We had the opportunity to see the Heartless Bastards live in two seperate cities. Check out both reviews.
The Gaslight Anthem
The Heartless Bastards
Good Old War
Saturday, April 4th 2009
The Varsity Theatre
~by Nathan Lind
This was a different show than how the tour had gone, from what I imagine.Â The headlining group, the Gaslight Anthem, had to cancel their Minneapolis date due to an emergency illness from one of the members in the group.Â (I also have heard that at the previous nightâ€™s show in Chicago, it was obvious one of the fellas was sick on stage)Â So, the Heartless Bastards were headlining a show on their own at the Varsity Theatre.
Opening band Good Old War were on their last night of the current tour, and seemed in fine spirits.Â Their sound is a mixture of Crosby Stills & Nash with their vocal harmonies, and newer groups who expand on folk music, like Fleet Foxes.Â A highlight of their set was when the Heartless Bastardsâ€™ bassist, Jesse Ebaugh joined them on stage to play pedal steel guitar on one song.Â I thought they were pleasant enough, but few of their songs stuck with me after their set was over.Â
I had wondered beforehand how many people were going to come out, given Gaslight Anthem werenâ€™t performing combined with the weather, which was unseasonably cold and rainy for this time of year in April.Â So I was surprised to see a nearly full house in anticipation of the Heartless Bastards.Â Wennerstrom even commented at one point, â€œYou guys realize Gaslight Anthem arenâ€™t playing tonight, right?â€Â Even she was bewildered at the turnout, it seems.
She didnâ€™t have to be, however.Â It seemed like everyone in attendance was wildly into the Heartless Bastardsâ€™ set, which kicked off with â€œInto the Open,â€ with Wennerstrom on keys, and didnâ€™t let up from there.Â Alternating between keyboards and guitar for the first half of the show, she demonstrated why she is one of the most thrilling front(wo)men in music today.Â The records hint at the power in her vocals, but to see the Heartless Bastards live is a different story.Â Iâ€™m still amazed such a tiny woman has THAT soulful and loud of a voice.Â Comparisons to PJ Harvey are numerous; but I like to think of her as a bluesier Corin Tucker, she of the now defunct Sleater-Kinney.Â Itâ€™s like an airplane at times, in terms of the volume.
The show kicked into another gear with â€œOut At Seaâ€ off of their newest record, the Mountain.Â Everyoneâ€™s head was focused on the stage as Wennerstrom roared into the microphone.Â A personal highlight for me was the title track off the new one as the crowd sang along with the chorus while the Heartless Bastards stomped and kicked onstage.Â
The only problem I had with the evening was the down tempo numbers.Â I just donâ€™t think their material is strong enough when they slow it down.Â For example, â€œSwayâ€ about halfway through the set, was sung at the same intensity as the faster songs.Â It seems to me her vocals are more suited for the rockinâ€™ numbers, unfortunately.Â I understand tempo changes are needed in live sets, especially when they go on for ninety minutes like the Minneapolis show, but there was definitely a letdown when they alternated from fast to slow.Â
Most of the crowd didnâ€™t seem to care, though.Â It was also nice to see near the end of the show, some older songs like â€œGrayâ€ and â€œRunninâ€ make it into the set.Â Even though most people know them for the Mountain and All This Time, the Bastards proved there are equally great numbers from their earlier work.Â The crowd was appreciative, which was also nice to see.Â
Itâ€™s great to see a band hitting their stride, both live and on record, and for one night on this tour, the Heartless Bastards almost made the crowd think â€œGaslight Who?â€ as they were treated to a solid rock show.Â
Into the Open
Out at Sea
Done Got Old
Valley of Debris
I Swallowed a Dragonfly
Nothing Seems the Same
Early in the Morning
The Heartless Bastards
Some Jerk Offs
Eugene Wendell and the Demon Rind
Saturday, April 11th 2009
~by Mackenzie McAninch
Eugene Wendell and the Demon Rind had a goof-alt-country-pop sound that was energetic and fun. They even played a cover of the now-defunct Ohio band Thee Shams, which was really shocking. Must have been a tribute to the Heartless Bastards and their Ohio hearts. I have no idea who the second band was as they never said their names and I donâ€™t give a shit. Annoying fat guy with a rapist mustache with an even worse voice and completely worse lyrics. The longest forty-five minutes Iâ€™ve had in a while.
The first thing I noticed about the Heartless set was how loud the bass was. Throbbing loud; like being next to a boom-car while stopped in traffic. Five of their first six songs were off of the Mountain, but they did reach back deep into their catalog with â€œNew Resolutionâ€ which carries a similar, more slowed down beat to the Ramonesâ€™ â€œHey! Ho! Letâ€™s Go.â€ That was a track from their debut when they were a tad more on the garage-ish side instead of the â€œIâ€™ve made itâ€ sound of this latest album.
I have to admit that I wasnâ€™t a fan of the Bastards for a long time. I lived in Cincinnati when they were picking up steam. I saw them live many times, heard their albums and I just didnâ€™t understand what the hype was about. But I really think this new line-up (still a trio, but they get help when needed) Erika Wennerstrom has compiled is the real deal. Last December, I saw them by accident back in Cincy again, and this time I was really blown away by their live show, and I felt like â€œI get it.â€ Hearing such a husky voice come from that tiny body frame of Wennerstrom is about amazing in itself.
Her voice is unique because at times youâ€™ll feel like sheâ€™s on the cusp of losing her voice or going out of tune, but then she pulls it back in and while youâ€™re contemplating that, sheâ€™s already onto the next illusional lyric.
â€œHold Your Head Highâ€ went over well with the crowd and it seemed to know all of the lyrics, and the crowd (especially the women) loved Wennerstrom. The song â€œInto the Openâ€ is a little much for me on cd as her straight-line yelp during the chorusâ€™ just doesnâ€™t seem to have any substance. So much so that my cousin couldnâ€™t make it all the way through that song without taking out the whole albumÂ all-together during a road trip. Her voice is just too over-powering in that song, but seeing it performed live, her band-mates take away a lot of that. However at the end of this song, she put the keyboard onto a loop, and jammed out the rest of the song on guitar while the rest of the band looked kind of surprised.
The encore turned out to be truly epic. Wennerstrom and bass player Jesse Ebaugh took the stage along with only acoustic guitars to softly ease out the song â€œSo Quiet.â€ Well, there must have been too much Ohio-like PBR floating through the room because those always-ignorant â€œtalkersâ€ at shows were in full bloom, though mostly at the back of the room. During one chorus, Erika supplemented the lyrics with â€œblah blah. Blah blah blah, blah blah.â€ Those of us that were paying attention laughed, and a ton of heads were turning behind them trying to give a hint to be quiet. A few guys yelled out for people to shut up. Finally, Erika yelled out â€œFuck it! Iâ€™m sorryâ€ and stopped the song about mid-way through. I have a TON of respect for her now for doing that. Musicians shouldnâ€™t bow down to ignorant guests. And I thought there was a law about that anyhow…
They called the rest of the band back and they brought the power with them to rock out on the oldie â€œSwamp Song,â€ then they glazed back a half-notch to close the show with â€œAll This Time.â€ Major props to the dynamic guitar solos by Mark Nathan all night.
Like I mentioned before, the Heartless Bastards seem to have that â€œweâ€™ve made it nowâ€ sound to them and by all means it does appear that theyâ€™ve arrived. They were recently on David Letterman, alt-rock stations are blaring them all over the place and theyâ€™re selling out shows a lot now too (just like this one did).