Monday, June 22, 2009

Bands to See Live Part 1: The Hold Steady

Well it's been a while since I wrote about much of anything, and now it's summer, and that means concerts, concerts, concerts! So I figured, why not start writing some concert reviews? Here goes!

Tonight, I had the wonderful opportunity of seeing The Hold Steady for a ridiculously under priced 10 dollars at The Taste of Randolph Street in downtown Chicago, and for a guy with relatively high expectations, I still managed to get my mind blown. In a time when concerts seem to be more about ticket sales than an experience, this show was just what the doctor ordered. A humble little one stage street festival in Chicago, with only a suggested donation of ten dollars for admission, inviting anyone and everyone to what they promised would be a wonderful night for everyone involved.

Coming onto the stage with a sharp opening of "Positive Jam" leading, with fans already singing along enthusiastically, directly into one of my personal favorites, "Stuck Between Stations," and the band made very clear that this show was going to be great, The show maintained a high energy level, with entertaining words between songs from frontman, Craig Finn, who made it feel more like he was having a conversation with you than introducing his famous band. One of my favorite songs of the night was "Southtown Girls," featuring an extremely skilled harmonica solo from Franz Nicolay, The band's keyboarder/ moustache enthusiast (see above photo) who seemed as enthusiastic as any band's frontman, as well as a chorus that everyone in the crowd seemed to know, and all were welcome to sing along. The show took a turn for the awesome when Nicolay, took out an accordion for "Lord, I'm Discouraged," only to be matched by guitarist, Tad Kubler, who got his hands on a double necked guitar in order to appropriately rip things up, and just as the show seemed over, the band was very easily coaxed into a few more songs, most notably, "Citrus," which provided a very welcome comfort that the crowd didn't even know it needed in preparation for the powerful closer, "Killer Parties," where Finn made especially sure to thank anyone and everyone for being a part of his band, proclaiming that "We Are all the Hold Steady!" and judging off of the consistant enthustic singing of the crowd from start to finish, it seems like Craig might be on to something.

Now, there are tons of simple reasons why the show was enjoyable, the most obvious being that the band has just as much talent on the stage as they do in the studio, however, what really sold me was the stage presence that frontman, Craig Finn, maintained throughout the night. Finn, at 37, shows no sign of aging past his twenties as he dances and emotes, almost adding annotations to his own lyrics with his motions and gestures. The enthusiasm that Finn shows on stage is what made the concert such a unique experience, because it was obvious that the band was just as happy to be there as the audience was, and when at the end of the concert, Finn yelled to crowd that, "There is so much joy in what we do!", you knew that he meant it.


  1. Yet another great Chicago Hold Steady show. Last night was a nice contrast to the last time they were here in January on the coldest (-20) night of the year. What brought this show to the next level, however, was just how into it the crowd was, with the band feeding off the crowd and vice versa. Definitely a "band to see live".

  2. Yeah, I've been a Hold Steady fan for almost a year now, and this was my first time seeing them live, and needless to say, I was extremely impressed with what I saw. Craig did a great job of making the whole crowd feel involved in the show.