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Eagle Vision presents
Pretenders: Loose in L.A. (2003)

"As Frank Zappa would say, 'a little nostalgia for the old folks'."
- Chrissie Hynde

Review By: Jeff Rosado  
Published: October 29, 2003

Stars: Chrissie Hynde, Martin Chambers, Adam Seymour, Andy Hobbs, Zeben Jameson
Director: Brian Lockwood

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (language)
Run Time: 01h:57:11
Release Date: September 23, 2003
UPC: 801213004690
Genre: rock

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A+ A+A+A+ B-

DVD Review

It was January 1980, a period when genuine rock and roll seemed to be in a lull, at least to these ears. Even Styx, the most remotely heavy band in the top ten at the start of the year was catering to the make-out crowd with Babe. Though there were a few bright spots (Tom Petty and The Hearbreakers' classic Damn the Torpedoes album), disco still possessed enough kick in its bass drum to merit most record buyers' dollars.

So who should come to rock's rescue but a four member British band, featuring transplanted American and one-time music critic Chrissie Hynde, with a debut album that served as a slap to those backsliding, true blue, four chord lovers who just couldn't relate to punk (like me), sending us back to the rock and roll from which we came. Though it only got as high as number nine on Billboard's album chart, the influence of The Pretenders' self-titled album can't be measured in record sales. It was one of the most unabashedly passionate long players to come along the pike in a long, long period, and it was filled with such memorable tracks as the double-time rocker, Tattooed Love Boys (with its memorably unconventional "you are that" sign-off), the melodically bittersweet Kid, and the funky Brass in Pocket, which even managed to cross over onto the pop charts for a Top 20 placing; thanks to its Stax by way of England bass riff and a superb vocal from Hynde, no pleading or begging for our "attention" was necessary.

Excepting the triumphant, hit-filled Learning to Crawl album that followed in the wake of the deaths of founding members Pete Farndon and James Honeyman-Scott, follow up efforts have failed to capture the mass public's attention in recent years. With terrific albums like Get Close and Viva El Amor, The Pretenders are one of the few bands that have gracefully remained true to their original foundation, yet at the same time, have never been afraid to experiment with other styles including reggae and old fashioned r & b, genre takes that color the best moments on their newest album, Loose Screw.

To promote the record, the now five-member ensemble played a series of shows in intimate halls such as Nashville's Ryman Auditorium, Boston's Orpheum Theater and L.A.'s Wiltern Theater to SRO faithful. Thankfully, the latter concert was preserved for DVD posterity, resulting in Pretenders: Loose in L.A., a rollicking, superbly paced 26-tune(!) gig that dishes up the best moments from Screw (Fools Must Die, the Otis Redding flavored The Losing) while not forsaking the high points of the group's past triumphs. Yeah, everyone will have at least one or two faves missing in action (for me, those are Show Me and The Adultress), but how can you complain with a set that gives you virtually all their radio hits, fan favorites (Biker classily dedicated to late Clash frontman Joe Strummer; My Baby) and even an obscurity or two (The Homecoming; the rockabilly meets power pop Rebel Rock Me). In addition to her sexy ache of a vocal style that has only gotten better with time, Hynde also impresses as a highly underrated guitarist (check out her nimble fretwork in the funky riff that dominates Time the Avenger) along with loose, "first thought that comes to mind" stage patter ("I hate sports!") and passionate interplay with her fellow band members, especially during the coda of My City Was Gone, where Hynde gives a hearty off-mike "c'mon!" to fellow axe-man Andy Seymour that pushes him toward a shredding, Neil Young-ish, high fretboard assault in that song's climax; one of the best solos I've heard in recent memory.

For those who may have not seen the band in recent years, the current roster finds a terrific balance between the rough-hewn charm of the original 1980 lineup and the slicker craftsmanship of the Robbie McIntosh/Malcolm Foster Crawl era, particularly via Seymour's versatility, which goes from the graceful picking of Don't Get Me Wrong to the melodic fills and power chord punch of Message of Love. As good as Seymour and newer recruits Zeben Jameson and Andy Hobson are (on keyboard and bass, respectively), the group's driving force remains in the hands of the amazing Martin Chambers, one of rock's most amazing (and for my money, sorely underrated) drummers. With an ability to combine precision with feel that rivals Rollling Stones mainstay Charlie Watts, I'm in agreement with Hynde: Chambers is a joy to watch.

Energetically directed by Brian Lockwood, Loose also boasts incredible visuals thanks to the well lit stage and remarkably upfront sound that captures one of rock's finest bands on what they call a "good night."

Rating for Style: A+
Rating for Substance: A+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Rarely does a visual presentation leave me almost at a loss for words, but Loose in L.A. manages such an accomplishment. Stunning clarity, amazing detail, flawless execution. From the fingerprints on Chrissie's Telecaster to the creases in her jeans, don't be surprised if the word "wow" doesn't take on a mantra-like status in your vocabulary while watching this disc (even the crowd looks beautiful). If every DVD looked this stellar, there wouldn't be a need for this column; a transfer that puts the "high" in high definition.

Image Transfer Grade: A+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: Following the lead of the visuals, I found the DTS mix to be by far the best of the three audio options contained. In addition to capturing the interplay of the guitars and the punch of Chamber's drum play extremely well; the clarity and separation is more efficient than the Dolby Digital version. The clever use of backing vocals and certain instrumental flourishes in the rears sounds purer via DTS, along with a tighter bass presence. For those of you who still haven't made the jump to more than a left/right speaker line up (or for some who just want to recreate the audio aura of the King Biscuit Flower Hour of their FM radio youth), a handy, back-to-basics 2.0 soundtrack is offered.

Audio Transfer Grade: A+


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Music/Song Access with 26 cues and remote access
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual
Layers Switch: 01h:13m:10s

Extra Extras:
  1. You Know Who Your Friends Are Music Video
  2. Backstage Footage
  3. Concert Montage
  4. Loose Screw Commercial
Extras Review: Even if all that had been included was the performance, I still would have been sold, but a sprinkling of bonuses are a nice touch, including an old-school life-on-the-road music video for You Know Who Your Friends Are, a much-too-brief backstage peek highlighted by Hynde and Chamber's musings about on-tour excitement; a concert montage, which is virtually another music video in itself; and a not-so-shameless plug for the Loose Screw CD.

Extras Grade: B-


Final Comments

Unlike some of their contemporaries, The Pretenders continue to bypass the Middle of the Road, much to the joy of pure rock and roll faithful everywhere. Pretenders: Loose In L.A. is the equivalent of a celebratory career respective rave-up, minus the schmaltz, with newer material that doesn't embarrass. Combined with a stellar technical presentation, it's one of the year's best in-concert DVD's.


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