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Local “Bar Band” Rocks The Bowery Ballroom

June 10th, 2009

The Hold Steady – The Bowery Ballroom – June 9, 2009

The Hold SteadyCraig Finn, lead singer of the Hold Steady, does not cut an impressive figure. He could just as easily be cheering on his kids at a youth soccer game as controlling the stage at The Bowery Ballroom. But his voice—a paradox, an unexpected power, a rapid-fire weapon—is the mediator. He belongs here. Looks can be deceiving but sounds rarely are.

A slowly advancing onslaught of sweat made its way down Finn’s blue oxford shirt as the evening wore on. It began with a small foothold near the neckline and built, like liquid manifest destiny, until it soaked half of his chest. Amidst this symbol of workmanship, Finn was plenty reflective and made sure to mention, “We haven’t played here since 2005.” It was a return in music, too, with the band playing the majority of the songs off Separation Sunday. Finn worked exceptionally hard with the older songs—slightly awkward in his movements and utterly explosive in his manner.

The Hold Steady began their encore with “Stuck Between Stations,” a song, like many of their others, about drinking recklessly. The crowd matched the band’s intensity, rocking the floor and bouncing to the ceiling. Finn, with his freestyle delivery, shouted the lyrics away from the mike and the band poured keyboard over the arrangement like drunk college students pouring lighter fluid on charcoal fires. Earlier, Finn maintained that, despite success, the band is still a “bar band.” No deception was necessary. The audience could not have missed what they heard. —Geoff Nelson