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A Night of Revelry

April 11th, 2011

The Hold Steady – Terminal 5 – April 8, 2011

Hold Steady - Terminal 5 - April 8, 2011
Hold Steady frontman Craig Finn knows how to deliver a line—all of them, in fact. Before a sold-out Terminal 5 crowd on Friday night, he paced the stage, full of emphatic gestures and facial expressions. Seeming more like a seasoned storyteller on the next barstool than a rock singer on a raised stage, Finn managed to make the show feel intensely intimate. All of the Hold Steady’s albums are akin to books of atmospheric short stories. They’re filled with intricate details, conflicted protagonists, unfulfilled desires and desperate debauchery. Backed by wailing guitar lines, Finn pulls you into the gritty realism contained within the world of the songs. As such, it’s not unlikely to feel pangs of nostalgia or moments of catharsis as you identify with the tales of the Hold Steady’s cast of damaged characters.

But of course, a Hold Steady show is not all about introspection and allegory. For most fans, it’s simply a party. After the moody opening number, “Both Crosses,” the group ripped into the first bars of “Stuck Between Stations,” and in the audience, half-full plastic cups began shooting into the air, droplets of beer cascading down, as if to mark the start of the impending drunken, celebratory night. As per usual, the band did a fine job of fostering the festivities and played a range of material from their latest record, Heaven Is Whenever (“Rock Problems,” “The Weekenders,” “Hurricane J”), as well as songs from the remainder of their catalog (“Sequestered in Memphis,” “How a Resurrection Really Feels,” “Southtown Girls,” “Killer Parties”).

With all the stories woven into the songs throughout the night, perhaps the most inspiring of all was Finn’s own tale, relayed in a heartfelt speech toward the end of the night. In the middle of “Your Little Hoodrat Friend,” the singer paused to say, “When I turned 30, I worked in an office. And I was fucking bored. And I thought, ‘I want to be in a rock and roll band.’ I was 31 when we played out first show. The next time I see some of you, I’m gonna be 40. I hope the next decade is as good as this one.” As the crowd cheered, the band readied to play the final verse of the song and Finn concluded: “I want to thank you guys for being a part of it.” —Alena Kastin

Photos courtesy of Sean O’Kane | seanokanephoto.com