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The Acoustic Elegance of Heartless Bastards

July 25th, 2011

Heartless Bastards – Mercury Lounge – July 23, 2011


“A bird shit on my head when I parked coming here. I hope that means it’ll be a really great show,” the brilliant Erika Wennerstrom shared with the crowd. Perhaps if birds shit on bands more often those bands would sound as good as Heartless Bastards did at Mercury Lounge on Saturday night. Known for playing much larger venues, the group, comprised of Wennerstrom (vocals-guitar), David Colvin (drums), Jesse Baugh (bass) and Mark Nathan (guitar), took the intimacy to a whole new level, performing an all-acoustic set. There is something really special about a show like this. Sure, electric rocks, but the simple elegance of acoustic brings music back to the basics. There are no gimmicks or glitz, just real, honest tunes.

Wennerstrom’s soulful voice is unlike any others. Hers is velvety and rich and the words she sings are beautiful, sad, vulnerable and empowering. It’s like she feels out each note as if discovering it for the first time. The quartet’s musicality was remarkable. Guitars twanged and the upright bass added a timeless allure. Talented singer Heidi Johnson, harmonizing sweetly with Wennerstrom, joined in on some of the group’s newer songs.

From “Could Be So Happy,” off the 2009 album The Mountain, to “Runnin,” from 2006’s All This Time, each melody was heartbreaking but also filled with hope. After many cries for “more Bastards!” the band returned to the stage and finished with the powerful ballad “The Mountain.” Heartless Bastards create the type of music that makes you thankful to be alive and to be able to feel love, loss and life. Those in the audience appeared grateful as they swayed and held onto one another. More than once, however, someone shouted, “I love you, little bastards,” reminding us all to lighten up and have fun. —Kristen Ferreira