The Pretty Reckless and Kaleo at Kentish Town

So I started a new job last December, life has become madly busy etc and I’ve found whatever free time I have, I’m thinking about work.. or sticking on some 70’s prog records to sooth the soul as I kick back and game. Naturally, this has seen me shoot fewer bands…

To round up the first quarter of 2017, I’ve shot three gigs. A shameful number really, but then again, most of my favourite bands these days, I prefer to just go and enjoy the show. The only one I really regret not shooting was Sum 41 at Brixton the other week. A sweet gig with Brown Sound back on the shred and Bizzy-D rockin’ in healthy spirits.

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This review though, it’s a triple bill partly on account of my lack of ability to get my shit together. Each gig, 3 songs; the first two – The Pretty Reckless and Kaleo – I was issued a photo-pass and no ticket, so being at Kentish Town, I was in the stage door and back out after “first three, no flash”. Quite often though, the first three songs can be as good as any middle three and from time to time, better than the encore.

Partially why I’ve stayed clear of reviewing before.. How can I give a solid review based on seeing the first three songs? Funky lighting and a house full of smoke often makes it tough enough to shoot, not to mention you’re focusing on getting that money-shot, not critiquing the performance.

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The Pretty Reckless were sick (or ‘fantastic, as expected’ if you don’t speak London). I shot them back at Download ’14 on the 2nd stage and they killed it then. Seeing them three years and an album later at The O2 Forum Kentish Town this January (21st) was a much cosier experience.. No mud, well-sheltered from the elements, fewer bearded rockers present, an audience largely in their 20s – a really solid, well-mixed fan-base who mostly clearly love Momsen from her Gossip Girl days.

The set kicked off with a riffy and soulfully bluesy opener ‘Follow Me Down’ from their best-selling 2014 album  ‘Going To Hell’ and was followed up with ‘Since You’re Gone’ from their debut album ‘Light Me Up’ (2010) and lastly on to ‘Oh My God’ from their most recent release from last year ‘Who You Selling For’ .. Three great, energetic and sexy tunes from three banging albums. Anyone not familiar with The Pretty Reckless have a solid catalogue to get through before catching them time they make it back to the UK. A must see for anyone wishing to be seduced by some heavy blues-based rock.

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Icelandic rockers Kaleo also sold out the Kentish Town Forum, ten days later on January 31st. Opening with three songs from their recent album A/B, a slow folky blues number ‘I Can’t Go On Without You’ featuring great slide work from lead guitarist Rubin Pollock. Their second song of the evening chilled folky track with country overtones, ‘Save Yourself’ provided an early opportunity for the audience to get involved and provide a harmonious gospel backing for the chorus.

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The final opener ‘Broken Bones’ alluded to the Mississippi Delta, proving that these guys are capable of more than offering simple Icelandic folk-rock, though there was something about these guys that reminded me that they are just another pop act.. Perhaps it had something to do with that ululating warble of a voice most singer-songwriters find themselves with these days. Regardless, they sold out so it’s warming to see 2,000 people turning up to listen to some sort of decent music, even if it is slightly watered-down for those who don’t really know or care whether they’re listening to the real thing or some regurgitated re-imagining of said.

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My final gig to round off this piece is another 3-songer but only for the reason that I had to rush home to work a late-shift. As many who know me well enough will know, I struggle to bring myself to check out new acts. They’re either the same as the last one or their SoundCloud isn’t comparable to anything in my ever-increasing record collection.

This marks my first time seeing Ace Wilson perform with her band. Due to release her debut EP this summer; it’s essentially dirty, grunge-influenced rock reminding me almost of a female-fronted Alice In Chains. With seasoned musicians supporting, including Rex Whitehall on guitar, this sounds like real music to my ears. Ace was in fact supporting Bones earlier this week at The Crowndale in Camden (not the early 70’s American Power Pop group Bones, but a current UK band about to head over to the US who promoted the night on their Facebook page as “BONES LEAVING PARTY. TONIGHT… WHISKEY. DANCING. AND KILLER BANDS. BONERS”)… I’m not a fan of boners, but the rest sounds great.

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The first three tracks ‘Candy’, ‘Song For No One’ and ‘I Got Laid’ were enough to keep me listening for the rest of the night – would that I could. With the band building a melancholic atmosphere with a stoner rock vibe, the venue was practically full with fans of great taste, all bobbing along to Ace’s toneful voice by the end of the first song. Despite being relatively new to the live music scene, it’s clear that Ace is quickly building a solid local fan-base.

‘Candy’ can be heard on SoundCloud below – keep an eye out for future gigs and go down, for if only for three songs… Next time I’ll stay for the whisky, dancing and more killer bands, though. With a music video to come before the EP this summer, it’s certainly worth watching this space.

Words and photos by Ed Jacobs.

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