Saturday, February 19, 2011

L.A. and Scottsdale Concerts Reviews!

The Pretty Reckless Live at The El Rey
Los Angeles, Ca.

It would be fairly simple to dismiss Taylor Momsen’s The Pretty Reckless as yet another actress/ model effort, ala Julliette Lewis, that feels compelled to pick up guitar and become a singer. It would be just as easy to dismiss Momsens efforts as RockStar Barbie turned up to eleven. Neither would be true.

I had seen The Pretty Reckless about a year ago when the played the Key Club in Hollywood for a brief set during the Warped Tour Kickoff Party. That set intrigued me - there seemed to be a ton of potential there, obviously enough that they gained Kevin Lyman’s ear for booking them on Warped Tour, but there was also something obviously missing. You could see glimpses of what you expected from a emerging Warped Tour band yet something was not there. Most there that night just wrote it off to the crowd not wanting to engage for anyone but the party headliner, Andrew WK.

Friday night at the El Rey was a different story. I’m not sure if it was the same Taylor Momsen on initially heard on the Sunset Strip that night last year. This girl brought a different attitude to the show last night. Seemingly struggling with her in ear monitors thru the first half of the show, she found her pace in the last half - not that the crowd would have noticed since they went completely ballistic for every number.

Channeling her own Nancy Wilson from Heart ( look it up, it’s worth it), Momsen put it all in for “Mix My Medicine” making it easily the strongest of her original material. Not only did Momsen seem to give some of her soul to this one, so did her band, that for the most part seemed to be along for the ride. Momsen’s voice sounded more mature, more sultry (can I say about a seventeen year old ! ) than any other number before it. Momsen played along with the band, albiet with what looked simple chords, but none the less, with a guitar in her hand she seemed to be finding pace with what the crowd wanted.

Without a doubt though, Momsen, the band and the venue hit on all cylinders with a cover of Audioslave’s genius “Like A Stone”. With the band adding a bit of twang to the bassline, and Momsen finding some inner rage, she made this classic into something a bit more than a cover, a cover with her own stamp on it. This is where the crowd who was not there because of the Gossip Girl / corset and thigh highs attraction started to get that this girl has got the range, reach and want to make music her first entry in the “musician/actress/model” listing on her Zed cards.

Looking back at the whole performance, it seems Momsn’s at a crossroads of sorts - she’s got the lungs to go head to head with Courtney Love, she’s got way more talent than most “actress/model singers”, she’s got the fans in the palm of her hands. Yet, she seems to not engage the audience as much as you would think would come easily for her. As the crowd crushed to get closer to the stage, Momsen seemed to back off a bit, out of the follow spot. Of course, she’s seventeen - she’s got years of character shaping to go thru, dozens of bandmates and more likely an artistic directional change or two before she’s twentyfive. Maybe the lack of a pit, with no security between her and the fans, made her wary. Maybe the actress/model persona has a very strong grasp on her persona and movements on stage. Maybe it’s simply that it’s the opening night of a tour for a new release and she’s find her pace. We got a ton of “pretty” from Taylor at the El Rey, let’s see a bit more “reckless”.

Momsen is the band, and the band is Momsen. There is no doubt about that - from the mix, from the lighting, from the interactions with the crowd. This is Momsen’s band. And overall, the performance was yet another glimpse, more fully formed, at what has the potential to be a legitimate female rock vocalist who can blister the walls with the best of them. She entertained the crowd, gave them what they came for and most did not walk away lacking - by no means or measure was it a bad show. I left thinking I can’t wait to see what another tour teaches Momsen and band, and how much stronger they’ll be for it.

From the two performances I have seen, Taylor Momsen is progressing quite nicely, and is well on track to losing the “model/actress” monikor and be Taylor Momsen, lead vocalist of the rock band The Pretty Reckless. There’s a lot to like with Momsen and her musical peformance, and there seems to be even more to come. If you like your rock and roll raw, keep an eye on her and her band.

​The Pretty Reckless - February 14, 2011 - Martini Ranch
(photo by Nicki Escudero)

Gossip Girl star Taylor Momsen told the crowd at Martini Ranch Monday night her band The Pretty Reckless almost canceled their show because her voice was completely shot. For the devoted fans in the half-full venue, it's a good thing she didn't. But for a concert reviewer, it's hard to judge muffled vocals, with the remainder of the lyrics being sung by audience members.

That doesn't mean the show wasn't fun. For a band in all-black on Valentine's Day, the mood was actually quite upbeat, since The Pretty Reckless' music is so catchy. The crowd danced and sang along a lot throughout the show, giving a reminder that no matter how mature Momsen might dress, she's still just a 17-year-old like many of the people in the audience. (And, at the concert, she wore a very sheer dress.)

The band came out a half-hour after the stage was set up, causing fans to chant for the group and get restless. The crowd talked about the show on which Momsen appears, before the set, making it seem like many of the fans were there because of the show.

Once the band started playing, though, the audience helped out the scratchy-throated Momsen throughout the set. The band's debut album, Light Me Up, came out only last week, so it was impressive that so many people already knew all the lyrics to the new material.

Momsen wasn't much of a talker, keeping the band's super-short eight-song set to just about a half-hour. Maybe this show was shorter because Momsen is losing her voice, but it was disappointing the concert was so short.
Despite the disappointments, Momsen's stage presence is magnetic. She might have looked messy, with long, light blonde braids sprouting all over her head and lipstick smeared over her lips, but she's gorgeous and engaging. It's so impressive to see such a young lady with so much confidence, and the music speaks for itself.

Before the show, I actually was standing near Momsen, who was smoking cigarettes--maybe not the best idea if you're losing your voice. If she's going to last in this business, she needs to stay focused on writing great music and taking care of her health -- not partying or smoking, which seemed a little hypocritical since there is no way smoking could have benefited her. Maybe if she starts taking her work more seriously, critics who chastise her might, too.

Critic's Notebook:
Personal Bias:
I'm a huge fan of the band and named their self-titled EP one of my favorite discs of 2010.
The Crowd: Mostly underagers, mostly girls, a few gay guys and miserable-looking boyfriends.
Overheard in the crowd: "OMG, it's Little J!"
Random Notebook Dump: I said, "Good luck" to Momsen before her show, and she said, "Thanks." Heck, that's more than some artists would say to random strangers.

Set List:
Since You're Gone
Light Me Up
Miss Nothing
Just Tonight
Make Me Wanna Die
Factory Girl


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