Pretty. Reckless. -
Taylor Momsen And Crew Bring 'Hell' To Chicago
The Pretty Reckless brings their Going To Hell Tour to Chicago's House Of Blues, and singer Taylor Momsen talks to Dr. Music about career choices, Madonna, and Going To Hell.
By Scott "Dr. Music" Itter
It’s not very often that I get the feeling, but every once in a while I feel like I witnessed a special moment in history. I often think about people that were in the crowd as The Beatles played Ed Sullivan, or the devoted hippies that watched Hendrix take the stage at Woodstock. When you’re in the moment, do you know your witnessing something that will live forever in the annals of history? I don’t know if seeing The Pretty Reckless at Chicago’s House Of Blues will ever be in that class, but as I watched Taylor Momsen lead her band through a short, powerful set, I was confident that I was seeing the beginning of something huge.
This current leg of the Going To Hell Tour finds the band headlining with only their debut record and about five other original studio songs released. Of those other five original songs, three of them appear on their Hit Me Like A Man EP (along with two live tracks), and the other two come from their soon to be released sophomore effort entitled Going To Hell. The two songs from this new record are so solid, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that this band is destined to be a gigantic success.
Not too many bands feel confident enough to do a large run of shows without having their current product available to their fans, but if there is one thing that The Pretty Reckless doesn’t lack, it’s confidence. Singer Taylor Momsen told me that she really doesn’t have a favorite song to play live, as she enjoys all of them, “but we’re particularly enjoying the new ones,” she said. I believe the combination of beauty, swagger, confidence and (especially) talent, make Momsen one of the strongest female figures that rock has seen in decades. Balancing successful careers in both acting and modeling, the Gossip Girl star has now added a music career to her balancing act. When I asked her to consider choosing only one career, with income not being a factor, she simply said, “Income is always a factor, but I would always choose music.” The performance I witnessed confirmed that kind of passion for music. As she strutted straight and tall over every corner of the House Of Blues stage, she delivered strong, personal lyrics with her head held high and her heart on her sleeve. They opened the show with a song off their upcoming Going To Hell release. It’s a song called “Follow Me Down,” and it was the song Momsen chose to represent the band to someone new to her band’s music. “‘Follow Me Down’ is a good example of what the band sounds like,” she said. “All our songs are written on guitar. If they were written on piano they would sound different, but we’re a guitar band.” And that was made perfectly clear as they exploded onto the stage with that hard hitting track. That guitar driven energy rarely ever let up as the band vaulted into “Since You’re Gone” and “Miss Nothing” to get the hard rock rolling.
Momsen has stated in the past that the band’s first release, Light Me Up, is very lyrically autobiographical. I asked her about feeling vulnerable when playing songs of such a personal nature, and she told me that “putting songs out there is like revealing yourself to the world. Every time you do it, it’s like opening yourself up to strangers.” As she shared her strength with songs like “Hit Me Like A Man,” she could also be seen expressing a saddened look while doing the bluesy “Cold Blooded.” But Taylor Momsen is like a panther when she hits a stage. Every flat surface is a catwalk to this top-model-turned-badass rocker. Watching her slither down the mic stand with hips slowly swaying from side-to side was one of the sexiest things I’ve ever seen. And the greatest part of her writhing was the sound coming out of her mouth. She sang “Goin’ Down” with incredible power and authority. The sexuality that she was drowning us in was just a really (really) great bonus. Being a legitimate talent with the beauty that Momsen harnesses can sometimes be a double-edged sword, but she seems very comfortable in her own skin. “It is what it is,” she says. “Marketing is marketing, and people judge from image first I’m sure, but the music should hopefully overtake the image.” In 2010, Momsen somewhat mixed her modeling and music careers by being chosen by Madonna to represent her Material Girl clothing line. Wondering if she ever talked about her music with the pop icon, Momsen stated, “She walked in the room and I was cranking one of our songs, and she said she thought it was awesome. That’s pretty much all I needed to hear. She was very cool and pro.”
Before the band ventured out on their own headlining tour, they played huge festivals and opened shows for the likes of Marilyn Manson and Evanescence. As Momsen is a big admirer of the latter band’s singer, Amy Lee, I gave her the hypothetical choice of taking Lee’s place in Evanescence if it was to ever become vacant. She abruptly said, “No. I do my own thing and she does her own thing.” And Momsen’s “thing” was pouring out of her in this live setting. She is clearly her own entity. From sassy and sexy low tones to angry staccato highs, she is a legitimate force in every facet of the game, and fully devoted to The Pretty Reckless mission.
“I think this is a more rounded record,” said Momsen of Going To Hell. “It comes from a place where I look it from the inside and the outside. Traveling the world puts your own life in a very different perspective.” Some gigs that she says she would “love to do” are “Jules Holland, SNL, and Rock In Rio,” also mentioning that “it wouldn’t suck to play with Soundgarden.” Obviously fans of Chris Cornell, the band chose to cover “Like A Stone” from Cornell’s Audioslave work. The tune found Momsen in one of those slowed down, more vulnerable positions. You could really feel the tension in her words as she sang the emotional ballad. With every song in the set coming over very strong, you couldn’t help but appreciate the rest of the band as well. Knowing where they stand, which is in the background really, they seem to function at an extremely high level. Every member appears to be comfortable in their individual roles behind their powerful, enigmatic singer. Bassist Mark Damon was nailed to the floor as he nailed each and every thumping note. Drummer Jamie Perkins, donning a full beard, was barely visible but highly audible as he lurked in the darkness that was the back of the stage, banging out each song with fine precision. Even guitarist Ben Phillips stayed put to Momsen’s left side, cranking out riff after riff, solo after solo. We discussed the Momsen/Phillips writing partnership, and knowing that Momsen was a huge fan of bands like Zeppelin and The Beatles, I wondered if she was a big believer in that writing duo chemistry of Page/Plant or Lennon/McCartney. “It just happened that way, and I was lucky to find a musical partnership that worked ala Page/Plant,” she said. “Wishful thinking would be Lennon/McCartney.”
Well, Momsen/Phillips may not be Lennon/McCartney, but I think if Ed Sullivan was still doing late night, you might hear something vaguely familiar from him.