You know that feeling when you are watching a sports game in which the team you love, and the players you revere, are playing – but you just can’t help but express your feelings of indignation with the decisions the coach or manager is making? When the game is lost, but you know it shouldn’t have been, so you leave the stadium in vexed confusion? Well that’s how this author was left after attending the Heartless Bastards show at The Vic in Chicago this last weekend.
The initial planning seemed great; it was a Saturday night and The Heartless Bastards were opening/double billing with The Drive By Truckers, at a wonderful mid-sized venue in Chicago. It was the second night in a row of these two bands playing this venue, and in full disclosure this review is only based upon night two. The first thing that was off was the time planning. Having the Heartless Bastards come on at 8pm on a Saturday night proved to be awkwardly early. It didn’t affect the crowd level, as many were there early for this sold out show. However, the Bastards were done by 8:45, which may not seem that awkward except that the Truckers didn’t come on till almost 10pm!
Having this band, which so many people turned out for, play for only 45min only to have everyone stand around for an hour getting extremely restless for the next one just created for a bad atmosphere. People came out early, too early, only to be told to wait. The Bastards really should have either started later, or played longer (preferably the latter). There were often boos emanating from different parts of the crowd as people became fidgety, it just was extremely poor planning.
But back to the Heartless Bastards. This band is one of the best indie rock backs around. Erika Wennerstrom, their lead signer and song writer, has proved to be one of the most powerfully intoxicating indie rock-divas of recent memory. Their three albums; “Stairs and Elevators”, “All This Time” and “The Mountain” are some of the best indie roots/garage rock that has been made in the past decade. But on this night for some reason they didn’t play any of their material off of their recent albums, none. Apparently they were trying out new material on this crowd? The material also proved to be mostly more subdued and simple, and slightly psychedelic, indie rock songs. Gone was the belting rock n’ roll and roots-rock grooves. The songs weren’t bad, don’t misunderstand, but they didn’t make sense back-to-back-to-back.
Yes; this was their second night playing in a row at The Vic, and many band’s like (and need to) to play/experiment their new material before it gets released. But to deny fans of your old material any of the songs that presumably are the reason they are spending money to see you, that’s a poor decision, both in a career sense and for the enjoyment of that particular night. Especially since this is an opportunity to advertise yourself to new listeners, when you back another band playing after you. The Heartless Bastards have played many awesome shows in recent memory in Chicago. Their headlining show at Bottom Lounge was a wondrously lengthy and entertaining set, filled with ardent supporters. Their opening slot for Wolfmother was a kickass set, of similar to time length to this one at The Vic. And their two shows at Lollapalooza were legendary (especially the one in the pouring rain a couple of years back).
The point is that this band is truly talented and has a record of really performing well, and performing well in Chicago. They deserve people’s attention, and this author still can’t wait for their next album. Clearly, they are allowed the benefit of the doubt. You never know what the circumstances are for the band members on that evening. But whoever was calling the timing & set-list decisions for this particular evening got it all wrong. Oh well, that’s why there is a next time.