Heartless Bastards | The Borderline | 1 September 2015
Never mind the giant screens, airport runway-issue lights, and monster sound of arena gigs. There’s a real thrill to watching a band up close. Seeing — sometimes, even feeling — their emotions as they perform. Tonight it’s unbridled happiness that pours from The Borderline stage, The Heartless Bastards clearly thrilled to be playing their first sold-out show in London.
Between songs, singer Erika Wennerstrom is all positivity, kindness, and grace; while performing, she matches the music’s intensity, but the joy — expressed as spontaneous smiles, snatches of dancing, and carefree eyes-closed singing — is never far from the surface.
She has good reason to feel this way. ‘Restless Ones’, the Ohioans’ fifth album, is a triumph that expands on their blues-rock roots and rightfully comprises much of tonight’s setlist. Once swampy opener ‘Got To Have Rock ‘n Roll’, from 2011’s ‘Arrow’, lays down the law, Wennerstrom leads her band through the uplifting ‘Gates Of Dawn’, belligerent ‘Black Cloud’, pensive ‘Journey’, and strident folk-rocker ‘Hi-Line’. Quietly introspective ‘Pocket Full Of Thirst’, a plaintive ‘The Fool’, and forlorn ‘Into The Light’ continue the flood of new tracks, held back by an epic rendition of 2011’s sweeping ‘Down In The Canyon’.
Also from ‘Arrow’, ‘Late In The Night’, a luminous ‘Only For You’, and ‘Parted Ways’ make up the home stretch — alongside first album survivor ‘New Resolution’ and incendiary newbie ‘Wind Up Bird’ — before the transcendent finale. Accompanied by little more than a gentle tide of guitar feedback, Wennerstrom’s voice soars through ‘Tristessa’, the ‘Restless Ones’ closer sounding even more ethereally beautiful than it does on record.