It was later than the advertised door time as I pulled up alongside Rock City on this November Monday night. I know The Pretty Reckless have a good size following but I was still surprised just how long the line waiting for doors stretched back, snaking round the corner and across a side street. Doors opened bang on seven and the fans streamed in to find the best spots, in no time at all the floor was filled and jostling for good spots at the periphery got underway. Opening act Nothing More came onstage to a fairly lacklustre cheer from a few of the fans, like me this could very well be the first time many of us have heard of them.
Originally from San Antonio, Texas and formed in 2003 Nothing More describe themselves as Alternative/Progressive rock. Before the lights came up I had noticed, in fact could not miss, the huge floor tom drum which was positioned right at the front of the stage. Sure enough as they came out singer Jonny Hawkins was carrying drumsticks and cast an impressive figure as he started to beat out an intro on that drum. The band hit us with quality tight guitar work backed by chunky bass lines and pounding double kick drum beats. By song two Jonny was standing on the floor tom (I said it was big, right) singing hard into the mic to an already warming crowd.
Only a few songs into their set and the progressive influences came right out as a contraption was brought out that was designed to hold a guitar at about a 45 degree angle over centre stage. During that song all four band members were playing it at the same time, but far from being as bad as it sounds, it worked. I also saw the lead guitar solo played up against a mic for some interesting melodies. Opening slots are always tough but there is no question that Nothing More won this crowd (including me) over with their slightly offbeat brand of alternative heavy rock – certainly a band I will see again.
During the quick changeover the crowd in Rock City has swelled considerably, and the venue looks close to capacity as the next act take to the stage. From the cheers and shouts coming from the floor it’s clear a good number of them are here for UK hard rock quartet Heavens Basement.
Opening with ‘Welcome Home’ Heavens Basement power right on into the territory of balls to the wall hard rock that they are known for. The rhythm section with Chris Rivers on drums and Rob Ellershaw on Bass is a perfect thundering backline for the under rated soaring guitar work of Sid Glover. On vocals Aaron Buchanan drives the relentless energy machine that this band have become and the punch into ‘Can’t Let Go’ then ‘Fire Fire’. Early in the set he asks for the front lights to come up so he can see everyone punch their fists in the air, and front to back fists in the air is the spectacle he saw!
Mid Set saw them ‘I am Electric’ and by now even the stalwart front row (who were there for the headline) had their hands in the air and were singing along with everyone else! Throughout the set we saw Chris & Rob standing on boxes right at the front of the stage laying down immense riffs and bass while Aaron was bouncing off both of them nailing the vocals, definately making this the best set I have heard them play to date.
Such is Buchanan’s ability to bring a crowd together, combined with the powerhouse that is Sid Glovers solid guitar work, that this felt like it could have been the headline act. As Heavens Basement left the stage I can’t help but think The Pretty Reckless have one hell of an act to follow.
Can’t Let Go
I Am Electric
Only a little bit later than expected background music fades out, to be replaced by screams and whoops of anticipation for the headline act. The lights drop completely allowing the band to take positions on stage as the intro of the 2014 ‘Going to Hell’ album begins. Taylor stands holding the mic with her head bowed throughout the intro, then in unison the lights come up and the band break into ‘Follow Me Down’. The eruption from the audience as Taylor starts to sing is not quite enough to drown out the chunky bass riffs, but my ears certainly will remember that for a few days to come!
The sound tonight is absolutely spot on with punchy yet clear bass from Mark Damon and superb nimble fingered lead from Ben Phillips combining to make that edgy sound that is The Pretty Reckless. Taylor Momsen is belting out pitch perfect vocals that could easily be laid down as studio tracks, but for the crowd singing along to the early tracks including ‘Miss Nothing’ and ‘Dear Sister’.
I really enjoyed the ‘Going to Hell’ album so had been looking forward to this show for a while. I have to confess having just come through a Heavens Basement set I was feeling a little underwhelmed by the showmanship of Taylor and the band during these first songs. Don’t get me wrong, the live performance was very good, very good, but it took a full nine songs before Taylor actually spoke to the audience rather than sing. The atmosphere in the venue was still as electric as earlier sets but that was a combination of the crowd and music, and not due to any engagement from the band. I appreciate some people are more interested in hearing their favourite songs played perfectly, but as a hard rock and metal fan I found the start of this show felt a bit cold.
It was after angst anthem ‘Shotgun to the Party’ that Taylor talked to the audience, saying that Rock City was the biggest venue they have headlined in the UK and that she was excited to be here. This was met with another wall of screams and things did start to warm up a bit now as well. Next up was ‘Make Me Wanna Die’ and this is where the band really started to shine, lining the front of the stage as they powered through one of their best known tracks. The crowd have their fists in the air and sing the lyrics back to Taylor as she holds the mic out to them, and for the first time it looks like the band are really enjoying the show too. So much so, in fact, that Taylor misses a cue and after a bit of a giggle finishes the song ending with ‘Well that was fucking awesome!’
For the final two tracks it feels like a there is a different band is playing up there now than opened the set. With the front lights on Taylor and the crowd are clapping in unison to the acoustic intro of ‘Heaven Knows’ until the sounding of a school bell signals it’s time for the crowd to go wild as the song kicks in! Taylor steps back to let Damon and Phillips showcase their extensive guitar skills before firing the opening riffs for ‘Going to Hell’. The crowd went wild again and maintained this throughout the final track of the main set, which ended abruptly and with the lights dropping completely again.
Even though the house lights stayed down, and with the thundering of feet stamping and people chanting Taylors name, people were leaving. I overheard more than one person saying ‘She won’t come back out’ which is unfortunately a reflection on how aloof Taylor had been for two thirds of the set. It was, however, their loss. As she did indeed come out and do a further three songs of utterly electrifying encore.
The Pretty Reckless left me with mixed feelings. Overall, however, I will focus on the positive. There is no question the music was excellent played live, it sounded was great and the atmosphere in a near sold out Rock City was electric all night. Once Taylor got warmed up it really felt like a great rock show.
Follow Me Down
Since You’re Gone
House on a Hill
Why’d You Bring a Shotgun to the Party
Make Me Wanna Die
Going to Hell
Fucked Up World