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Over The Weekend: The Pretty Recklesss at the House of Blues' Cambridge Room

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The Pretty Reckless
February 19, 2011
House of Blues' Cambridge Room

Better than: my Chuck Bass impression.

It was easy to anticipate what the crowd at the House of Blues' Cambridge Room was going to look like on Saturday night -- moms dropping off their high school-aged daughters in minivans, no doubt.

Only, uh, not so much.

This sold out crowd was hardly all underage, and hardly all female. A good mix of people came out to see The Pretty Reckless perform songs off their debut album, Light Me Up, a collection of angst-y, '90s grunge-influenced guitar rock that displays a surprisingly grown up sound.

And the crowd was already amped up as Taylor Momsen and her band took the stage just after 11 o'clock.

And it didn't take long for this much to become clear: Momsen is perfectly comfortable being in front of people. Although her on-stage attire was toned down for the Dallas crowd -- she walked onto the stage sporting an Iron Maiden cutoff shirt and hotpants -- her vintage rock look didn't last long though; four songs into the set and she was down to her bra.

It's this type of display that had helped the band cultivate the PR circus that currently follows them around. But, the fact is, this band has some chops to back it up.

They appeal to a wide range of folks, from the angry teenager to the more discriminating hard rock fan. Guitar-heavy songs like "Just Tonight" and "Zombie" provided quite the one-two punch when combined with Momsen's gravelly vocals. Singing is indeed her strength; "Goin' Down," a crowd favorite rife with the type of innuendo that any teenager can appreciate, was the only song that Momsen played guitar on, even if just for show. But it was "My Medicine," easily the best cut on the record, that got the crowd moving with its unexpected Brit-rock swagger.

There really was something for everyone. At one point, Momsen asked the crowd, "Have you guys ever heard of Oasis and Muse?" as her band jumped right into a "Supersonic"/"Time is Running Out" mash-up that might have been the highlight of the evening -- especially considering that Momsen even went so far as to accurately mimic Liam Gallagher's mannerisms.

But that was as animated as she got. Throughout the set, Momsen meandered around the small stage, back-length hair in her face, with an air of arrogance -- almost as if she was striking poses for the camera.

The next cover, Audioslave's "Like a Stone," didn't seem to go over as well. She struggled to reach the higher registers boasted by Chris Cornell. And let's just say the guitarist probably should have sat out the Tom Morello guitar solo.

Still, the crowd was at Momsen's command all night. Sure, she owes a lot to the band she has behind her to help provide that authentic hard rock sound, but make no mistake, this is her band.

And, once Momsen shakes that Gossip Girl perception and more people give her band a shot, The Pretty Reckless might prove to be exactly what the female-fronted rock band niche has been looking for.

Critic's Notebook
Personal Bias:
I'm no longer ashamed to say that I'm a huge Gossip Girl fan. Nor do I mind that Momsen's on hiatus from the show; her storyline had grown tiresome. Luckily, her short music career has proven to be pleasantly surprising so far.

Random Note: Momsen never stopped down to acknowledge the crowd's "Little J" chants (the nickname of her character on Gossip Girl) in between almost every song.

By The Way: I brought a friend of mine who is quite the hard rock connoisseur, and he left the show impressed as well. He only had one question though: "I wonder if she can name just one Iron Maiden song?"

Set List:
Since You're Gone
Light Me Up
Miss Nothing
Zombie
Just Tonight
Goin' Down
Supersonic (Oasis cover)
Time is Running Out (Muse cover)
Like a Stone (Audioslave cover)
My Medicine
Factory Girl

ENCORE:
Nothing Left to Lose
Make Me Wanna Die

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