Photo by Nathan Presley
It is hard to believe that a group originally scheduled in the 7th Street Entry could move to the Mainroom and carry over the intimacy of the smaller venue. It might be even harder to believe that a group could do that at the beginning of a tour in support of a yet-to-be-released album. By golly, Heartless Bastards did not disappoint.
San Antonio openers Hacienda came out swinging. The vocal delivery from bassist Rene Villanueva was simultaneously crisp and rugged, while his dance moves bordered on a sexy strut making waves with all the single ladies. They threw down some semi-polished but jazzy new tunes including “Don’t Turn Out The Light,” and “You Just Don’t Know.” With their fun attitudes and ability to dominate a rock and roll show, Hacienda was a definite crowd-pleaser.
Heartless Bastards took the stage to a packed Mainroom and boy were they ready to go. They kicked off the near-flawless set with “Marathon,” the lead track from their fourth and newest project, Arrow. Within seconds lead singer Erika Wennerstrom burned hearts with her haunting vocals and lyrical yearning. Blasting straight into the old favorite “Witchy Poo,” accompanied by delicious harmonies from friend Heidi Johnson, they had all dedicated fans on the line. Immediately the group appeared cohesive and confident, making it difficult to comprehend that they had never performed on this historical stage before.
Wennerstrom made the switch from electric to acoustic just in time for the recent single “Parted Ways,” instantly catching familiarity with the crowd. Drummer Dave Colvin’s insane ability for rhythm complimented Wennerstrom’s wide vocal range well as they continued through a string of tunes from Arrow including one hell of a guitar mash-up to “Gotta Have Rock and Roll” and a calm yet effective “Skin and Bone.”
With a little banter from Wennerstrom and an obvious appreciation for a booming audience, the band (and lighting guru) transformed the stage into a forest for stripped-down and emotionally intense renditions of “The Arrow and the Beast” and “Low, Low, Low.” It was widely apparent that every single band member contributed to the large sound that filled the room; percussion and bass were especially spot on.
A highlight of the night was the keyboard detail on “Into The Open,” gaining momentum for the group as they launched into the big 2009 hit “Sway.” Anyone in attendance who had yet to listen to the new album woke up dancing and indeed, swaying. The space was consumed with an abundance of 10-second guitar solos and meaningful smiles between bandmates as fans continued to hoot and holler.
They completed the set with a powerful and feisty version of “Down In The Canyon,” something Wennerstrom described to be a “countrified deep metal song.” With that they performed every track from Arrow just four days before its release, a bold and genius move that not many bands could pull off.
One the best things about Heartless Bastards live is their ability to interact with the audience. Despite only a small amount of banter, the band believes that the crowd is an equal part to the night. The entire room was their platform and these musicians were no amateurs at throwing their hearts into an incredible rock show. The audience agreed, cheering and chanting until Heartless Bastards took the stage for an encore looking humbled and even more excited to be there. After years of hard work, this band proved themselves First Avenue worthy and deserving of every moment of that near 120-minute glory.
“Done Got Old”
“Gotta Have Rock and Roll”
“Skin And Bone”
“Only For You”
“The Arrow and the Beast”
“Low, Low, Low”
“Into The Open”
“Hold Your Head High”
“Late In The Night”
“Down In The Canyon”
“All This Time”
“Nothing seems The Same”
Arrow is out now via Partisan Records
By Laura Yurich
Friday, February 10 2012
First Avenue Mainroom
Posted 1 year ago