Live at Cockpit on Tuesday, 10th July 2007
A sound that is lacking in music today, i concur's dirty layer upon layer of guitar and vocals, plus the thumping rhythms carrying the tunes along with the tricky bass lines, sound so wrong but so tight at the same time. With songs about the M62 and a guy called 'Lucky Jack', it's hard to dislike this band. The gradual build up in each song suddenly hit you, with Hann's and drummer James Brunger's vocals holding it all together. Let's hope these lads get to play at their local festival, and win over more fans as they do it so easily.
With more festival appearances up their sleeve than anyone else this year, it's hard for a single person in the UK to have not seen or at least know of The Hold Steady. Tonight Craig Finn looks every inch the cheeky chappy, constantly grinning to the crowd. Franz Nicolay, as the smartly dressed one, gains the biggest cheer as he dances and pogos onstage with his beret and curly moustache. No wonder bassist Galen Polivka playfully makes fun of him regularly; making talking puppet hands over his shoulder in response to Nicolay's enthusiastic singing routines, and even tinkering with his keyboard. Drummer Bobby Drake and guitarist Tad Kubler are a little less excitable while they hold it all together.
Starting the set the same way as the third album 'Boys And Girls In America', with 'Stuck Between Stations' and 'Chips Ahoy' early crowd pleasers. Playing the two UK singles first is a good move, as many of the sold out crowd do not seem to know much about the band; they have just heard some hype about their appearance at Glastonbury.
Finn is funny to watch; rarely using his guitar for the full period of a song; more content to swing his arms around to explain his complex lyrics. The miming to the words directly after he has sung them is the best; making him look a little crazy but in a harmless way. Polivka resists the urge to spark up a fag like he does at every show; I had bets on whether he would or not (I lost).
The majority of the set is full of BAGIA tracks, ('Massive Nights', 'Party Pit'), but there are a few oldies to catch folk out ('Cattle And The Creeping Things', 'Killer Parties'). Many songs are instant sing-a-long tracks, helped by the catchy choruses like on 'You Can Make Him Like You' and 'Southtown Girls' (though not many people are trying to sing with Finn during the verses; they are a little fast and confusing to master). For the encore Kubler is on acoustic guitar, Nicoly on accordion, Polivka on xylophone, Drake is still on the drums and Finn's on the Grolsch. 'Citrus' is followed by 'First Night' and fan favourite 'Everyone's A Critic But Most People Are DJs'. 'Killer Parties' ends the set, the perfect encore ender. This band are only getting better in my eyes. I miss the first time I saw them, where the entire crowd clambered onstage to join in the fun. Although they are suited to the smaller venues like tonight, I think the whirlwind of fame is going to pick them up and put them in bigger venues. I am going to try and see them more while the shows are still relatively small.