The Pretenders – With Friends Blu-ray Review


Chrissie Hynde Still Rocks With The Help of a Few Guests

The Pretenders have had classic albums and hit singles in a career that now spans decades. Led by charismatic singer and front-woman Chrissie Hynde, one of the most recognizable voices in rock music, they have topped the charts on both sides of the Atlantic since the days of punk and new wave. Still going after all these years, Cleopatra Records gives us an exciting concert performance from the 2000s in The Pretenders – With Friends.

The 2006 concert sees an energized Hynde and the band doing a show with several acts popular at the time, including Kings of Leon and Incubus. Shirley Mansion of Garbage and Iggy Pop also make appearances as guest singers. The Pretenders are in top form as they belt out their hits and the guests step up to match that level. It was recorded live at the Decades Rock Arena in Atlantic City, NJ.

The special musical guests usually perform one of their own songs and also perform a second song in duet with Chrissie Hynde. Mixed into the concert’s track listing are familiar hits by the Pretenders like “Back On The Chain Gang” and “Mystery Achievement.”

Chrissie Hynde’s unique voice is nearly as strong as ever on Pretenders’ classics

As someone only vaguely familiar with Kings of Leon and Incubus before this show, the guests provide lively performances that mesh well with the Pretenders and their music. One wild moment happens when Kings of Leon join the stage, resulting in five different guitar players at once. Iggy Pop prances around the stage like he’s been doing since the 1970s with the Stooges.

There are definite stand-out performances. The concert closes with a “Middle Of The Road” super-group performance featuring The Pretenders with Iggy Pop, Incubus, Kings Of Leon, and Shirley Manson. Shirley Manson belts out Garbage’s first hit “I’m Only Happy When It Rains” in grand style. It’s amazing how Chrissie Hynde vocally keeps up with the younger acts. Despite being in her 50s, Hynde’s unique voice is nearly as strong as ever on Pretenders’ classics like “Brass In Pocket.”

Having been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame back in 2005, the Pretenders have firmly etched their place in rock history. More amazing is how Hynde and the group still have it in this vibrant concert and deliver the goods, helped out by a few worthwhile friends. Fans may quibble over which Pretenders’ songs made the cut, but this is a fun concert providing repeat value.

Video

The interlaced 1080i presentation is framed at 1.78:1. The concert runs 65 minutes, encoded in serviceable AVC on a BD-25. Released by Cleopatra through distributor MVD Visual, The Pretenders – With Friends offers an adequate HD experience. It’s an older production just now seeing the light of day on Blu-ray, so keep that in mind. This is only the third concert by the Pretenders to see Blu-ray.

Filmed in 2006, when HD cameras were still in their infancy, this isn’t the sharpest picture quality with top-notch definition. Shadow delineation is weak and black levels occasionally crush. Audience shots look dreadful, thankfully few of which are included. The concert direction is ordinary in scope, preferring a few direct angles of the stage and performers. A chaotic blend of flashing lights and video displays behind the performers set the venue.

Audio

Cleopatra Records keeps putting out these musical releases in lossy audio quality, a mark against their Blu-rays. The audio options include a perfunctory 5.1 surround mix in Dolby Digital and companion stereo track in 2.0 Dolby Digital. The only lossless audio in this set is found on the included live CD. It’s very questionable in 2019 to leave off lossless audio for a concert on Blu-ray.

The live concert performance offers decent separation across the front soundstage. This is not a highly active mix but one that delivers a cohesive group performance with clearly delineated instruments. It’s a clean recording that mostly pushes crowd noise towards the rear. A crunchy guitar tone and energetic mid-bass create adequate LFE. The levels aren’t too hotly mastered and there’s no clipping.

No subtitles are included.

Extras

MVD Visual distributes this three-disc digipack from Cleopatra Records, sized and shaped more for the music market than home video. Besides the feature Blu-ray, a DVD and CD are included. The sixteen-track CD is actually the only way to hear this concert recording in lossless fidelity and replicates the same track listing from the video feature.

A small booklet with song credits and photos from the concert is included. It’s a neat physical package for fans of the Pretenders. The video supplements aren’t terribly exciting but better than nothing.

Slideshow (02:26 in HD) – A series of images from the concert as “Back On The Chain Gang” plays.

Trailer (04:02 in HD)

Decades Rock Confidential (All in HD) – A series of brief bonus interviews with all the performers speaking together in the same group setting, hosted by Barry Summers. There are seven clips in all, most running a little over one minute. Participants include Chrissie Hynde, Shirley Mansion, Kings of Leon, Incubus, and Iggy Pop discussing how they met the Pretenders or some of their influences.

Cleopatra Trailers (SD) – Johnny Thunders, Todd Rundgren’s Utopia, Joe Louis Walker’s Viva Las Vegas, Culture Club’s Live At Wembley, and Jane’s Addiction’s Alive At 25.

Concert Track Listing:

The Wait
The Losing
Back In The Chain Gang
Talk Of The Town
I’m Only Happy When It Rains With Shirley Manson
Day After Day
The Bucket with Kings Of Leon
Up The Neck
Drive with Incubus
Message Of Love
Precious
Fools Must Die
Candy with Iggy Pop
Mystery Achievement
Brass In Pocket
Middle Of The Road

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

The Pretenders - With Friends
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
4

Movie

Chrissie Hynde and The Pretenders still have it in this 2006 concert as guests like Incubus and Iggy Pop contribute.

Sending
User Review
4 (1 vote)

The 15 unaltered images below represent the Blu-ray. For an additional 15 Pretenders – With Friends screenshots, early access to all screens (plus the 30,000+ already in our library), 75+ exclusive 4K UHD reviews, and more, support us on Patreon.