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Heartless Bastards Get Right to the Point at Music Hall of Williamsburg

September 15th, 2015

Heartless Bastards – Music Hall of Williamsburg – September 14, 2015

Heartless Bastards – Music Hall of Williamsburg – September 14, 2015
Sometimes you go see Heartless Bastards and the whole set builds toward “The Mountain,” the ecstatic, climactic title track from their 2009 release, and sometimes they just cut to the chase and open the show with it. And last night at Music Hall of Williamsburg was an example of the latter, Erika Wennerstrom feeling it from the get-go while bassist Jesse Ebaugh riled up the crowd with a pedal-steel-guitar solo. It was a harbinger of things to come as the crowd settled in for a long night of high-test rock and roll. In the opening one-two-three punch-up, “Got to Have Rock and Roll” displayed the Bastards’ full arsenal: Wennerstrom’s soul-shaking vocals, Ebaugh’s deep-tissue bass playing, Mark Nathan’s shattering guitar and Dave Colvin’s unrelenting drumming.

From there, the first half of the set showed off the band’s deeply emotive playing. Sure, they rocked out aplenty, but the song selection seemed to go straight for the audience’s heart. “Skin and Bone,” from 2012’s Arrow, was a representative highlight, Colvin’s melodic playing with Wennerstrom’s acoustic guitar and overpowering voice were a perfectly resonant blend. “Pocket Full of Thirst,” from their newest LP, Restless Ones, was another powerful shock of feeling, Wennerstrom singing, “Let the walls come down so I can be found” like words coming from someplace real inside of her. So often it felt less like singing and more like channeling—delivering the music like another instrument alongside the ripping guitar solos and free-flowing bass. Halfway through, Heartless Bastards flipped the script from slow burn to full-fledged rockers. “Down in the Canyon” paired with “Hold Your Head High” for the body-bruising portion of the night, Nathan, Colvin and Ebaugh forming the handle, head and face of a hammer that pounded away at full strength.

The set continued to build with one sweaty burner after another, finally finishing with “Parted Ways,” which featured the end-all climactic spaz-out jam of the night, the audience clearly forgetting it was only Monday and cheering for more. For the encore, Heartless Bastards returned to The Mountain with “Nothing Seems the Same,” Wennerstrom and the group channeling Zeppelin with some hard-core blues jamming, everyone crowding around the bass drum, lit by a single bulb from below looking about as bad to the bone as they were playing. The group built up a reverberating, looping wall of feedback as they left the stage one by one, leaving Wennerstrom in a spotlight channeling the lyrics to “Tristessa,” each word echoing through the room and into the ears of the crowd. —A. Stein | @Neddyo

Photos courtesy of Chales Steinberg | charlesosteinberg.com