Concert Reviews

Last Night: The Hold Steady at The Loft

The Hold Steady The Loft at Palladium August 5, 2008

Better Than: Jay Reatard on $55 worth of acid.

The biggest spazz in the best bar band in America. (Noah Bailey)

Craig Finn is a total spazz. On stage Tuesday night with his band the Hold Steady, he was seemingly care free, dancing like a goofball during solos and screaming lyrics off the mic, coming across something like a cross between a schizophrenic on the bus and your favorite college T.A.

Opening with “Constructive Summer” (off the band’s newest record, Stay Positive), he had the crowd on his side from the get-go, delivering witty, shout-a-long worthy lines like “work at the mill and then you die” and “raise a toast to St. Joe Strummer/ think he might’ve been our only decent teacher” as his fans happily obliged.

Dark, detail rich ballads like “One for the Cutters” and “Lord, I’m Discouraged” showed how the band has stretched out on their new material, with keyboardist Franz Nicolay dialing in the harpsichord function on the former and lead guitarist Tad Kubler bringing out a double necked Gibson for the latter, playing twelve-string in the verses before launching into the night’s best solo.

But it was the meat-and-potatoes Hold Steady rockers that got the biggest response of the night, from current single “Sequestered in Memphis” (“Subpoenaed in Texas/ Sequestered in Memphis!”) to Boys And Girls In America’s “Chips Ahoy!” Separation Sunday favorite “Your Little Hoodrat Friend” even got this writer pogo-ing for the first time in, oh, five years or so (we weren’t alone, either--the floor was physically shaking half the night.)

But it was the set closing/encore opening twofer of “Slapped Actress” and “Stay Positive” that may have been the highlight of the night, with a group of young fans continuing the former’s “Woah-oh-oh-ohs” until the band came out and launched into the latter. --Noah W. Bailey

Critic’s Notebook Personal Bias: I’ve been a casual fan since Separation Sunday came out, but this was my first time seeing the band live.

Random Note: With his curled mustache and driver’s cap, keyboardist Franz Nicolay could easily be a castoff from the Max Weinberg 7.

By The Way: Craig Finn just might be the best lyricist in rock and roll right now, and it was certainly interesting to hear his the self-reverential, circular lyrics sprinkled throughout the set—he might’ve sang “She’s gonna have to go with whoever’s gonna get her the highest” like, 5 times. Granted, we weren’t big fans of the band’s last record, Boys And Girls In America, but Stay Positive might be the band’s best (and most tuneful) record front to back, and the songs were even better live.

Setlist: "Constructive Summer" "Banging Camp" "Charlemagne In Sweatpants" "Sequestered In Memphis" "Navy Sheets" "Chips Ahoy!" "Chicago Seemed Tired Last Night" "Same Kooks" "One For The Cutters" "Cheyenne Sunrise" "Massive Nights" "You Gotta Dance (With Who You Came To The Dance With)" "Party Pit" "Lord, I’m Discouraged" "You Can Make Him Like You" "Your Little Hoodrat Friend" "Yeah Sapphire" "Slapped Actress" "Stay Positive" "Multitude Of Casualties" "Magazines" "Killer Parties"

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Pete Freedman
Contact: Pete Freedman