live review: Heartless Bastards @ The Masquerade, 7/6/10 (setlist)

First, some bitching about the Masquerade. That small side road next to the venue is closed for construction, so for the moment the only nearby parking is that big lot off of North. Whoever owns that lot (is it the Masquerade?) decided that last night would be a good time to charge $5 for parking. Since it was the only option available, we pretty much had to pay it. Then, once we were inside, we went up to the bar and ordered two PBRs. I thought I heard the bartender say “5 dollars,” so I paid accordingly. She just stared at my money with an “are you fucking kidding me?” look. Apparently she had said “9 dollars.” Clearly it was ridiculous that I would assume a goddamn 16oz can of Pabst would be cheaper than that. Never mind how much it costs at The Earl or 529 or any actual bar that I choose to patronize when I’m not at shows. The price is a rip off, but it’s the attitude that really annoys.

So, with that out of the way, the music: Heartless Bastards were great.

The Tuesday night crowd seemed a little lethargic and maybe still a touch hungover from the long weekend, but there were some clear diehards in the audience. Favorite songs were greeted with cheers, and those that stuck around for an encore seemed to be doing so out of something other than obligation. Their nearly 90 minute set covered all three albums, including 10 of 11 tracks from last years The Mountain. I personally think that album is one of the most criminally underrated of the last few years, and I couldn’t believe it didn’t blow them up. They took the bluesy bar rock sound of their first two albums and complicated it, adding layers and atmosphere. That album and their live shows are better because of quiet songs like “Had to Go” and “Could Be So Happy.” Others like “The Mountain” or “Out at Sea” are still first and foremost rock songs, but they take more chances musically, with the latter sounding as much like Polvo or Sonic Youth as any blues rock band. They’ve got range now, and it shows on stage. The old barnburners like “Onions” and “Swamp Song” still destroy live, but they’re now part of a better paced, more diverse set that’s ultimately more satisfying.

The setlist below isn’t totally correct – the first song of the encore was “Could Be So Happy.” They definitely played “Early in the Morning” and “Gray,” but I don’t think they did “Runnin” last night.

We didn’t get there until 10 (girlfriend had work), so I missed the openers.  Peter Wolf Crier looks like they might be up my alley, but I guess I’ll have to catch them next time.  Maybe they’ll headline a smaller club that doesn’t suck.

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