Monday, April 6, 2009

Live Review: The Hold Steady 3/30/09 Irving Plaza, New York

She Hate Me saw The Hold Steady and had THE FOLLOWING to say. Also worth noting: their new live album comes out today, and while the timing of this post is purely coincidental, we pondered bullshitting everyone that we somehow managed to actually time something well, which we never have, sooooo ... yeah. 


These guys are now four classic albums in and they have gotten to the point where they have more great songs than a full live set will allow, but that did not stop them from basically playing a greatest hits showcase at Irving Plaza on Monday night.  They sounded as tight as I have ever heard them, Craig Finn surely benefiting from giving up alcohol for Lent, and while the scene itself at Live Nation’s New York HQ was…how you say…CORPORATE…nothing, not even the cell phone peddlers and Matt Pinfield’s idiotic pre-show speech, could stop the boys from rocking the shit out of what used to be a classic New York City rock club.  

It’s fair to say that The Hold Steady have emerged as a much bigger and better band than their “best bar band in the world” title suggests.  In fact, I will posit that they have to be considered in upper echelon of best live rock n roll bands in existence right now, along side The Arcade Fire, My Morning Jacket, LCD Soundsystem and…um, yeah, Radiohead.  These bands all bring different things for different moods in different venues, but there are few things as enjoyable as throwing your brew in the air during “Your Little Hoodrat Friend”.  If you think you disagree with this statement, then you have never thrown your beer in the air during “Your Little Hoodrat Friend”.  

Nor have you stood next to a guy who truly believes that The Hold Steady is his life, as in, “I sometimes camp in a slate quarry where townies stab each other and take meth and then wash away their sins in the Mississippi River and then bust into church toasting Saint Joe Strummer while feeling all resurrected and born again and whatnot.  I also sometimes like to vacation in Ybor City, that Tampa hotbed for hood rats, lapsed Catholics and people named after The King of The Franks, only to come home after things got too druggy and the killer parties almost killed me.” 

An interesting fact about my buddy’s “The Hold Steady is my life” statement is that he was completely unaware of Craig Finn’s affinity for quoting D Boon’s “our band could be your life” from the Minutemen’s seminal tune, “History lesson, Part 2.  In other words, Finn and the boys clearly write and perform with this idea in mind and it’s pretty interesting that they somehow pull this very thing off.  Finn’s stories are perfect reincarnations of Springsteen’s Spanish Johnny characters – the characters that made his fan base so sure that he was speaking directly to them, maaan.  Holly and Gideon don’t stand on fire escapes, and they don’t take buses to 82nd Street, but they sure do love their summer festivals and hanging out with townies.  

It’s a tough thing to pull off – writing little short stories that speak perfectly to our hyperbolic experiences from the past 20 years and since they actually do it so well, it engenders this almost absurd celebration of those songs during their live shows.  

The truth is, there are too few bands bringing words and music together as seamlessly as The Hold Steady are doing right now and there are far too many little indie bands like The Pains of Being Pure at Heart that are filling our satellite waves with twee 80s pop that wasn’t very good to begin with.  The Hold Steady is our life is because they take all the good rock music from the past and package it as concise summary of what the fuck is up: the energy of the all ages New York Hard Core shows, the positive vibe of a Specials show, 80s post punk like Husker Du and The Replacements, topped off with classic AC/DC rock riffs and The Boss’s knack for melody and street poetry.  In other words, it’s exactly what rock n roll should sound like in 2009. 

Set List:

Constructive Summer

Multitude of Casualties

The Swish


Sequestered in Memphis

Party Pit

Massive Nights

Don't Let Me Explode

Stevie Nix

Barfruit Blues

Yeah Sapphire

Ask Her For Some Adderall

Sweet Payne

Most People Are DJs

Lord I'm Discouraged

Your Little Hoodrat Friend

Stay Positive

Slapped Actress


Stuck Between Stations

Chips Ahoy

Killer Parties


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