“Loose in L.A: The Pretenders Live at the Wiltern Theatre, February 2003”
Eagle Vision (EVB333849)
By Lee Zimmerman
I’ll be blunt. If anyone were to ask me straight out who I thought best represented the sass and spirit of real rock and roll, The Pretenders would be placed among my top five choices (where, I would note, I’d also have the Who and Tom Petty). Now I can offer my case for affirmation, the remarkable “Loose in L.A,” as brilliant a performance as any in recent memory.
Released in Blu-ray, here’s the perfect case for why a crystal-clear format genuinely makes a difference in a concert documentary. The beads of sweat that glisten on Chrissie Hyde’s countenance, even the hairs on drummer’s Martin Chamber’s flailing arms, give the impression of what it’s like actually being onstage. And for those who aren’t, it’s possible to distinguish the faces in the back of the room as perfectly as those up front.
The backstage footage, shoot with a grainy effect to give the feel of film noir, puts less of an emphasis on clarity, but the candid shots of Hynde and company in their dressing rooms and the band’s pronunciations on the joy of doing what they do for a living, are equally explicit. “Music makes you receptive to the truth,” Chambers says somewhat cryptically. “We’re doing what we’ve always done, but we’re doing it with more conviction.” Bassist Andy Hobson sums things up more succinctly: “I appreciate the fact that I can make a living out of it,” he says simply.
Naturally, the star of the show is still Hynde, who, at age 60, still looks remarkably unchanged from the way she did during the band’s initial incarnation nearly 35 years ago. Still unashamedly androgynous, she pouts and pontificates onstage as an archetypical rocker with photo-perfect moves — the way she struts defiantly through “Precious” provides a perfect case in point — and it finds her perfectly suited for her role as an indelible icon and a dynamic diva at that. “Every night I find something to f**k things up a little bit so no one can ever get too settled,” she says mischievously in one of the backstage interviews.
Still, it’s the music that matters most, and with more than two dozen classic songs spanning past to present, “Loose In L.A.” becomes a veritable celebration of this group’s lingering legacy. A must-view for anyone who considers rock and roll a genuine mantra, this showcase set’s not only impressive, but indispensible as well.