Another Bucket List Band ticked off. I’d always loved The Pretenders, so it was great to get the opportunity to see them. Especially so as they rarely play Belfast, 2001 was their last visit according to internet research.

As I walked towards The Limelight, I could see Venue Staff unloading beverages, presumably for the band. All bags from Tesco. Nothing but Tesco Finest for Chrissie Hynde.

This was billed as “Unreleased songs and absolutely no hits whatsoever. Well, maybe a few” on the poster. That is exactly what we got. Even though some of the big hits were missing, there was enough to keep people happy.

The first of those hits caused the crowd to think that Chrissie didn’t know where she was.

As she shouted “It’s great to be here in …………” followed by silence, before people started shouting “BELFAST!!!!!”

Turns out, she was waiting for the drum solo to Message Of Love. It was the Drummer’s fault. It’s always the Drummer’s fault. Oldest rule in rock n roll.

The unreleased songs referred to in the build-up? The Pretenders have a new album coming out in September 2023.

Hynde loved not quite a story, but rants and statements inbetween songs. Known for being a bit of a Sweary Mary, she did not disappoint in that regard.

She had the whole crowd bamboozled as she recalled the places they have visited during their brief Irish tour, naming some place that she wasn’t sure what the correct pronunciation was.

There was an awkward silence as nobody knew where she was referring to. Nobody could even try and guess where she was referring to. To this day, everybody who was still is still confused.

Although, her lack of knowledge of how to pronounce place names might be down to the fact that she declared herself to be the only American with no Irish ancestry whatsover.

A big fan of The Smiths, she recalled conversations with Johnny Marr and wished a Happy Birthday to Morrissey. The Belfast crowd were agreeable to him getting Birthday wishes, although he might not have been in the mood to celebrate following the death of Andy Rourke.

Also on her hit list of rants was to ask why bands prefer to play stadiums instead of venues such as The Limelight.

We even had a quiz, with fans being asked what band’s t-shirt they were wearing. It looked like an easy one, as nearly everybody shouted out Joy Division.

Turns out the answer was Low, she even went to see them in concert in London.

There might not have been a prize for guessing what t-shirt she was wearing or for guessing what place she was talking about. However, there were some people who left the venue feeling like winners.

Chrissie Hynde threw some of her plectrums into the crowd. It was like in The Crystal Maze in that round where people are in a glass box scrambling to get prizes.

And I was one of the lucky ones to get a plectrum.

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It had been a near three wait, and we lost one of the double act, but it was worth it.

Easter Saturday 2020 was when I should have been seeing Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott, at Ulster Hall.

As you know by now, the world took an unexpected turn of events and that got postponed.

Then postponed again and again and again, to the point it got cancelled.

When that cancellation was announced, I was given a window to transfer my ticket in exchange for a ticket to see them at St Anne’s Park in Dublin instead.

I declined that and got a refund. Regular readers will know that I can’t be arsed with outdoor concerts due to being unable to breathe because of tramps on the fegs. I have to look after myself, nobody else will.

Refund back in the bank account, a new concert was announced, so it was off to The Odyssey I headed.

More recent concerts had been at either The Limelight or Ulster Hall, so this was a bit of a jump.

The venue was filled but not full, if that makes sense. Put it this way, there was a bit of wriggle room if you wanted to dance.

A week before, it was announced that Jacqui Abbott wouldn’t be appearing on stage for this concert, resting under Doctor’s orders, having previously missed concerts at the end of 2022.

There would be an able substitute to take her place, in the shape of Rumer.

I wasn’t overly familiar with her. I had heard some songs and was agreeable to them.

She was support act for this concert, and then after a break, would join Paul on a few songs towards the end.

Trev and Simon wouldn’t be on the support bill despite guesting in their recent videos. That was rather disappointing.

Heaton declared his joy at the bond he has with Belfast, coming here to perform for 37 years.

Although, he did lay down a challenge in terms of CD sales.

At each concert, they keep a track of how many CDs get sold at the merch stall, ranking each place they visit. Dublin got a bit of a pasting for their capacity to sales ratio. Hopefully, Belfast wasn’t getting slagged off at the concerts that followed this.

Paul Heaton is such a big star, he has his own Personal Cup Of Tea Bringer, what a job, who walks on stage every couple of songs to bring him a cup of tea.

Unsurprisingly, the playlist was a mix and match from three different stages of his career, beginning with Paul and Jacqui’s most recent single I Drove Her Away With My Tears.

A few songs in, we had a block of Beautiful South hits such as One Last Love Song, Everybody’s Talking and Old Red Eyes.

Of course, it would have been rude not to have a block of Housemartins hits, which followed, featuring The People Who Grinned Themselves To Death and Five Get Over Excited.

Heaton then introduced the band by what football team they support. Leeds and City got booed, a rare feeling of civic pride in Belfast. There are a surprisingly high amount of Rochdale fans in Belfast going by the cheers they got.

Sheffield United got booed, which prompted some rude hand gestures to the crowd in response from Heaton.

The absence of Jacqui Abbott presented difficulties on how some of the songs should be performed, the obvious one being Rotterdam.

Heaton performed it himself, justifying it with “I wrote it”.

That was the cue for Rumer to join him on stage, taking over the Jacqui Abbott role for Song For Whoever, Don’t Marry Her and Good As Gold before they left the stage.

Of course not, there was an encore to come, Heaton saying “I Believe in value for money”

That encore began with Happy Hour, unfortunately the lights were flashing when Paul started dancing, so we couldn’t get to see it in all it’s glory. That was then followed by Perfect Ten, done live as a disco bop.

A quick exit followed by a second encore, featuring You Keep It All In and Caravan Of Love.

It felt like this concert was jinxed. A three year wait, cancelled, then a new one announced with a different venue, then half the line-up was unavailable. It was worth it.

In other concert news, Sophie Ellis-Bextor and KT Tunstall have been announced for Dalriadafest. Tempted by this. Need them to be on the same night and to be able to get there, but very tempted in principle.

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Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott live at The Limelight 2017

Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott live at Ulster Hall 2016

Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott live at The Limelight 2014