The Hold Steady in Concert

In which, unlike the last time, I actually managed to stay for the whole show. But somewhat ironically, I missed the opening band because I was delayed at work.

This is the link to download the show, along with the setlist (entirely legal by the way).

This is the first time I’ve been in a completely sold-out show at the 9:30 Club, and man was it packed. My mild claustrophobia started kicking in a little bit as these people with their beer cups tried to squeeze their way to the front of the stage. But once the show started, my claustrophobia went away because I was too busy having fun and rocking out.

I had always heard that the band has a good reputation for live shows, and they definitely did not disappoint: this is one of the most energetic and lively shows I’ve ever been to. There is absolutely no let-up, even during the slower songs like “Lord, I’m Discouraged.” The riffs are monstrous and hooky, the chorus massive, and the audience very participatory.

In my opinion, The Hold Steady is probably one of the best “pure” rock-n-roll bands working in America today, and by “pure” rock-n-roll, I mean that its mini-max: minimal form and maximum energy. It’s bands like The Hold Steady that still convinces me that rock-n-roll, in its pure, distilled form, still has something genuinely exciting to offer. But even this is deceptive, because Craig Finn writes some of the most literary lyrics around.

Speaking of Craig Finn: the man is fucking rad. His range is next to thing, his tone monotous, and he doesn’t sing the words so much as he spits them out, but yet, he is charismatic, enthusiatic, wild, and humorous. He doesn’t over-indulge in chatty banter, but his words are sincere and touched with a sense of joy. I can only hope that when I am 36, I can be as a quarter as cool as Craig Finn.

In the end, all these words really mean nothing compared to the directness of the experience itself.

UPDATE: The taped show sounds pretty decent; it even managed to capture the horns on “Sequestered in Memphis,” which really got lost in the mix because the horn players were tucked away in the back corner.

“Sequestered in Memphis” by The Hold Steady from Tony Bowman on Vimeo.

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