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Pop Music Review : Pretty Things Play With Conviction

Average age: 55. Collective number of criminal convictions: 61. Still banned in Australia for setting fire to an airplane more than 30 years ago.

Those are just some of the credits the Pretty Things were introduced with on Tuesday at the Whisky. They didn’t entirely look the part. In matching dark suits and ties, the more-or-less original lineup of the English group seemed more like accountants letting loose at a convention than a band of rock ruffians.

But they sounded it. Guitarist Dick Taylor, with the dubious distinction of having quit the Rolling Stones before they got famous, played with nimble-fingered abandon, while singer Phil May’s gruff bellow and body English left no doubt about the conviction (non-criminal) behind this reunion of an act that, left behind when the British Invasion stormed America, at best gets a footnote in rock history.

Unkempt and with a cocky strut, the 1964-vintage, blues-fueled “Don’t Bring Me Down” and “Rosalyn” (both known to many via David Bowie’s “Pin Ups” versions) sounded urgent and undated. That was no less the case for more ambitious material, including a five-song reduction of “S.F. Sorrow,” the 1967 album considered the first true rock opera and named by Pete Townshend as an inspiration for “Tommy.” If two selections drawn from last year’s “Rage Before Beauty” reunion album weren’t quite on that level, they were hardly embarrassing.

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And there was never any bitterness or finger-pointing about lost chances. These guys actually seem to be glad that they never became rich rock stars. And why not? Rich rock stars don’t play like this.


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