Someone give this guy $10,000. Ryan Muir/metromix.com.
The Hold Steady
Friday May 2
There’s this sweet new trend among Hold Steady fans apparently where you toss a half-full cup of beer straight up in the air during climactic moments—when the whole band kicks into “Your Little Hoodrat Friend,” say—so as to better amplify the fist-pumping Bruceness of it all. In a venue where beers cost $8 or so, this is a powerful statement.
Meanwhile, this is a strange show, some sort of Target/Tribeca Film Fest hybrid sponsorship wherein the first band of the evening is handed a check for $10,000, and the Hold Steady’s immediate predecessors, the Virgins, slog through a joyless, impotent version of INXS’s “Devil Inside” while the hugely overzealous lighting guy goes all Phantom of the Opera on us.
Thankfully, the Hold Steady play it straight: bar-band grandiosity par excellence, and mostly the hits at that—not a lot from their imminent new album in June, save that song with the line “Raise a toast to Saint Joe Strummer” in it. No, it’s mostly “Stuck Between Stations,” “Massive Nights,” “Stevie Nix,” “Southtown Girls,” etc., all still indisputably great Led Zep/poetry slam anthemia; when guitarist Tad Kubler rattles off a particularly righteous “Eruption”-worthy solo on the latter, he and head ranter Craig Finn enthusiastically high-five. Twice.
It’s important to note how crucial keyboardist Franz Nicolay (the nattily dressed one who looks like Super Mario) is to all this. This is gonna sound pejorative, but everything he plays comes out as straight-up Bruce Hornsby: “The Way It Is” for the fast ones, “Mandolin Rain” for the slow ones. This is a very very good thing. Not worth dumping $4 worth of beer on your neighbors over, in my opinion, but we all react to Bruce Hornsby differently.