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The Pretty Reckless @ Manchester Academy review – a night of ‘Gossip Girl’ rock

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Featured image and gallery: Joseph Hylton

The Pretty Reckless returned to our shores for the first time in five years this October. Playing what some would define as a Greatest Hits set of modern rock hits, Manchester Academy is packed to the rafters with people waiting to hear the latest from the New York outfit and their recent release Death By Rock and Roll.

Warming up the crowd are British rock band The Cruel Knives. Consisting of Sid Glover (guitarist) and Rob Ellershaw (bassist) of Heavens Basement fame, alongside Al Junior and Tom Harris (drums and vocals). The quartet are musically akin to the main act, with high-energy riffs and a dynamic rhythm section pummeling the speakers with Harris’s raspy, bluesy voice – the eye of the storm throughout.

Sounding like Royal Blood with extra members meets Guns N Roses, their onstage style oozes ‘Cool Britannia’. Tunes, ‘Black Eye Friday’ and ‘Hollow People’ excite and groove, while the new single ‘Overdose’ demonstrates sheer range with huge Alice In Chains-style guitars.

These guys know what they’re doing, and the crowd laps it up. They are fine musicians whose craft reflects in an expansive collection of music. As a guitarist, I could watch Sid Glover play all night, he fits the mould of a consummate rock guitarist. Slinky guitar playing, infused with bluesy guitar solos, it almost feels like half an hour is too short to let him indulge as a player.

The closing song, ‘Crawl,’ finishes proceedings with a prolonged breakdown allowing a crescendo of every last bit of energy. If there’s any justice in this world, these guys will be back in the same room headlining not too long from now.

With the opening act wrapped up, the room is hitting peak capacity in time for the main event. When the lights go down, and the intro tape starts to play, the room explodes with deafening screams and cheers. Very rarely have I heard a reception this loud (the last time was Harry Styles), and this applause does not let up. Silence is at a premium, every break is treated to rapturous applause, and the band takes every moment to take it in, even using it to dramatic effect in the middle of a few songs. 

Kicking off proceedings with ‘Death By Rock And Roll’, The Pretty Reckless blaze a trail through the light of adoring masses. Early favourites ‘Only Love Can Save Me Now’ and ‘Make Me Wanna Die’ hit hard, and ‘And So It Went’’s protest chorus comes dangerously close to spilling out onto the street and marching down the road. The pace doesn’t ever really let up in the first half; the crowd laps up every bit of ‘Since You’re Gone’ and ‘Goin’ Down’. The material is spread out evenly across all of their catalogue of releases, with a little something for everyone.

A career in acting is the best preparation for a life on stage, and Taylor Momsen is the best example. She commands the stage with ease and keeps the audience eating straight out of the palm of her hand. With a powerful voice not too dissimilar from Chris Cornell and Layne Staley, all eyes are on her.

While Taylor may be the star of the show, it is not without credit to her band.  Ben Phillips (guitar), Jamie Perkins (drums) and Mark Damon (bass) match the vocal fireworks at every turn and are each given their time to shine. Whether it’s on ‘Heaven Knows’, giving Phillips a chance to stretch his fingers across the fretboard or a ten-minute drum solo in ‘Fucked Up World’ with all the interludes and whistles, this is a band that thrives on playing live.

‘Witches Burn’ is the midpoint of the show, the floor is shaking from the AC/DC-like stomp. ‘My Medicine’ revels in whiskey-soaked clap ‘Alongs’ and ‘Going To Hell’ has the room seeing red. With a final trio of ‘Heaven Knows’, ‘Take Me Down’ and ‘Fucked Up World’ elevating the room to chaos, this is a night of singalongs that, long after the band left the stage, some of the audience doesn’t want to end. The Pretty Reckless is a divine live prospect, and it was a night well-spent singing along to some of the greatest Modern Rock classics.

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James Swindell

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