Loose in L.A.

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Captured on tour for their Loose Screw album, this gig, recorded during one typical show at L.A.'s Wiltern Theater on February 27, 2003, is a vivid and uncluttered document of the band closing in on its third decade. Original members Martin Chambers on drums and ringleader Chrissie Hynde are joined by longtime guitarist Adam Seymour (turning in a stunning performance), bassist Andy Hobson (who sounds fine but looks like he'd rather be doing something else), and keyboardist Zeben Jameson (who gets hardly any camera time). Hynde is her usual feisty self; strutting around the stage like she owns it, brandishing a barely audible electric guitar and introducing the less-familiar songs. She even blurts out "I hate sports!" with no apparent provocation or reason other than she just thought of it. Except for the exclusion of "The Wait," from the set list, this is a well-chosen trawl through the band's extensive back catalog. Seven tracks from the new album share space with the expected hits and some rarities like "Biker" (from 1999's under-heard Viva El Amor) and "The Homecoming," a song originally included only in the G.I. Jane movie and soundtrack. There are no gimmicks, no props, no smoke, fancy lights, or guest stars. Just a great road-tested band churning through a two-hour show with spunk and an obvious appreciation for their dedicated audience. A few missteps are left in, including one false start that Hynde comments will probably be cut for the DVD. It's not, which shows that this group acknowledges their talent and isn't afraid to take chances or even look foolish. Some unnecessary backstage footage and a too brief interview with Hynde are the disc's only extras. Tighter and arguably more exciting than at any time in their 25-year (and counting) career, the Pretenders don't need to rely on anything but their songs and musical skills to prove they are one of the most durable outfits in rock history.