Sunday, October 30, 2022

For The Love of Rock and Roll: The Pretty Reckless Sell Out Manchester Academy

One unusually warm night in October, a mass of rock and roll fans go bump in night lined up in anticipation, forming a massive cue that trekked its way down the street that led to Manchester Academy. The event in question? 

The sold-out show for The Pretty Reckless.  

Fans packed into the Academy, marching straight onto the floor, planting themselves firmly for the evening ahead. The Pretty Reckless’ banner was draped across the stage, eyes are automatically drawn to it. A wash of blue lighting cascading silhouettes over the instruments waiting to be played. With high levels of energy and beer, fans could only stand in excitement as the rescheduled show was on the cusp of its awesome conclusion.

Running fashionably late the lights suddenly went black, and the endless chitter-chatter faded. The sound of a distinct, booming, and distorted trombone rang over the darkness with only the odd ‘woo’ from a member of the audience to break it up. Phones launched into the air to capture the very beginning of the show.

Enter: The Cruel Knives, a British four-piece rock band who played a dynamic 30-minute set. Bursting onto the stage in a frenzy, front-man Tom Harris’ stage presence was intoxicating and his vocals incredible. His ability to demand the attention of the entire Academy was euphonic and though many were not familiar with their music, The Cruel Knives were able to encourage everyone to join in, having the crowd clapping along in unison only 3 songs in.

Their set was made up of big riffs paired with booming drums and impeccable back-up vocals. The passion The Cruel Knives have for their craft won over the audience, kicking back, and rocking out with them. There is no doubt that by the end of their set they came away with new fans. Extremely talented, this is the band to watch.

The wait for The Pretty Reckless felt long. The venue had now reached maximum capacity, with an abundance of emo and rock classics booming over the speakers. There was a level of patience and impatience as the crowd waited for the main event.

Then suddenly storm sound effects rang like a siren. Booming, thunderous ruptures flared across the Academy. Spark-like flashing lights created the illusion of a dreary tempest. Silence. Whispers, and a repetition of the lyrics “But on my tombstone when I go, just put death by rock and roll” with added reverb and slowed down circled and echoed. The lights dropping completely. This was it; it begins.

Launching into ‘Death by Rock and Roll,’ Ben Phillips’ iconic rolling guitar began as the lights flipped on and was met with roaring applause. Donning a biker jacket, white slip dress, and big ol’ stomping boots, Taylor Momsen was the embodiment of a rock and roll queen. Her confidence was inspiring as she twirled effortlessly around the stage, her jagged and seductive motions moved in time with Phillips’ guitar shreds. Her vocals stronger than ever. An incredible start to an incredible set.

“Manchester, how are you all doing tonight? We ARE The Pretty Reckless and we are so glad to finally be back here with you all tonight.” Taylor’s interaction with the crowd was met with applause and the chanting repetition of “Taylor, Taylor, Taylor!” The air was already beginning to feel hot and clammy, but the high spirits did not waver as they were only just getting started.

Moving onto the tracks ‘Since You’re Gone’ and ‘Only Love Can Save Me Now,’ Taylor stomped her way across the stage, stepping up onto the platforms to tower over the crowd, singing the songs to the audience, holding her microphone to them, and having the words shouted back to her. It was in that moment, the look of pride on her face, you just knew she was only just getting started.

The set went from strength to strength and what The Pretty Reckless effortlessly pulled off was blending and balancing the different eras of the band, honing in on the classic rock sound of ‘And So It Went.’  This performance saw Taylor once again holding the microphone to the audience, having them chanting “The world does not belong to you…’ repeatedly until she was satisfied with the volume, and then joined in concluding this part of the performance with “It belongs to ME!’

The Pretty Reckless performed other tracks from previous albums, from the heavy and seductive ‘Sweet Things.’ This performance oozed with sexual tension with Taylor’s loose body movements, rolling and curving her spin and flipping her hair as Ben Phillip’s really told a story.

Going back to their very first song as a band, ‘Make Me Wanna Die’ was a real crowd pleaser. The iconic opening rang through the Academy followed by vigorous drums and thriving guitars. The cheering was almost deafening, but the music suddenly stopped, Taylor once again had just the audience singing the lyrics back to her, it sparked goose bumps and it was enthralling to witness.

Though not the band to kick back and mosh too, the audience grooved along and stood in awe of Ben Phillips’ effortless guitar playing capabilities. The shredding on the guitar were long and drawn out, his moment to shine. During the performance of ‘Heaven Knows’ Phillips and bassist Mark Damon worked together, standing back-to-back and getting lost in the performance.

Taylor’s vocals throughout the performance did not waver, “One thing I do know, we. Are. All. Going. To. HELL.”  Her screaming was both soft like velvet and coarse. Effortless. ‘Going to Hell’ was a personal highlight of the night, opening with the iconic prayer of “don’t bless me father for I have sinned.” The room was like an oven at this point and felt fitting for the track, an incredible performance with backing vocals that perfectly complimented Taylor’s.

Though not the band to kick back and mosh too, the audience grooved along and stood in awe of Ben Phillips effortless guitar-playing capabilities. The shredding on the guitar were long and drawn out, his moment to shine.

Taylor Momsen has freed herself from the shackles of her past acting career and solidified herself as an admirable frontwoman. Watching her get lost in the music had the audience in awe but what really was incredible was her ability to keep all eyes on her whilst actively showcasing her fellow bandmates by moving her body that mirrored the guitar shreds, bassline, and drumbeats. If you think rock and roll is dead, then you are mistaken. The Pretty Reckless both honour the classic formula of what a rock band should be but also bring a fresh realisation to the genre. A must-see.


Ana Joy King


Image: Ana Joy King

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