The Pretty Reckless, Rams Head Live! Baltimore, Maryland, USA, November 18, 2016
I’ve always loved The Pretty Reckless… all the way back to their early days with their first album, “Light Me Up”. The band faced a lot of criticism back in those days, as so many people wouldn’t take them seriously because the lead singer Taylor Momsen was coming from a successful acting career. And I understand the skepticism to some degree… as today’s music market is flooded with actors that want to take a “stab” at musical stardom… often with little to no actual musical ability. But what all the early critics seemed to fail to notice, is that Taylor really has an amazing voice and phenomenal songwriting ability! Fortunately, the quality of the band’s music and live performances convinced millions of fans to look past the critics, and The Pretty Reckless has steadily grown a large faithful following. The band’s following grew even more with their second full length studio album; the hard hitting “Going to Hell”, which brought a lot more of the hard rock and metal fans into the fold.
The Pretty Reckless is currently touring their third studio album; “Who You Selling For” … and in my opinion… this is their best album to date. It is also their most diverse album to date. Although the heavier songs and the slower ballads are still there, the entire album has a much more bluesy feeling than their previous releases. Everything about this album seems to have taken it all up a notch. There is a much larger focus on Ben Phillips guitar talents and the album is full of impressive riffs and solos. Taylor Momsen really shows off her range of vocal abilities with both hard hitting and soulful lyrics that at times are reminiscent of musical greats Janis Joplin and Aretha Franklin. The album is different, and may give some of their fans pause, but the music is infectious and I think it will ultimately please their current fans and hopefully gain them an even wider and diverse following.
It has been over two years since I saw The Pretty Reckless live, and… especially after hearing their new album… I could not wait to see them on this tour! The most local show to me was at the newly remodeled Rams Head Live! In Baltimore Maryland. There were two support bands on the roster that evening, the first of which was a three-piece rock band from Orange County, California called Them Evils. The band put on a lively show of mostly original songs. They also performed two pretty awesome covers of AC/DC’s “It’s a Long Way to the Top”, and Motorhead’s “Ace of Spades”, which the crowd really enjoyed. Them Evils were very lively on stage with frequent head banging and lots rock and roll attitude. The band was musically good with a strong underlying groove to their music. I enjoyed their set and thought it was a good start to the evening.
Next up was the Holy White Hounds, a four-piece rock band from America’s heartland (Des Moines, Iowa). They play an aggressive style of alternative rock that fit in well with the rest of the bands on this tour. Like the band before them, they gave the audience a set of hard hitting rock songs with a lot of style and flair. The guitarists were especially animated with lots of leaps and low to the ground rock star poses. I hadn’t heard of them before, but I liked the overall tone and style of the songs. The rest of the audience seemed to enjoy their set as well, as there were lots of cheers and head banging.
By the time The Pretty Reckless hit the stage the venue was packed with screaming and cheering fans. The guitarist, Ben Phillips came out on stage before the show to whip the crowd up even more and throw out a few T-shirts. Then the lights went down, the crowd roared, and the show began! What followed was an incredible performance! The show began with the eerie “Follow Me Down”, followed by the “in your face” crowd favorite “Since You’re Gone”. The music was great and Taylor was in rare form on vocals. There had been some concerns about her current vocal ability, as the band had cancelled a show just three days previously due to Taylor being “very sick”. I have no idea whether or not she was still feeling the effects of the illness, but if she was, you certainly couldn’t tell! I thought her voice was stunning and she was more animated on stage than I have ever seen her. Like many rock stars of old, Taylor still uses a corded mic and uses the cord as a very effective stage prop… frequently whipping it across and around the stage for added visual effect. The lights were dark with use of colored rotating spotlights to create an otherworldly effect, similar to the previous Going to Hell tour.
The show continued with the energetic and angry “Oh My God” from their new album. The audience seemed very familiar with the new music as there was a lot of singing along despite the album having just been released a couple of weeks ago. This was followed by the haunting song “Hangman” also from the new record. “Make Me Want to Die”, the band’s first song and ever popular crowd favorite took us back into more familiar territory and the audience roared with approval. This was followed by “My Medicine”, the only other song from the band’s debut album. The very bluesy “Prisoner” and the alt-rock “Living in the Storm”, two additional stunning songs from the new release, were played about mid set. Also played med set were “Sweet Things” and “Heaven Knows” from the “Going to Hell” album.
I figured we were getting close to the end of the show when the song “Going to Hell” was played. The title track from the band’s second album is always a crowd pleaser with Taylor whipping the mic out over the crowd so the audience can sing the chorus. The final song of the main set was the stunning “Take Me Down”… a narrative style song from the new release that pays tribute to the days when it was rumored that artists had to travel to “the crossroads” to sell their soul to the devil in order to be successful in the music industry. The band then left the stage and the screaming crowd for a few minutes before returning for their only encore: “Fucked Up World”. As usual, this song was broken up to allow the band’s drummer, Jamie Perkins, to entertain us with a drum solo!
Every time I see The Pretty Reckless live, they just seem to get better and better. They certainly put on a phenomenal show on this night. My only complaint was that their set was short… only 80 minutes or so. There are certainly a lot of older classics that they could have played, but I am slowly getting used to the fact that shorter sets are becoming the norm these days, instead of the 2 hr+ sets that we used to get in days past. I was really grateful, though, that we got to heard so many of the new songs, which all sounded great live. The North American tour winds up in early December, before the band heads across the pond for their European tour in January and February. Catch this show if you can! Trust me…. you don’t want to miss it!!