Sometimes a night of hard-stompin' blues-rock is just what the doctor ordered, and Heartless Bastards delivered Tuesday night.
Any regular readers know my feelings about Heartless Bastards; the Texas by way of Ohio crew led by Erika Wennerstrom has been a fave since I first saw them six or seven years ago at the South By Southwest Music Conference, and each time they've visited Salt Lake City since I've grown to love them more. And they've become quite the regular visitors, from headlining gigs at Kilby Court to shows opening for the likes of The Hold Steady at The Urban Lounge, Avett Brothers at Red Butte Garden and Wolfmother at The Depot.
No matter the environment or the other bands on the bill, Wennerstrom and her backing boys always bring a raucous energy, along with a catalog of killer songs from Heartless Bastards' three albums. But I must say, seeing them headline their own shows in a space the size of The State Room seems about perfect.
Tuesday night was a little different, though, as Heartless Bastards took one of their days off from opening for the Drive-By Truckers to stop in SLC and play with Truth & Salvage Co. Rather than running through a lot of familar material, Heartless Bastards' set was focused on brand-new, yet-to-be-recorded songs. And remarkably, the crowd didn't seem to mind a bit, something Wennerstrom clearly appreciated. The new songs remain in the bluesy realm of the band's past work, but Wennerstrom often strummed an acoustic guitar instead of her mainstay electric on the new cuts. Her voice—a remarkable iron-lunged wail, especially considering her diminutive stature—rang clear through the venue and helped the new songs get over. And the band did throw in some faves as well, like "Done Got Old."
Openers Truth & Salvage Co. provided a stellar set as well, with its seemingly huge six-man set-up definitely reminding me of like-minded forebears like The Band or Allman Brothers Band. When I walked in, there was an accordion and pedal-steel guitar being put to good use, so I knew I was going to dig 'em live. With up to four members harmonizing at a given time, the songs from the band's self-titled debut came alive, sometimes recalling the Dead, and sometimes more modern jam-happy crews like The Black Crowes (it's no shock Chris Robinson produced the album). "Call Back" was definitely a fave for me, as was the drummer's Ron Jeremy mustache.