Live Review: The Hold Steady at Great American Music Hall
“The party almost killed me,” sang/spoke The Hold Steady’s front man Craig Finn over and over as they wound down the show. And we believed him. Imagine the most derelict delinquents that you know. Now imagine that those people get wasted seven days a week. Those are the characters Finn sings about, and they make for some of the best art (unbelievable writing, social commentary) in rock ‘n’ roll today. Some of those characters made it out to the Great American Music Hall on Tuesday, and played their parts. They jumped around, drank a lot, smoked dope, and acted rowdy. I was one of them. When The Hold Steady play a venue, alcohol sales must go up. Fans were walking with a noticeable swerve. Everyone was having fun. This is our life. We get wasted, and we don’t know why. And that is beautiful. That is The Hold Steady’s platform.
The new album, Boys and Girls in America, references Kerouac’s On the Road: “Boys and girls in America have such a sad time together.” Finn rejoices in these sad times. He stalks the stage, walking back and forth with his Elvis Costello glasses, and the interesting quirk of silently mouthing the words he just spouted. Finn is one of the most compelling individuals I’ve seen grace the stage. He will be an icon. The Hold Steady are more rock ‘n’ roll than anything else right now. Don’t believe me? A double-axe handled guitar from the 80′s made an appearance. They are live and noisy and unapologetic, with angry guitars and loud drums.
Many of the stories take place in Minneapolis, but they happen in every city and town. That’s what makes the music so compelling and unique. Many rock acts (indie rock, specifically) go abstract with their lyrics to make the audience draw their own conclusions to meaning. The Hold Steady get concrete with their imagery. We are in the bar with Finn’s characters, and we know them, and feel a little sorry for them.
All of the songs were enjoyable especially “Chips Ahoy!” which has the chorus: “How am I supposed to know if you’re high if you won’t let me touch you?/How am I supposed to know if you’re high if you won’t even dance?” And “Your Little Hoodrat Friend,” which is about the narrator denying he ever got with her (his girlfriend’s) little hoodrat friend.
The show ended with some crowd surfing and Finn throwing beer on the audience. (Your standard indie rock audience would have been affronted by this.) These people loved it. Finn and the rest of the band pulled the audience up on stage and they wrapped their arms around each other, with the group giving their instruments to members of the crowd to play the final chords as Finn sang his closing verse. The scene looked exactly like the album cover for Boys and Girls in America. It was beautiful and not sad at all.
- Review submitted by Jeff Bracco.