Wednesday, November 21, 2007

In Concert: The Hold Steady (9:30 Club, Washington DC)

Part of the reason Lifter Puller, the previous collaboration of Craig Finn and Tad Kubler (the frontman and guitarist for The Hold Steady, respectively), broke up was that - big though they were in their native Minneapolis - they just couldn't seem to break much into the general market. "It'll happen any day now," people would tell them...but it didn't come. It was a little funny, then, that they were more or less immediately crowned the new Princes of Rock when Finn and Kubler moved to Brooklyn and started a very similar band. 

Not that they don't deserve it. The Hold Steady's international tours and critical darling status are all the sweeter for those of us who've been following the guys for a while, and last night at a sold out 9:30 Club (you can listen to it here), it was great to see just how much everybody in the place - the band included - was enjoying it. "There's so much joy in what we do up here," said a smiling Finn to the crowd, repeating a sentiment he often shares during shows. When he enthuses, "You guys out there, and us guys up here, we're all The Hold Steady," it's hard not to root for them. 

The set, divided pretty evenly between songs from 2005's Separation Sunday and last year's exceptional Boys and Girls in America, relied heavily, naturally, on Finn's trademark hyper-nasal-storytelling delivery and Kubler's classic rock guitar virtuosity (at one point, performed from atop a set of speakers). But standouts included two new songs which showcased their punk influences, "Stay Positive," and "Ask Her for Some Adderall." The first, with its shoutalong chorus and Minor Theratesque power chords, was dedicated to DC hardcore ("Basically, hardcore when it was good," Finn said) after some kind words about the honor of playing the 9:30 for the first time.

Everybody's favorite bar band gave us just enough of exactly what we wanted - good times, solid riffs, crazy stories - and a promising glimpse into where their continuously evolving sound is headed next. 

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