Just two acts take part in tonight’s rock and roll extravaganza at the Barclaycard Arena, Birmingham. Starting the proceedings were American troupe; The Pretty Reckless. It’s obvious to point out the vocalist’s previous endeavours which in a way lull an audience into a false sense of security; a false sense of calm. However, the music was heavy and the vocals on the verge of pure metal.
On CD the songs and performances are quite tame and rightfully held back. The Pretty Reckless live is another game all together. Like a lion’s roar, Taylor Momsen has bundles of power at her disposal and often it seems to escape from her at the most perfect moments. From what would usually be quite a sweet melody, Momsen has an ability to make it sound dark and brooding. Every movement and vocal seeped with style.
Although the rest of the band didn’t make much of a scene of themselves, they played the perfect role in sticking to what they do best which is to provide a solid backing to an elegant front woman, albeit one with a hell of bite.
An air of modern grunge meets southern blues, The Pretty Reckless were diverse in their performance ranging from tracks that wouldn’t be out of place in some of the heaviest festivals (“Sweet Things”) whilst being able to seamlessly transition to anthem chanters such as “Heaven Knows”. This track in particular stood out due to its bravely exposed lead guitar that sounded stunning. With no rhythm guitar to provide a backing, the lead melodies jumped out and grabbed the listener’s attention.
I did feel that the last track of their set could have been better chosen. Although “Take Me Down” is a straightforward rock and roll song with a catchy chorus and a flying guitar solo, it suffered in comparison to the rest of the hugely energetic set and seemed to quieten the crowd down.
No matter what style The Pretty Reckless played, the songs made you want to move and the band played with a dark but exciting display of bravura.
For the headliners, Stone Sour had a tough job to follow the previous, stunning, act. Having nothing short of a fireworks display to start you off though, definitely helps separate you from any other act of the night.
The moment Corey Taylor walked out and began hurling water bottles, the crowd became electrified. He looked like he was having the greatest time of his life with a constant grin and running back and forth with tremendous amounts of energy. His charisma and showmanship was infectious, allowing the audience to experience what would be quite the feel-good factor of a show.
The initial burst of Stone Sour tracks rained down a heavy attitude into the stadium, only breaking for a genius rendition of The Police’s “Walking on the Moon” with the lyrical content being that of “Say You’ll Haunt Me”. The diversity that was showcased during their show was simply fantastic and truly exhibited the all-round talent of the band. Being able to transition from the filthy heavy metal of “30/30-150” to the ballad introduced as ‘for the ladies’, “Hesitate” displays the length of time Stone Sour have been a band and the level of musicianship and chemistry they have built between them.
Corey Taylor continued with this theme of diverse showmanship changing between playing guitar and being free to do what he does best, put on an incredible vocal performance. Usually, adding a third guitarist isn’t always the best of moves. Three guitars all playing rhythm tends to muddy the live sound but the use of these extra skills provided by the frontman enhanced moments of their set. “Tired” was a brilliant example of how you can have two lead, harmonised guitar parts backed by a full sounding, well played, rhythm without it sounding like there was way too much going on. Not only were the moments carefully picked, the execution was on point.
A special mention of drummer Roy Mayorga is in order. The drums were the pure driving force of the set, played with passion and huge amounts of variation and ability. “Rose Red Violent Blue” is a great case in point of this. The song’s verse is essentially a reggae rhythm that’s then thrown into dismay in a short pre-chorus. The guitars stay to a simple pattern, meanwhile the drums enter a frenzy of fills and hat ghosting before entering the simple two beat choruses. The adrenaline fuelled guitar solo was also a highlight of this track and felt almost contrapuntal to the expectations made by the verses.
Overall, the performance was a split between two very clear sides to the band’s personality. The angry, menacing monster and the fun-loving party band. I’ve already mentioned the diversity, but this really was what stood out. “Through Glass” had the audience swaying their phone lights and singing along whilst closing song “Fabuless” punched heavy bass and pounding drums out to the very same crowd – who didn’t stop singing, much to Corey Taylor’s delight.
Photos by Topher O’Meagher of Watchmaker Studios