Housing Works in NYC is an organization whose mission is to end homelessness and AIDS. Last night Pretenders front woman, rebel activist and punk rock icon, Chrissie Hynde, performed with Welsh singer/songwriter JP Jones and The Fairground boys for HW’s continuing series of benefit shows at their Bookstore Cafe, in Soho. In an intimate setting with about 50 people, Chrissie and Co. presented selections from their upcoming release, JP, Chrissie & The Fairground Boys ‘Fidelity’, which hits the streets in September 2010. Tracy Bonham played a great opening set, accompanied by drums and violin, featuring songs from her new album ‘In The City & In the Country’ which is available in a few weeks. Then the headliners took the stage and before anyone could utter a sound, an overzealous female fan, who obviously had too many cocktails (let’s call her mother of Snooki from ‘Jersey Shore’), let loose with a loud, ‘Chrissie, I Looooove Yoooouu!’ These outbursts went on through much of the show, unfortunately. Chrissie wordlessly replied to this drunk chick with her classic ‘I’ll can kick your ass’ deadpan stare and then broke into the first number sounding very Pretenders ‘Back on the Chain Gang,’ ‘Sense of Purpose.’ The next song struck me with it’s Gram Parsons/Rolling Stones circa ‘Exile On Main Street’ twang meets blues rock fusion sound. The rest of the musical selections stuck close to the these two aforementioned musical styles. Always the consummate singer, Chrissie’s non-girly female voice was at it’s midrange best sounding right at home singing alternately, and on duets with JP Jones’s straight forward, dude vocals. The Fairground Boys (Patrick Murdock and Sam Swallow) not only brought it on guitar and keyboards but added their pipes, to Chrissie and JP’s, sporadically creating kick ass harmonies that recall the likes of CSNY and Dolly, Emmy & Linda and more recently The Living Sisters and The Blind Boys of Alabama. One of Chrissie’s best gal pals, comedic goddess, actor and former BUST cover girl, Sandra Bernhard, was seated near stage right cheering them on and keeping an eye on Mama Snookems’ crazy behavior in a Mother Lion/Bouncer way. For one of the final tunes Chrissie whipped out her blues harp/harmonica and tore it up like nobodies business leaving the crowd frenzied and yelling for more. Whether it’s with this current project or singing with legends like Emmylou Harris and Iggy Pop, electronic outfits like Moodswings or cool bands of the now like Kings of Leon and fellow Akron natives The Black Keys, the amazing looking queen of the skinny jeans, Ms. Hynde will always deliver the goods. In this pasteurized ‘American Idol’ age we live in, there’s only a few select vocalists who can still genuinely turn it out. Or as Diamanda Galas once said to me ‘Chrisse Hynde? Oh, what a great singer!’ Anyone want to argue with her? -Michael Levine
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