Middling rock for teenage tastes, Flora reflects back on The Pretty Reckless’ “lacklustre” Glasgow gig.
If you watch the 2001 adaption of The Grinch this Christmas and find yourself wondering, “I wonder where that wee girl who played Cindy Lou-Who is now?”, let me spoil the surprise early: she is the lead singer in a hard rock band. When my teenage self googled this in the early 2010s it was transformative. Discovering actress-turned-musician Taylor Momsen’s band The Pretty Reckless resulted in me listening to their first album Light Me Up on repeat and wearing their merch (adorned with a nearly-naked Momsen) around school. So, while the When We Were Young festival, and the return of Paramore, has all the grown-adults who never truly grew out of their emo phase squealing with excitement, I had The Pretty Reckless’ recent concert at the Barrowlands to indulge my nostalgia.
And they give the crowd every reason to be excited about it. The concert opens with the sounds of a thunderstorm, the dramatic opening chords of Death by Rock and Roll, and Momsen emerging from the wings, head slung like a bleach-blonde Samara from The Ring. All of this should have the crowd buzzing with anticipation…but it doesn’t. With each passing song, it becomes clear that there will be barely any energy or movement, let alone any mosh pits. And the more you look around, the stranger it is: everyone is wearing jackets and tour t-shirts, so this is not an inexperienced audience. But there’s no way around it: this is one of the most sedate crowds I have ever seen at a rock concert.
Oh well, sometimes there just isn’t any synergy in the audience, and there’s nothing the band could have done. And it’s not like they are putting on a bad show: every song is solidly performed and has an element of theatricality. Even so, there is an impression that they are holding back. None of the songs feels like an event, and worst of all it is like we are watching them running through a routine. That becomes especially obvious in the inter-song banter. “We heard you guys are the craziest crowd in all of…Scotland!” Momsen bellows, pausing noticeably before the last word as she remembers where exactly she is. To give her the benefit of the doubt, this probably has more to do with weighing up the whether to say the UK or Britain instead, but for all intents and purposes she may as well have said “[INSERT COUNTRY NAME HERE]”.
Audience pandering is a constant at gigs, but very rarely is the insincerity this transparent. And the songs, fun as they are, are not strong enough on their own. There are some highlights: Since You’ve Been Gone is cathartically to-the-point in that it makes you want to kick stuff while thinking about your ex. But for the most part, the songwriting is painfully obvious, and the lyrics are so riddled with cliches about sex, drugs and rock and roll that they become the musical equivalent of clipart. And that would be all well and good, music doesn’t have to cater to sophisticated tastes to be worthy or make for a good concert, but the flaws in the songwriting are all the more noticeable in such a lacklustre atmosphere. The result is a concert that gives you very little to hold on to in the memory, except a maybe mental note to give them a miss when you see them on a festival lineup.