Taylor Momsen, the star of primetime teen soap opera “Gossip Girl” and singer of the Pretty Reckless, shook and shouted her way through the first song of a sold-out show at Jammin’ Java Thursday night. She’s 17 going on 37 -- rail thin, bleached blonde hair, flaunting cleavage, enough eyeliner that it looked like she cleared out the entire cosmetics aisle of the next-door Walgreens and a voice that sounds like she’s been smoking cigarettes for rock-star-in-training homework.
And no doubt she’s done some homework. Her entire on-stage personality is a composite of some of rock-and-roll’s most famous frontmen and women. She imitated Janis Joplin’s tortured wail, Axl Rose’s slithering dance moves, Joan Jett’s [bleep]-all attitude and Courtney Love’s penchant for exhibitionism. Her three-dude backing band cranked out standard Guitar Center hard rock, the type of stuff that populated radio station playlists in the late-’90s. In other words, when Momsen was learning how to spell.
She has gone out of her way to cast herself as the polar opposite of squeaky clean small-screen-to-big-stage pop stars such as Miranda Cosgrove and Selena Gomez. But even with casual cursing (she said the f-word as if she just discovered it last week) and disdain for her fans, the whole ordeal felt as scripted as any Disney concert. Good girl or bad girl, a role is a role.
At one point Momsen brought three young female fans on stage and instructed them to remove their shirts and dance around in their bras as Momsen grinded up against them during a song called “Goin’ Down.” A flashing neon sign saying “I’M EDGY AND DANGEROUS” would have been a less subtle way to get that point across. And also less creepy.
The 40-minute set ended with a “Factory Girl,” which like the other eight songs was a perfectly competent blast of riff rock. This time Momsen sang, “Hey, wait a minute girl, can you show me to the party?/Just let me in through the back door,” as she leaned over and gyrated with her back to the audience.
If Momsen entered the Pretty Reckless in a high school talent show, she would win top prize going away. But man, the guidance counselor sure would want to have a long talk with her parents the next day.