Held at the warm, curtain-draped Apogee’s Berkeley Street Studio in Santa Monica, the eight-song acoustic performance showcased Hynde’s dusky, shimmery alto in a tender, gentler setting than the often-gruff Pretenders’ music provides. Although the Fairgound Boys is a full band, for this performance, taped specifically for NPR outlet, KCRW, Hynde was joined only by band co-founded Welsh singer/songwriter JP Jones, and guitarist Patrick Murdoch. (Apogee is a recording equipment manufacturer).
The songs, most of the theme about love and yearning, were set to lovely alt country rhythms. The threesome’s performance was often rag tag, but the rough, non-polished edges only added to the intimate feel of the evening. Hynde and Jones, best known for his stint in a British pop band, Grace, traded off on lead vocals, but sounded best when they wrapped their voices around each other.
There was an “are they or aren’t they a couple” vibe to the45-minute performance that certainly played out throughout the evening by the looks exchanged between Hynde, 58, and the much-younger Jones that only gained credence through many of the songs’ lyrics. “Australia,” a tune about Hynde and Jones’ first meeting at a party thrown by Damian Hirst’s wife in 2008, includes the line “Eyes as blue as yours deserve a symphony.” Hardly a line you write for a friend. In “Perfect Lover,” Hynde’s sings “I found my perfect lover, but he’s only half my age… He was learning how to stand; I was wearing my first wedding band.” The pair does not end up together in the end.
Perhaps more telling, Jones introduced the song and forthcoming album title track, “Fidelity,” with a story about the two writing the album in Cuba, where they saw pictures of Fidel Castro everywhere and decided if they were ever to have a baby, they’d name it Fidel. “This is for the baby we’ll never have,” Jones said.
The set concluded with a cover of Bon Iver’s “Skinny Love.”
The performance, plus an interview with Hynde and Jones conducted by DJ Chris Douridas (in which much more is revealed about the relationship between the two), will air Saturday, May 1, at 1:30 p.m. on KRCW and www.kcrw.org.
Pretenders fans: don't worry. Hynde continues on with that group as well.
Photo courtesy of Jonathan Kalan.