The Hold Steady Does It All Night Long

April 19th, 2010

The Hold Steady – The Bowery Ballroom/Music Hall of Williamsburg – April 17, 2010

Taking a cursory glance at audience members’ wrists at Music Hall of Williamsburg sometime after 1 a.m. on Sunday morning, it was obvious that the Hold Steady weren’t the only ones pulling double duty. The indelible, florescent twin wristbands marked for some fans an evening spanning two boroughs and nearly seven hours. It was two sold-out shows, starting at The Bowery Ballroom, where the doors opened at 6:30, and followed by a late-night 12:15 a.m. set at Music Hall of Williamsburg. The Hold Steady was perhaps the perfect band to do it.

Though the set lists were slightly altered and lead singer Craig Finn changed his blue oxford shirt for plaid, the two sets were twins in their theatrics. At The Bowery, people in the audience shouted lyrics at Finn and high-fived one another after each song. At Music Hall, the crowd barked some of the same lyrics at the band, turning the middle of the floor into a carbonated, bouncing mess. Bowery was the scene of the hugs and arms around, as people celebrated being in the room with the band. And the Hold Steady’s everyman anthems easily broke the wall between band and audience, like all these people were complicit in the making of these songs. They certainly knew the words and as Finn spun away from his microphone, like a nerdy top, sweating and ebullient, he seemed fine letting all these strangers into his process. In fact, it was the point.

The band walked off the stage after their main set at Bowery to the dulcet outro of “How a Resurrection Really Feels.” For a band with two new members and a brand new record, Heaven Is Whenever, Finn’s final insistence—“and that’s how a resurrection really feels”—felt new and righteous. At Music Hall, four hours later, Finn left the stage with a thank you and the crowd continued to sing backing vocals, like a sea shanty or a European football chant in the dark. The band returned with the crushing “Citrus” before closing with “Stay Positive.” Finn, ever direct and charming, screamed, “Stay positive, Brooklyn!” before ending the double sell out with a wave and a disappearance backstage. —Geoff Nelson