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The Pretty Reckless? More like The Pretty Sweatfest… Live in Sydney 27.2.12

The Pretty Reckless

Live At The Wall at The Bald Faced Stag

Photo: Kierra Thorn

Taylor Momsen & co certainly know how to keep their fans in hot suspense.

A group of around thirty line up early along Parramatta Road, Leichardt, in black boots, singlets and tights long before 5pm. Much of early arrivals are girls that should probably be in school and tamely imitate the provocative style of The Pretty Reckless’ frontwoman, the barely legal Taylor Momsen, whose penchant for garters, tip jar platforms, raccoon eye makeup and revealing outfits both onstage and off has driven her rise to prominence. As the line grows nearing 7:30, when the gig is set to start, the strip becomes a hibernation ground for cigarettes and wannabe rockers as a brunette struts into line in five inch heels and thigh high stockings.

Heroes For Hire takes to the stage at 8:30, after a long wait. The sound is more than decent and screaming with potential, but even despite frontman Brad Smith’s plea of  “I’m not even asking you to sing. Just fucking dance,” the crowd refuses to go further than polite head bobbing and cheers as they stand through several songs waiting for what they came here for – The Pretty Reckless.

Photo: Australian Horror Story (Tumblr)

It is a debilitating 45-minute wait in a hot room with ineffective fans as the crowd almost lies on top of each other, ready to pass out. It isn’t long before the calls of “Tay-lor! Tay-lor!” are replaced with “Water! Water!” and bottles are passed through the crowd to rehydrate in preparation for the main act. Finally, nearing 10pm, the band coolly climbs on stage, Momsen immediately belting out the lyrics to the angst-ridden “Since You’re Gone”.

Photo: Australian Horror Story (Tumblr)

Momsen’s legitimacy as a rock star has been debated since she first branched out on the rock music scene in 2009. After all, the image of the sweet and naive Little J, whom Momsen played on Gossip Girl until recently, remains in the minds of many sceptics. But with her strong rock vocals and lead guitarist Ben Phillips, bassist Mark Damon and drummer Jamie Perkins in tow, the quartet successfully convey a classic rock sound, most evident when the band covers The White StripesSeven Nation Army” halfway through the set. Momsen brings a sensual, female twist to the iconic song, while the underlying riff, piercing guitar solo and drum beats create an other-worldly rock and roll KISS feel. If there is ever a time to buy Momsen’s hardcore image, this is it.

Photo: Australian Horror Story (Tumblr)

The atmosphere of the show is claustrophobic, suffocating, exciting and repulsive all at once. Each person’s sweat drips on one another, causing half the girls in the crowd to go topless by the end of the gig (or maybe they were just energised by Momsen’s sexual appeal – she does, after all, invite all the “lovely ladies” to strip down to their bras). While she encourages the crowd to get rowdy, she teasingly refuses to do so herself. As a guy yells at Momsen to “take your top off”, bass player Mark replies defensively, “You take your top off!”. For a moment, you remember that Taylor is merely eighteen, and despite the mature image she aims to portray (she just did a photoshoot for FHM), she is still a teenager and young, not unlike her Gossip Girl character.

Photo: Kierra Thorn

The lack of oxygen in the air is exhausting but the passion of the crowd is so immense that most are oblivious to the litres of human sweat and bruises being inflicted on everyone. The concert is fast-paced and routine-like, Momsen breezing through the songs like she is somewhat tired and would rather seek refuge at home (or in her case, the tour bus).

Photo: Australian Horror Story (Tumblr)

The crowd is small and barely reaches 150 (the tiny room, which could be mistaken for the dance floor of a school formal, is not even filled 50%), but that’s what makes this group so fierce – each and every person in the crowd is a die-hard fan and enthusiastically chants the lyrics to all the hits, from the reckless “Miss Nothing” to the Romeo and Juliet-inspired tragic love song “Make Me Wanna Die”. Throughout the set, there is pushing and shoving so aggressive you’d think it was a Disturbed gig. At the end of the night I find myself squashed in a corner on the right-hand side of the stage, nearing the back of the crowd, despite having been previously in the middle of the third row.

Photo: Alise McNabb

The final song, “Nothing Left To Lose”, is played acoustically as the encore, its melancholic vibe bring the show to a satisfying close. However, with only ten songs played overall and the energy of the audience at an all-time high, the crowd is left both buzzing and disillusioned with the feeling that things had just been getting started.

The Pretty Reckless’ new EP, Hit Me Like A Man, was released on March 6 and they are now touring North America on The Medicine Tour.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ 1/2

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