There’s a queue right the way through the shopping centre and down the road. It is mainly composed of young women who seem oddly determined and grim rather than simply excited at the prospect of the gig in front of them. I get the feeling that this is serious business and everyone is eyeing everybody else for pointers on how to behave. No-one wants to look uncool…
Happily there are no such concerns once we are snugly ensconced in the dark heart of the venue. The place is packed and there is a buzz of expectation.
On occasions such as these it is the role of the support act to get things going, to soften up the audience in order to prepare them for the headliner. This is a function that Francesqa provide with alacrity.
These five lads deliver a set of upbeat anthemic rock music which drives the crowd into a frenzy. They spend most of their set jumping on their monitors, popping up and down like one of those fairground Whack-A-Mole machines.
They are very likeable, proficient and entertaining. Their various singles are dutifully plugged and judging by the screams that accompany their every utterance, tonight is a job well done.
This is the part where I run the risk of sounding like one of those decrepit High Court judges that suddenly wakes up and asks “What are The Beatles?”.
I am aware that there is a teen soap opera called ‘Gossip Girl’. I am aware that the lead singer of tonight’s headliners is in it. I have no idea how big a role she plays or the name of her character. I do know that Taylor Momsen is apparently deadly serious about her Pretty Reckless project.
The band come on first. They look to be standard issue session players, poodle-haired and probably in their thirties. This would put them at roughly double the age of the artist they are supporting.
Taylor Momsen is certainly striking in appearance. She has vast cascades of waist length blonde hair and kohl black eyes. She looks like a ghost from a Chinese horror picture, or possibly a photo negative of Lily Munster.
Her voice is a real surprise. Very powerful, it is a genuine rock snarl rather than a stage school ‘songs from the shows’ affair. Wildly shaking her head so that she is entirely wrapped in blonde tresses, Momsen is seventeen-going-on-Steven Tyler.
The songs are variants on a theme of tough girl bravura and they don’t understand me angst. As it was once said on The Simpsons a band “making teenagers depressed is like shooting fish in a barrel” and this certainly the case tonight, as waves of adulation flood towards the stage.
At least two songs genuinely stand out. “Zombie” and “Make Me Wanna Die” are rousing Hole-lite sing-a-longs. Momsen’s clear role model is Courtney Love and together with her voice has youth and looks on her side too.
What Momsen lacks at present is any real stage presence beyond her surface appearance. She stands rooted to the same spot throughout and even though for one number great play is made of her strapping on an electric guitar, she barely strikes the instrument twice. This may be nerves, but is more likely because she feels no affinity with the musicians around her and is just …performing.
Tonight’s show is a very creditable showcase for Taylor Momsen’s talents. She’s seventeen now and by the time she hits the big Two Zero she’ll be, like, ANCIENT in TV terms. ‘Gossip Woman’ just doesn’t have the same ring to it.
She has a decent voice, a couple of decent songs and a lot of good will going for her. She’ll be just fine as a rock and roll singer.
Or she could just go and do a sitcom or something.