Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Hold Steady Wolves Civic 15 Dec 08

It had been a long time coming but I did finally get to see The Hold
Steady. I'd fancied seeing them since their appearance on Jools Holland
last year and then the original Wolves gig was postponed after guitarist
Tad Kubler was hospitalised with pancreatitis. Now that could have been worse.
Gillian Taylforth ended up in a libel case after administering on the spot relief
for her hubby's pancreatitis on a motorway hard shoulder. Seems the Police
and the medically unqualified tabloid press couldn't tell the difference
between a Florence Nightingale act of mercy and a Hugh Grant lewd act.
Amazingly she lost the libel case when she tried to correct The Sun's

There would have been room for a few more punters at Wolves Civic. Young
people and women had stayed away. The Hold Steady's audience reflect the
band themselves. Over 30, male, not too cool and gratefully glad to be
out. Still, I can talk....I was taking notes!

From the opening and barnstorming Constructive Summer, Craig Finn was a
whirl of geeky dervishness. Jumping , pointing, mouthing off mike and
looking like Sgt Bilko. At one point he swung an imaginary baseball bat.
After 5 songs he took his guitar off (he hadn't played it for the first 4)
but soon put it back on again. To give it some more of the silent

Keyboard player Franz Nicolay was also hugely entertaining. Sporting flat cap,
jacket and moustache combo and an arsenal of magicians gestures. At one
point he covered his eyes and then struck a pose as the keyboard swirls
rose. As if he couldn't quite believe the magical power in his
fingertips. Part snake charming, part twerpery.

The epic Lord, I'm Discouraged from the new album featured accordion and
the first appearance of the Tab Kubler's double neck guitar. Normally the
beast with two necks is best left in the hands of Led Zep or the Eagles
and is about as welcome as home brew. I mean it's nice that someone does
it, but you just don't want to be around when it comes out. The guitar
solo itself wasn't so much unleashed as unzipped. Full blown Rush style
rock pompery. And even more impressive from a man who's casual air made it
look as if he was just looking round for somewhere to put an awkward shaped
box he was carrying and would rejoin us in a minute. And I do like the
line "...Excuses and half truths and fortified wine"

I think this is the thing about the Hold Steady. Craig Finn is essentially
writing short stories. We don't actually need to believe they are
autobiographical, either for him or for us (if we are the sing along type).
He may look like he is someone's dad picking up the pieces afterwards rather than the actual housewrecking party dude....but then I suspect Nick Cave has also eased up on the murdering in recent years. Finn is too geeky to convince the under 20's. Young men won't want to be him
and their actual audience, of older and more beard capable blokes are
rather afraid that they already are him.

So with the Hold Steady what we've actually got is a cross over Rock band.
They're rawk enough for the Mid West but lyrically interesting enough for
Word magazine. On record, the keyboards can be a bit too flowery for
my tastes and the backing vocals sometimes have a bit too much wah and
wahoo. Fine for a stadium but not necessarily what I'd want at home . But
any doubts I have about the band are just barged aside by the quality of
the songs and performance. And they're still my favourite band of the
last couple of years.

Here's the set list....and an alternative review of the gig is at

Constructive Summer
Hot Soft Light
Sequestered In Memphis
Cattle And The Creeping Things
Massive Nights
Joke About Jamaica
Ask Her For Adderall
Lord, I'm Discouraged
You Can Make Him Like You
Chill Out Tent
Don't Let Me Explode
Stevie Nix
Chips Ahoy
Your Little Hoodrat Friend
How A Resurrection Really Feels


Arms And Hearts
Stuck Between Stations
Stay Positive
Slapped Actress