Sunday, October 29, 2006

The Hold Steady | First Avenue | Minneapolis | Oct 25th

I had been meaning to write a post about The Hold Steady's new album Boys and Girls in America but have failed to get it done. Basically, I've been loving it. The immediate comparison that everyone is making is to 70's era Springsteen which I would agree with. I can't stand Springsteen's music from the 80's and 90's but the 70's are a different story and The Hold Steady capture that reckless frantic sound well on this album.

I haven't seen them live but they are coming to Pearl Street down in Northampton, MA on Dec. 15th which is a Friday night. I was planning on going to that show barring any snowstorm we recieve that night. However, when my friend and occassional F45 contributor, Tom (aka TK in the comments), sent me this show review, I tacked on a few more inches of snow to my tolerance level. It's going to take a good storm to keep me away from the show.

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The Hold Steady
First Avenue, Minneapolis
Wed., Oct. 25

Sometimes I wonder if I have a screw loose.

During one of my most busy work weeks of the year, with a sore knee, I still decided to drive almost five hours up to Minneapolis for a concert. It's something I probably wouldn't consider for most bands. I've been pretty smitten with The Hold Steady and after a couple of rave live reviews from friends,my growing compulsion got the best of me. I hear people consider them to be a polarizing band because of Craig Finn's speaking rather than singing, but it all works for me. I quickly realized it was well worth the trip. To see any band play in First Avenue, a venue I feel brings out extra in performers, is a special experience; to see Finn back in Minneapolis, his former stomping ground and the backdrop for most of the band's songs, made for a truly unique evening.

Sean Na Na went on before The Hold Steady and wasn't too bad. The first band, I can't remember who they were, were maybe a pinch on the whiny side. One of the cool parts of First Avenue is that it offers a number of great vantage points, be it floor, sides or balcony, to catch the show. The one catch was that only the balcony served alcohol because it was an all ages show.

This worked against us for the first song, the Boys And Girls In America opener Stuck Between Stations. We were finishing off the second of our 24 oz. Heinekens and we thought it'd be OK to watch through the glass by the back bar only to realize the sound was muffled. We killed the bottles quickly and hopped down to the floor.

The Hold Steady have been described as America's best bar band and I can't argue. If I ever fell into an assload of cash, they'd play my birthday party, everyone would be half-blasted and it would be delightful. Finn's "singing" either endears you or annoys you and good luck trying to sing along with him live. He procrastinates with his lines, just getting them in to barely keep up with the band. If Finn's style amuses you, then you roll with it; if it doesn't, you're probably not even at the show in the first place, are you? He was truly giddy to be there, constantly grinning and doing what guys who talk more than sing their way through songs do. He held a running, imaginary conversation with fans on either side of the stage when he wasn't at the
microphone.

Finn's banter and spastic nature would be amusing enough. But let's face it - what separates Finn and The Hold Steady from a standup routine are those riffs. Oh, those riffs. Those mega-ton, hook-me-like-a-junkie riffs. They just beg to be heard live.

It's tough to pick out highlights when everything sounds pretty damn good. But Stevie Nix and the closer, How A Resurrection Really Feels, were both peak performances. Like another favorite of mine, Art Brut, The Hold Steady put on an all-encompassing perfromance. When Finn wasn't cracking me up with his lyrics or between-song banter, his band was blowing me away. Finn changed into not one, but two different Twins jerseys to delight the audience, who had plenty to howl about with the constantly embedded local referrences within the songs. He remarked at how many emails he got from people that lost their virginity in the Southtown Mall parking lot before starting up Southtown Girls.

I read an interview with Finn where he said he hoped some people got the same feeling listening to them or seeing them that he got growing up seeing the Replacements and he echoed that sentiment talking about sharing the pure joy he gets every time he picks up an instrument. I'm right there with you, Craig.

As long as bands like The Hold Steady keep putting on enthralling sets, I'll keep blowing money and traveling time on them.

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EZ Archive is migrating to 3.0 right now and sucking big time. So, I can't post any songs until they get their crap together or I start an account with a new service. In the meantime, Heartache With Hard Work has a few tunes from the new album available.

You can buy the album from emusic.

1 comment:

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