The Pretty Reckless: O2 Academy Bristol – 1st November 2022 Gig Review14th November 2022
You know that saying where, you’re forever waiting for a bus, then two come along at once? Well, that was this reviewer kicking off November, covering a double header of gigs across two nights for All About The Rock, over the bridge, in Bristol’s 02 Academy. I’ve spent many a night in Bristol to see a plethora of bands, but it’s been quite some time since I’ve gone via Temple Meads on the train. So, once I’d gotten my bearings straight, and I activate my urban Bear Grylls survival instincts, it’s off to the hotel; shit, shower and shave and get ready for some live music.
Given the time of the year, it’s safe to say that the weather isn’t ideal, but I have a good couple of hours before I need to be at the venue. So, like any sane person, I Uber it straight to the venue, knowing that The Hatchet Inn is so very conveniently next door to said venue, for those all-important, frankly essential pre-drinks. Aside from it being wetter than an otter’s pocket outside, and being £5.20 a pint of Heineken, it’s probably one of the best pubs in the country for live music nights, but that’s a different article for another time. We’re here to write about bands not beers.
Anyway, night one, Tuesday, November 1st, and we’ve a fine dose of no-nonsense rock ‘n’ roll to look forward to, as THE PRETTY RECKLESS roll into town. With last year’s album to celebrate, plus a new record to promote too, we’re in for a good night, so as doors open at 7pm, and we slip in via the 02 Priority queue, we get the obligatory security pat-down and metal detector treatment, because of course, I’ve tried to sneak in an assault rifle. We’re in Bristol UK, not Bristol Tennessee, Jesus Christ. Jokes aside, it’s good to see a venue’s security staff doing their job for once. Any more thorough and I’d be expecting them to pull out latex gloves and Vaseline… “Hmm strip-search me daddy!” *Cough* What?
As with any tour there’s always a support act or two and, coming early to see them is always a good thing. You get to discover some potentially great new bands, get some new music in your ears, and it encourages new bands when they see a decent sized venue filling up early. Don’t get me wrong most people just want a barrier spot or a good view for the headliners, but it does help the rooms energy. Tonight, we only have one support act, and that is THE CRUEL KNIVES.  Consisting of Sid Glover and Rob Ellershaw, formerly of HEAVEN’S BASEMENT, and completed by Tom Harris and Al Junior, they quickly establish themselves as a live band to be taken seriously, and ones to watch for those uninitiated.
They’ve only a small back-catalogue to pull from being a relatively new band, but they deliver their blend of hard rock with a sense of vigour and determination. Tracks like “Black Eye Friday” and “Crawl” off their debut mini album “Side Two” get a showing, which highlight their bluesy classic rock influences while being able to deliver powerfully. The former here has a blistering chorus and they really belt this out to full effect, fair play to the lads. The latter is a far more bass-driven affair but of the same vein. New singles like “Overdose” repeat this formula, with their melodic, hard-rock approach, along with “The Life That We Made” …it would be probably quite easy to pigeonhole them alongside some, NWOCR bands, but let’s not encourage such stupidity, eh? There’s enough of that nonsense stagnating the pond as it is. Quality live band though, kudos to The Cruel Knives.
Next up then, after a cheeky half-time Marlboro, we get tonight’s headliners, THE PRETTY RECKLESS  who to be fair, put on a solid display, and properly pump-up tonight’s already eager crowd. Speaking of eager, or just sad quite frankly, Mark John Bidder, with your Taylor Momsen pic as your Facebook profile photo, and your White House storming-ass look, messaging RIFF YARD MEDIA after scanning my lanyard, saying I’m potentially not fit to review these as I don’t know any songs? Mate I saw them supporting FALL OUT BOY back in 2014, when you were still old, I am aware of them, I know what they are about.
Let me learn ya’ something…as a reviewer, I don’t have to be a fan. If anything, that BENEFITS me, as I have zero excuse to be biased in what I hear…but you keep your Taylor Momsen profile photo, as you fawn over her skinny frame hugging little black dress, crying harder with each extra Viagra that’s required… you do you Sir…I’ve been doing this long enough to justify my opinions thank you very much! That was unprofessional I do apologise. Not.
I digress. The set itself kicks off with “Death By Rock And Roll” and the crowd LAP it up. The title track from last year’s UK rock chart topper really kicks things into gear, and despite being a bare-bones piece of bluesy hard-rock, it manages to retain an anthemic quality, and the 02 Academy is already in full swing. To be fair to the band, the set-list tonight is spread evenly, and a good third of tonight is dedicated to said album. Album highlight “Witches Burn” not only stands on out on record, but the swagger fuelled, authority that Taylor throws into the vocals helps makes this a set-list essential, proven easily tonight.
Truth be told, it’s very surprising to hear “Make Me Wanna Die” so soon into the set tonight. Arguably the bands biggest track, you’d think it would be saved for an encore, to send everyone home extra happy on a high note, but it’s slotted in very early on. It gets an incredible reception don’t get me wrong, and always goes down superbly well, but you never want to peak too soon y’know? That’s not to say that the band are anything of a one-hit-wonder of course; “Going To Hell” and especially “Heaven Knows” with its gang-vocal sing-along qualities ensure the Tuesday night crowd have plenty of tracks to get their teeth into.
Ultimately, while the band and Taylor have always had their inspirational roots in grunge and blue’s-based rock, it always feels like, they could in all honesty, go up another gear. Rarely if ever do they truly let rip and release or, play something truly recklessly. They could have a little bit more attitude MORE often, without losing their core sound or principles; be a little edgier, especially live on stage where it really counts.
Ironically, their new album is an acoustic based, cover-rich album, so I’m clearly talking out of my arse. Maybe Mark John Bidder WAS right? No…no it is the band that’s wrong. All in all, a great showing from both of tonight’s bands, and it was a damn fine evening of rock ‘n’ roll. Side note, appreciation shout-out to The Cruel Knives…the whole band stood outside in the wind and the rain selling merch themselves, to stop the venue taking ridiculous commission costs. That’s the fucking way lads!
Death by Rock and Roll
Since You’re Gone
Only Love Can Save Me Now
And So It Went
Make Me Wanna Die
Just Tonight (fan request)
Peter and The Wolf (Tape)
Going to Hell
Take Me Down
Fucked Up World
(with drum solo)