Rock ‘n’ roll was alive and well at Webster Hall on Feb. 24 as pint-sized Erika Wennerstrom led the Heartless Bastards along the road to inevitable mainstream success.
Only blue sparkling lights dressed the stage, yet the mostly-Ohio quartet’s raw rock required no extra flare. The opener, “Marathon,” from their latest record, “Arrow,” offered a stripped-down number with an occasional cymbal clash and Wennerstrom’s vocals yearning to be back home.
For “Arrow,” Wennerstrom brought back two studio-mates from sessions that produced 2005’s “Stairs and Elevators”: drummer Dave Colvin and bassist Jesse Ebaugh. She added Austin guitarist Mark Nathan to the mix. It’s this return to true form and some extra hanging guitar notes that has the ‘Arrow’ sounding like a hymn to the essence of classic rock.
The band continued with new material. Colvin’s rolling drums carried the pace for “Parted Ways,” while Nathan’s ripping solos intertwined with Wennerstrom’s escalating vocals. The gritty and groovy “Got to Have Rock And Roll” ensued. The tune featured some choppy guitar riffs and muffled bass lines that served well to getting the crowd into bobble-head mode.
Wennerstrom strapped on her electric guitar for the heavy, bluesy “Blue Day” from their 2006 release, “All This Time.” She came back to the present with the acoustic and mellowed “Only for You,” with Nathan’s twangy solo gently taking this one to a smooth landing.
Vocalist Heidi Johnson joined them for the “Arrow” centerpiece, “The Arrow Killed The Beast.” The lights oscillated from yellow to red -- perhaps to match the song’s sun imagery -- and a calming strum of Wennerstrom’s acoustic mixed with Nathan’s breezy riff. It was low-key yet packed a big punch that left the crowd mute.
Back to Heavy
The show returned to heaviness when the band launched into “The Mountain,” the title track from their 2009 ode to Americana, followed by the bouncy and warm rocker “Sway.” The moment continued to peak as “Hold Your Head High” took us down the slow and steady lane before veering into a high-gear ending.
The new and Lynyrd Skynyrd-like “Late in the Night” featured big voice, big beats and big solos before the epic “Down in the Canyon,” from “Arrow,” an up and down sonic ride.
Encores included the jovial title track from “All This Time,” which spawned mass pogoing, and “Nothing Seems the Same.” As the crowd scattered downtown, recent bouts of head- banging were recalled with sore necks and smiles.
Here’s a selection of New York-area shows in March. Please note that opening bands aren’t always listed. Shows marked (SO) are sold out, although online services such as Craigslist often have tickets.
March 1 School of Seven Bells/Rewards at Mercury Lounge (SO) March 2 Matthew Dear (Band)/Blondes at Bowery Ballroom March 3 Widowspeak/Mac DeMarco/Quilt at Glasslands March 4 Korallreven at Bowery Ballroom March 5 Bjork at Roseland March 6 Fanfarlo at Webster Hall March 7 Fenster at Pianos March 8 Bombay Bicycle Club/Lucy Rose at Maxwell’s (SO) March 9 Daughter at Mercury Lounge March 10 Four Tet at Le Poisson Rouge (SO) March 11 Big Deal/2:54 at Glasslands March 12 Django Django/Clock Opera at Santos Party House March 13 New Build at Mercury Lounge (SO) March 14 Elliot Brood/Pack AD at Pianos (SO) March 15 Squarepusher at Webster Hall March 16 Justice at Terminal 5 (SO) March 17 Megafaun/William Tyler at Highline Ballroom March 18 The Head and the Heart at Terminal 5 (SO) March 19 Choir of Young Believers at Mercury Lounge March 20 Gomez/Hey Rosetta! at Brooklyn Bowl March 21 Oberhofer/Pond at Bowery Ballroom March 22 Kasabian at Terminal 5 March 23 Grimes/Born Gold at Mercury Lounge (SO) March 24 Psychedelic Furs at Maxwell’s (SO) March 25 Gotye at Terminal 5 (SO) March 26 Fiona Apple at Bowery Ballroom (SO) March 27 Youth Lagoon at Bowery Ballroom (SO) March 28 First Aid Kit at Webster Hall March 29 Au at Cameo Gallery March 30 Twerps/The Mad Scene at Mercury Lounge March 31 Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. at Brooklyn Bowl
(Jaime Widder works in sales for Bloomberg News. Any opinions expressed are his own.)
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