Chrissie Hynde & Co. Sing Bob Dylan and Other Songs

Queen's Hall, Edinburgh


IT was Bob Dylan's epic song, Murder Most Foul, that dragged the Pretenders singer, Chrissie Hynde, out of what she describes as a "quasi-emotional coma" occasioned by the pandemic lockdown last year.

She and the band's guitarist, James Walbourne, would then be inspired to begin doing covers of Dylan songs, recording their parts separately and sending them to each other. The project blossomed into a superb album, Standing in the Doorway, with Hynde and Walbourne giving nine selected Dylan songs a thoughtful, pared-back re-working.

The album has in turn led to a tour, the sound fleshed out on stage by the addition of Carwyn Ellis on keyboards and Danny Williams upright bass. The accompaniment (and a word of praise in passing for the outstanding acoustic guitar work of Walbourne) helps make for a beguiling and delightfully intimate show. Walbourne and his partner, Kami Thompson, incidentally, make up the London-based duo, The Rails, who opened the show with a fine, half-hour-long set.

The Dylan songs are played in the same order as they are on the Standing in the Doorway album, from In the Summertime to Every Grain of Sand via Standing in the Doorway, Blind Willie McTell and Tomorrow Is a Long Time. It's a positive joy to hear such classics as You're a Big Girl Now, from Dylan’s landmark 1975 album, Blood on the Tracks, and Love Minus Zero/No Limit, from 1965's Bringing It All Back Home, being skilfully re-interpreted by Hynde, whose distinctive voice is still a thing of wonder.

She paid tribute to Dylan's skills as a songwriter by saying that when Love Minus Zero was first released, "we all thought he knew what he was talking about, but we didn't". And as she began to sing Standing in the Doorway it was interesting to recall a throwaway line in her memoirs that she thinks that Dylan wrote the song about her.

Tomorrow Is A Long Time, which was dedicated to the American businessman Steve Bing, a friend of Hynde's and Walbourne's, had to be restarted, but drew one of the biggest rounds of applause of the evening.

The Dylan songs over, Hynde sang a couple of Ray Davies songs ­– Stop Your Sobbing, and I Go To Sleep ­– before doing a handful of her own numbers. An excellent concert, then, one that reminded you of Hynde’s gifts as a singer and interpreter, and the peerless quality of Dylan's songs. And, furthermore, it reminded us of how just we much we have missed live music.