The stage is what makes or breaks a band. There are no do-overs, no overdubs, no ProTools to iron out those imperfections. It’s just you, your songs, and (especially if you’re an opening band) an audience to win over.
The Pretty Reckless, who’ve been doing this since 2009, know the score, especially when they’re playing to fans as rabid as Stone Sour’s. So, no time for ballads like You and House On The Hill. Instead, the 50-minute opening set is packed with a succession of their heaviest songs, each performed with a matter of life or death intensity rarely attained on their studio albums.
The ringing of church bells sets the tone as the quartet muscle their way into the savage Follow Me Down, which makes the most of Taylor Momsen’s classic rock rasp and guitarist Ben Phillips’ ability to lay down riffs of Tony Iommi proportions. Since You’re Gone, built on another Birmingham-circa-1970 grind, has Momsen prowling across the stage looking every bit the vintage rock star in her black leather trench coat.
Oh My God, which on current album Who You Selling For? contains traces of Motörhead, sounds even more aggressive tonight, with drummer Jamie Perkins and bassist Mark Damon earning their keep, while Phillips’ solo channels the Judas Priest twin-guitar attack of KK Downing and Glenn Tipton.
Momsen, who sings and headbangs with equal ferocity, gets a slight breather on the sludgy, menacing Hangman, before the bluesy stomp of Prisoner pushes the singer to her knees and her sultry vocals to the limit. Debut single Make Me Wanna Die, which borders on ‘80s heavy metal tonight, turns the Brixton Academy into a sea of chanting as the singer incites hysteria with a few choice words, some gesturing, and an outthrust microphone.
Sweet Things, which begins with the spoken introduction to Peter And The Wolf, is all thrashing guitars and belted vocals, except for two quieter interludes where the barnstormer becomes an emotional duet between Momsen and Phillips.
Heaven Knows, cut from the same cloth as Hangman, is big on soulful vocals, handclaps, and a monster beat, while a fire and brimstone Going To Hell is fittingly accompanied by thousands of hands raised in the classic devil horns gesture as Momsen, in full banshee mode, leaps across the stage.
She straps on a guitar for the feel-good hard-rock boogie of Take Me Down, which sounds not unlike latter day Marilyn Manson covering a Creedence Clearwater Revival song. It’s a glorious finale from a band who’ve truly laid out their soul on stage, and delivered an earthshaking show in the process.
It does however, seem strange to see The Pretty Reckless playing a support slot on the very Brixton Academy stage that they themselves headlined in storming fashion almost exactly three years ago while promoting second record Going To Hell. But given tonight’s performance, I’m sure they’ll be itching to take back the top slot again before too long.
Live review of The Pretty Reckless @ Brixton Academy by Nils van der Linden on 4th December 2017.
Photos by Kalpesh Patel. Kalpesh has more music photography up on his flickr stream here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/somethingforkate