September 25, 2009

Live Review: Heartless Bastards

Sam's Burger Joint // San Antonio, TX // Sept. 8, 2009

It's an anomaly for me to go into a show knowing very little about a band, familiar with only a couple of songs, and then find myself completely blown away by the sound crescendo-ing into my ears. Heartless Bastards won over one more fan when frontwoman Erika Wennerstrom opened up her mouth and enveloped the room in her fierce, edgy vocals over drummer Dave Colvin’s infectious beats. It was as if Heartless Bastards' music was pulsing through my veins and I was one with their sound rather than it simply delighting my ear drums.

My affinity for this band was instantaneous, which is also rare, and from the very first song Heartless Bastards had me in the grip of their intrepid sound. Their bluesy jams are evocative of a smoke-filled room littered with lonely hearts and the soul in Wennerstrom’s vocals was all that could soothe that smoke and solitude away. Her voice could be described as the vocal velvet of Freddie Mercury meets the grime of Janis Joplin. Wennerstrom's voice was like a tonic to the intimate weeknight crowd with her lyric reminder that the unknown can be sweet in her acoustic rendition of “Be So Happy.”

Heatless Bastards’ deliver classic blues with a modern twist, characterized by superlative instrumentation that emphasizes Wennerstrom’s vocal strength over jagged guitar riffs. The music is not secondary to her snarling vocal power – it manages to speak for itself in intermittent, gnarly guitar solos.

“The Mountain” solidified my newfound appreciation for the band. This anthem will send chills down your spine when you hear – in the flesh – the emotive steel guitar over Wennerstrom’s raspy crooning. The album simply cannot do the Bastards’ raw talent and explosive sound justice.

-Review and photo by Tara Lacey

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