For a new band, the turn out Monday at the Varsity was relatively sparse. For a new band featuring a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer who still matters, the attendance was pathetic.
It didn’t matter to Chrissie Hynde that only about 100 people showed up to see JP, Chrissie & the Fairground Boys. They rocked like it was their first or last or best gig.
This band is a chance for Hynde to shine a light on Welsh singer-songwriter JP Jones. The 32-year-old with the porkpie hat, suspenders and white undershirt demosntrated the phrasing of Bob Dylan, the rock ‘n’ roll spirit of Paul Westerberg and the vocal gusto of David Johansen. When this quintet rocked, they did so with authority and abandon, especially on “Portabello,” a full-tilt rocker in the New York Dolls/Replacements tradition, with rip-roaring guitar by Patrick Murdoch.
It was one of the few songs JP, Chrissie & the Fairground Boys performed during their 85-minute set that was not on their 2010 debut, Fidelity. They played songs such as “Misty Valley” that evoked mid-tempo Pretenders tunes. But Hynde did not essay any Pretenders material despite a female fan shouting for “Cuban Slide.” The group’s only cover was Moby Grape’s “Murder in My Heart for the Judge.”
Although Jones and Hynde sang to one another at the Varsity, the sparks between them seemed more musical than romantic. Their lyrics speak of their love for one another but how the age difference – at 59, she’s 27 years older – won’t allow a romance to work out. But this band is working out, quite wonderfully – regardless how many people show up to see them.
JP Chrissie set list from Varsity:
 If You Were My Age/ If You Let Me/ Fairground Luck/ Australia/ Meanwhile/ Perfect Lover/ Leave If You Must/ Misty Valley/ Portabello/ Your Fairground/ Courage/ Fidelity/ You’re the One I Should Have Married ENCORE Never Drink Again/ Murder in My Heart for the Judge (Moby Grape)/ Christmas Soon (new song)