Remember, remember, the 5th of November. When rockstars roamed and shots were downed. Well, at least that’s how many London studded snarlers will remember the event as The Pretty Reckless took to Brixton Academy on bonfire night this year. The final UK shows of their world Death By Rock And Roll tour, the Taylor Momsen-fronted band came to the capital with bounds of sold-out gigs already under their soot-swept wings.
The Pretty Reckless – Brixton Academy – 5 November 2022
Words: Monty Sewell
Photography: Mariam Osman
To make things even more tantalising, The Pretty Reckless dropped a compilation album literally the day before. So as well as a great show, I was fully expecting to see an indirect competition between fans as to who had listened to it and who had not.
Approaching the Academy, it’s the first time I’ve seen the end of the queue to get in, rearing right by the entrance. In other words, the – again – sold-out night means the long line of rockers actually snakes right around the entire block. And from the looks of it, The Pretty Reckless aren’t just one of the hottest bands around but an institution stood strong at the forefront of keeping rock alive for the younger generations.
The Cruel Knives
Stepping inside the venue, support act, The Cruel Knives are just getting started. The British four-piece are an immediate aesthetic suitability. An enthralling dark image with a riff-laden, Metal tinge lurking behind their music, The Cruel Knives smash their 30-minute set. New Single Overdose is particularly ensnaring as well as Hollow People, Black Eye Friday and wrap-up song Crawl. For anyone looking to get down and dirty whilst wailing at the top of their lungs, The Cruel Knives is the gig for you. They’ve definitely got a new fan here.
The Pretty Reckless
After a smash-out ending to an adoring crowd, The Cruel Knives praise their thanks and leave the stage. Positioned in a rare open squat to the right, I notice people just keep filtering in. Hungry eyes are hunting for sneaky routes to the front of the stage. Black leather, black eye shadow, big hair and chains crowd in with a pre-show energy I haven’t seen in a while. The Pretty Reckless backdrop comes down, and they cheer. The guitar technician soundchecks and they cheer. A random person walks across the stage to check instrument positioning, and they cheer. Handing out 15 seconds of fame left, right and centre this lot. But dammit, the excitement was well-placed.
Before the audience starts to literally hyperventilate, The Pretty Reckless arrive. Accompanying Momsen are the usual Ben Philips on guitar, Mark Damon on bass and Jamie Perkins on drums. The power force quartet have been together for just over ten years, so to get anything other than a razor-sharp, tight-as-hell set would be a letdown.
Opening with Death By Rock And Roll, it’s a fire-cracking start as Momsen bounds into view dressed in her trademark silk cami dress, oversized black leather jacket and platformed boots. You can certainly see where 80% of the crowd get their style inspiration from.
Only Love Can Save Me Now and And So It Went follow from their tour titled album before they take it back to where it all began with Make Me Wanna Die. The band are superfluously good. Though the main attraction is the vocally virtuoso Momsen, bandmates Philips, Damon, and Perkins never let their standards drop to being just the instrumental backing. Crafted live solos, bass hook throbs, and drum fills galore encase the venue in a full 5D rock and roll experience.
Fan choice Just Tonight gets the expected grand entrance before we take a dip back into the spooky season with Witches Burn and Going To Hell, amongst others. Most of the material is taken from their first 2010 album Light Me Up, and their most recent. But with the lights blacking out dramatically between each song, there’s no drop in the suspense. Momsen conducts her fans with amiable ease, saying just enough with quick, witty quirks in between numbers.
TPR’s audience then puts the studio album take of Heaven Knows to shame, killing off anything that remains of their vocal cords as they yell with each breath, ‘HEAVEN KNOWS WE BELONG WAY DOWN BELOW!’.
Rock and roll once again give us that break from ourselves as we pretend to be Children Of The Dark before heading back to that office job in our very beige lives.
Foo Fighters Learn To Fly is played in tribute to the late great Taylor Hawkins. Though almost every hand was held up with a phone, there wasn’t a single soul who was not present in the moment. They end with Neil Young’s Rockin’ In The Free World and then their own Fucked Up World. Whether that compounding of titles was deliberate or not, it damn well felt relevant.
What. A. Night.
It’s no wonder why The Pretty Reckless seem to be the spearheads of this new age in the everlasting era of rock ‘n’ roll. Ten out of ten musical performances, vocals and showmanship. On the scale of ‘rock-out-ability’ they mark a fine distinction. The only question that remains is whether they’ll be playing stadiums next time they visit. Worth a listen and well worth a watch.