still, with the exception of introducing Matthews and announcing the protest, the outspoken Hynde laid off on the politics and focused on her music.

The Pretenders' set opened with "Break Up the Concrete," the title track of the band's most recent album.

Then it pulled out an oldie-but-goodie, "Message of Love."

Over the past 30-plus years, Hynde has maintained her dangerously cool look and sound. And the band — guitarist James Walbourne, pedal-steel guitarist Eric Heywood, bassist Nick Wilkinson and original drummer Martin Chambers — backed Hynde with confidence and precision throughout the set.

"Love's a Mystery" and "Boots of Chinese Plastic" were two additional new songs from "Break Up the Concrete."

The audience was on its feet cheering every note, especially when Walbourne literally launched into his finger-flying leads.

Vintage Pretender songs such as "Talk of the Town," "Kid," "Precious," "Don't Get Me Wrong," "Stop Your Sobbing" and "Back on the Chain Gang" sounded as fresh as they did all those years ago.

"Mystery Achievement" served as the show capper and had the audience screaming for more.

Opening the night was Juliette Lewis. The actress-turned-bandleader brought her own brand of sassy punk and blues to the stage.

She won most of the audience over with her attitude and Janis Joplin-inspired blues. And she interacted with the audience like a pro.

The crowd favorite was the set by Cat Power. Unlike Lewis, Cat Power didn't say much to the crowd. In fact, she didn't say a word and acted very shy.

She did, however, play a dynamic set that featured her blend of juke-joint highway blues and nightclub jazz.

The two guest performers lit a fire under the audience, which waited with edgy anticipation for the Pretenders.