Gossip Girl and Grammy winners hit the stage


at The Rickshaw Theatre
March 18
Child stars have a long history of getting into trouble. For one-time The Grinch Who Stole Christmas star Taylor Momsen, her celebrity might not be taking her to rehab or getting her in the tabloids, but she is attempting a sinister edge in her vanity-project rock group The Pretty Reckless.

The group, which sees 18-year-old Momsen backed by a trio of guys obviously at least twice her age, is a sincere departure from Grinch and Gossip Girl – the only reasons she’s able to do music at all.

The songs are completely underwhelming, with Momsen attempting to give her best animalistic growl over a cacophony of metal-ready guitars. “Somebody mixed my medicine,” she sneers, completely decked out in raccoon-eye makeup and an oversized, cut-up men’s shirt as a makeshift dress. The tour manager told press photographers that no shooting would be allowed from the barricade because “otherwise you’ll be shooting right up my girl’s skirt.”

Scanty outfits and a dirty mouth aside, it can’t be sure whether or not this bad girl vocalist is just another role for Momsen. The entire thing reeks of a manufactured production, and it was hard not to imagine Momsen going backstage to the run-down Rickshaw’s backroom and being terrified by the rats running around, realizing she’s a long way from Hollywood. However, this is the stuff memoirs are made of, and the crowd, mostly pre-teens decked out in spiked shoes and impressive mohawks and accompanied by their parents, hung on her every word.

Momsen did come off surprisingly personable, graciously thanking the crowd, telling them how much she loves Vancouver, and doing her best to rock out despite the fact she was standing inches above the stage in gravity-defying platform heels. Unfortunately, so much of the show was an unintentional parody of itself, such as Momsen’s banter about partying with System Of A Down and then proceeding to cover that group’s song “Aerials”.

There is promise here, as Momsen’s stage presence and even her voice both show indications of real talent, something that many actor-turned-singers lack. When the hard edge is toned down, like on encore song “Nothing Left To Lose”, the stripped-down instrumental lends well to her voice, which is better showcased on a more barebones back track. It’s here where the fragility and sincerity in her voice seem to shine, and the three aging musicians behind her seem altogether more of a backing prop.

Despite not being really my genre, I would say that in its live incarnation, The Pretty Reckless are genuinely entertaining and fully-formed, no matter how boxed in they’ve made themselves. With song titles like “Zombie” and “Miss Nothing”, it is clear that they’ve made their bed and are lying in it. Branching out may be their best friend next time around.

at Pacific Coliseum
March 19

I did not expect to like Lady Antebellum’s live set as much as I did. I walked in to the Coliseum about 20 minutes before the Nashville trio hit the stage, only to see the huge stadium-sized screens filled with images of the audience flashing their cleavage in high definition, awkwardly dancing to top 40 hits while downing their overpriced beer.

The capacity crowd was quite a mish-mash of legitimate Nashville-lovers, parents with scantily clad pre-teens, and the odd displaced hipster. As soon as the group hit the stage, the crowd banded together with a scream of pleasure unlike any I had experienced before that made me reflexively cover my ears. As soon as they began their opener, “We Own The Night”, I was mesmerized by their stage presence, enchanting harmonies, and singer Charles Kelley’s dashing looks.

The interesting thing about “Lady A” – as they call themselves – is their legitimate-seeming graciousness. They thanked the crowd countless times, high-fived members of the audience, and delivered a set chock-full of hits.

Kelley and Hillary Scott share vocal duties, while the trio is rounded out by multi-instrumentalist Dave Haywood, who shreds harder on his guitar, and with more stamina, than most rock acts I’ve seen. The “country” appeal of Lady Antebellum is perhaps just an homage to their Nashville roots. They dress like East Vancouver indie kids, parade their catwalk stage like Mariah Carey, and sound best when they’re pumping out their ballads, like the heart-churning “Just A Kiss”.

Like any big arena show, the set doesn’t stray from a pre-rehearsed song list, which makes for a smooth, polished production that had me, personally, in the palm of Lady A’s hand. The production values were perfect, from emotionally manipulating video montages that show the group’s evolution from Nashville locals to world-touring, Grammy-winning superstars, over the course of one song. At the end of “Love Don’t Live Here”, Haywood ripped into another guitar solo, during which he began rising into the air, only to reveal he was actually standing on a grand piano being raised from under the stage.

For me, it was all about the small moments, such as the band asking the crowd to raise their lighters and phones to make the arena a giant disco ball for slow jam “Dancin’ Away With My Heart”. It actually looked quite beautiful, which was made all the more amazing when the woman in front of me accidentally hit the man beside her on the head with her phone, which started a good old-fashioned country altercation between the woman’s husband and the wounded man.

The band just really gave the crowd what they wanted, including a special appearance by opener Darius Rucker (of former Hootie and the Blowfish fame), the donning of Vancouver Giants jerseys, and the odd cover song (Aerosmith’s “Sweet Emotion”). Aside from Kelley’s overindulgent air guitaring (come on, man), the group have pretty much perfected the arena country-rock show on their first try, so it’ll be interesting to see what they come up with next.

//JJ Brewis, art director
//photo by Melissa Dex Guzman

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