We're not afraid / We have our faith

After falling for The Hold Steady about four years after it was cool to do so, I was terribly excited to go and see them live this past weekend. I’d never seen them before, due to a girlfriend’s birthday, the imminent Florida Bar Exam, and the simple fact that they rarely come down to Florida. So when they announced two nights (two!) at a smallish venue only a short drive from my house, I bought tickets for Saturday immediately, and after some internal debates (that’s a lie: “debates” would imply that there were points and counterpoints, and this would be patently untrue), I decided to get a Sunday ticket too. Who knows when they’ll be down here again, right? Right? You guys?!

There were some very noticeable differences between both shows. On Saturday, it was sold out, the (party) pit was absolutely crammed, it was incredibly sweaty, the crowd tossed a beach ball around for a while, and the atmosphere was amazing. On Sunday night, there were fewer people, it was easy to get a good spot near the front, and the crowd was a little more relaxed. The band probably noticed this: Sunday’s set featured a lot more deep cuts and non-album tracks. It was fun to hear ‘You Gotta Dance With Who You Came To The Dance With” and “Girls Like Status” and “Goin’ On A Hike”, even if only about six people in the house knew the latter. (I’m not one of the six, I’m sorry to report).

Considering many people find the band’s newest record disappointing, the songs from it were received very warmly. On Sunday, ‘Barely Breathing’ had everyone dancing while ‘We Can Get Together’ had everyone swooning. I’m still not sure what ‘A Slight Discomfort’ is about, but it does feature the word “succubae” which is pretty cool, and featured some killer drumming. The place was small enough, and the audience rapt enough, that a lot of times the intro riffs to songs would be obscured by cheering. This may be due to where we were standing, or just because people really adore this band.

I think it’s really cool that the band entirely changed their set over the two nights. Only the three singles from the new record were played both nights, meaning that I saw them play a total of 43 different songs over two shows. Massive kudos for shaking things up, boys!

One thing that was constant over the two nights, was the bloody-minded enthusiasm of the six gentlemen onstage. Again, I’d never seen them before, and it was everything I’d hoped for. Craig Finn is a joy to watch, and he dances the way I do, without all the self-consciousness that I have. As he often says, there is so much joy in what they do onstage, and it’s impossible to see them up close and personal and not feel moved. He thanked everyone for skipping the Lost finale. He introduced the band. He told us that he had been fined that day for smoking weed in his hotel room. Even if he’s starting to show his age on ‘Heaven is Whenever’, he’s still the cool older brother we all wish we had.

And those songs… holy crap. Being in the crowd when everyone’s shouting “Whoah woah” or some variation thereof is just such a fun experience. They didn’t play ‘Chips Ahoy!’ the first night, but did ‘Stay Positive’ and ‘Slapped Actress’ instead. And then, on Sunday, the familiar opening riffs of the love song about a man, a woman and a horse began and everyone went ape.

I’d say that Saturday was the better show, not just because they played more of my faves that night (‘Cattle and the Creeping Things’! ‘The Swish’! ‘Massive Nights’!) but also because I had friends with me on Saturday to share the glory, whereas I was a Larry Loner on Sunday. No matter. Both shows were fantastic – reminded me of how communal and triumphant and spectacularly fun live music can be. Come back soon, The Hold Steady.

Come back soon.

SATURDAY: Sweet Part of the City/Constructive Summer/The Swish/Magazines/Hurricane J/Stevie Nix/Multitude of Casualties/The Smidge/Cattle and the Creeping Things/Rock Problems/Chicago Seemed Tired Last Night/Lord I’m Discouraged/Our Whole Lives/Stay Positive/Sweet Payne/Southtown Girls/Stuck Between Stations/Your Little Hoodrat Friend/Massive Nights/Slapped Actress // Citrus/First Night/The Weekenders

SUNDAY: Positive Jam / Sequestered in Memphis / Navy Sheets / Banging Camp / Rock Problems / Ask Her For Adderall / Hot Soft Light / You Gotta Dance With Who You Came To The Dance With / Charlemagne in Sweatpants / Chips Ahoy! / Hurricane J / You Can Make Him Like You / Barely Breathing / On A Hike / Milk Crate Mosh / The Weekenders / Same Kooks / We Can Get Together / Most People Are DJs / A Slight Discomfort // Hornets! Hornets! / Girls Like Status / How a Resurrection Really Feels


Lauren said...


Lauren said...

sorry, BAND performance.

The performance was actually quite good.

Matt said...

Great blog - glad to hear you were treated to essentially two separate shows. Saturday night was a pleasure.

Justin said...

Awesome. One of the best live bands out there. I didn't know the new album wasn't well received... I mean, it's not that much of a departure of things.

Did you notice how Craig's guitar is more of a stage prop than an instrument? He barely ever plays it, and when he does, you can't hear it. Except the one time when I saw him attempt to play a solo. It was hilarious. After about 10 seconds, he gave up, and Tad took over.

Yeah... if you'd caught on earlier... I saw them twice at the Beta Bar and once at CDU (I'm assuming one of those is the show you missed). They emanate pure performance joy. And yes, their diehard fans are... diehard.

Great post.

Max said...

I'm a latecomer to them too & haven't yet seen them live (I suspect they come to Melbourne even less than FL?) - so I really loved reading your review. Well done - I had a big smile on my dial by the time I finished reading.
- Max

Find It