Heartless Bastards - The Mountain
I'd like to take the time to apologize to Heartless Bastards: the first chance I had to see them, they opened for Wilco, and I spent most of their set fetching beers and making one last pit stop so I wouldn't have to miss what was a mostly mediocre showing from the headliners. The second time, I was flat broke. Last night at the Canal Club in Richmond, VA, Heartless Bastards rocked my face off.
This is the hardest rocking Americana band on the planet. Like their most recent release, The Mountain, the band's set split time equally between haunting acoustic numbers drenched with banjo and fiddle and heavy, stomping rock anthems that made the Canal Club sound like Madison Square Garden. Through it all, Erika Wennerstrom's voice echoed like a crowd of thousands singing along, with the clean, powerful resonance of Heart's Ann Wilson and the passion and conviction of Patti Smith. Just below, the strings of her solid-body Les Paul belted out the melody while the rhythm section kicked over phone towers and crushed sub-compacts with their thudding stomp.
If you've heard The Mountain, you know the potential of Wennerstrom's voice, and their is no break between the recorded sound and the live power. Feet were stomping, heads were bobbing, and the delicate, rail-thin blonde from Dayton, OH ruled the crowd like a 7-foot benevolent dictator in full military dress. If there was a way for men to play air guitar to the sound of a woman's voice, there would have been some world champions in the crowd. Faces contorted with every rise and fall of her voice as if she were bending and hammering guitar strings, and when the band broke into the acoustic guitar and banjo of "Had to Go," the only sound in the room was the occasional obnoxious woohoo from the resident fanboys.
The most beautiful thing of all is that all that greatness is exactly what I expected from the band that produced this record. The stomp, the shuffle, the hush and the scream: all are here in equal parts, satellites pushed and pulled from the brilliant center of Wennerstrom's warm strumming and brilliant voice. There's plenty tour left for the band this summer, so head to the website and find out when their coming near you, and have a little preview below. You're welcome.