Return to The Pretty Reckless


April 29, 2017

It’s next to impossible to not recognize the ongoing maturation of The Pretty Reckless since their inception as a band.  Both their studio efforts and their live performance continue to evolve from levels capable of simply piquing interest, to degrees where the rock masses and the music industry have been forced to take notice.

The band’s sophomore album, Going to Hell, more than proved that The Pretty Reckless were no longer just some band fronted by Jenny from the TV series Gossip Girl.  The record spawned three hit singles while also laying the initial ground work for the band’s future success.

Taylor Momsen’s fearlessness as a song writer, as well as a front woman, have certainly been a large part of the band’s ongoing transformation, however, a fair amount of credit should also be allotted to the band as a collective.

Ben Phillips (lead guitar), Mark Damon (bass), Jamie Perkins and Momsen herself all deserve praise for not only being willing to take chances but to challenge themselves as musicians on their latest studio release, 2016’s, Who You Selling For, which the band is still out on the road supporting.

The record has already yielded one chart topper, “Take Me Down,” but the more apt takeaway here should probably be the album’s deliberate pacing, musical diversity and the range of ardent emotions that percolate throughout the album.

The Pretty Reckless’ rawness and emotive presence not only assist the band in delivering sublime live performances but they’ve served in part to forge the intense bonds they share with their rabid fan base.

This past week the band played to a sold-out crowd inside the walls of the hallowed Paradise Rock Club.  The venue, situated on Commonwealth Avenue in the belly of Boston University, has been an institution for decades longer than Momsen herself has even been alive.

The Pretty Reckless hit the Paradise stage with a unbending fury, launching those in attendance into an almost immediate state of rock and roll induced hysteria.

The band’s fans have been waiting quite some time to see Momsen and the boys in The Pretty Reckless perform in Beantown. Whether it has been sickness in the band or other unforeseen circumstances, every time The Pretty Reckless has been slated to perform in Boston over the course of the past few years they’ve been forced to cancel.

Momsen even made reference to this condition stating, “Due to a series of mishaps and mistakes we’ve missed this show three years in row.”

What’s even more curious regarding this fact is that both Damon and Perkins hail from New England and the lead singer herself recently even bought a home in the area. Apparently sometimes the rock gods even make it difficult for some home town heroes to make good.

Jump starting the show with material the fans connected with immediately was a wise choice as the crowd response to both “Follow Me Down” and “Since You’re Gone” was beyond palpable.  The band then segued into some of the new record’s material, highlighted by a dark and almost eerie take of the track “Hangman.”

The Pretty Reckless have never been known to be a band that uses too many bells and whistles in terms of their stage production.  Instead raw emotions and the connections they make with the audience individually and as a united front tend to be the band’s preferred weapons of choice.

This bilateral intensity was probably most present inside the Paradise on tracks such as “Heaven Knows,” “Going to Hell” and one of the band’s most recognizable hits, “Take Me Down.”

The simple fact is The Pretty Reckless are just flat out likable and they possess an innate ability to make their fans feel as though they’re part of something much more expansive in scope. The band’s live performance takes this particular sentiment to another level as their concerts almost always come across as these deeply personal endeavors versus being just another requisite stop on a long tour run.

Phillips, whose also Momsen’s song writing partner, provided the Boston crowd some personal insight into the band’s history by sharing an anecdote concerning how the front woman had once called him drunk from Ohio to share a song she had recently penned. Phillips, upon hearing the tune, remembered telling Momsen, “to go fuck herself.”

This quip not only garnered a laugh from Momsen herself but it served as but one of many bonding moments the band and the fans shared throughout the entirety of the performance.

Before riding off into the proverbial rock and roll sunset Momsen, Phillips and Damon would emerge from the shadows of the back stage area following a feverish drum solo by Perkins, one final time.

The lead singer exclaimed to the crowd, “We’re living in crazy times right now and I don’t know what’s going on but it’s a crazy fucked up world.”  This of course being a reference to one of the band’s most beloved tracks, “Fucked Up World,” off of 2014’s, Going to Hell.

Some of the most revered bands in the annals of rock history have followed a certain trajectory in terms of working their way towards an album that goes on to define them for years to come.

Last year French metal stalwarts Gojira did this very thing with the Grammy nominated Magma and this year Atlanta rockers Royal Thunder made a similar statement with the recently released Wick.

Whether or not Who You Selling For ends up providing the same platform for The Pretty Reckless, only time will time. What should not be up for debate, however, is the fact the band continues to evolve both in and outside of the studio and the symbiosis they share with their fans has never been stronger.

The Pretty Reckless’ performance at the Paradise in Boston this past week did nothing but strengthen the notion that if you think you’ve seen the best this band has to offer,  as Judas Priest once said, you’ve got another thing coming.

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All Writing & Photography:  Robert Forte