LIVE: The Hold Steady @ the Hollow Bar + Kitchen, 4/11/14

Steve Selvidge, Craig Finn and Galen Polivka

The Hold Steady: Steve Selvidge, Craig Finn and Galen Polivka

Review and photographs by Martin Benjamin

The Hold Steady’s appearance on stage last Friday night at the Hollow Bar + Kitchen in Albany was prefaced by playing Lou Reed singing “we’re going to have a real good time together” over the sound system. Then singer/bandleader Craig Finn came to the mic and told the crowd the same thing to start the show. It WAS going to be a real good time together for about the 300 or so fans [in the club proper and along the periphery] that came out to hear them. Finn and band surged into their new album Teeth Dreams’ opening track, “I Hope This Song Doesn’t Frighten You.” Finn alternately pleaded, cheer-leaded and silently mouthed words over again that he had just sung – off mic to the fans up front – imposing an irony by questioning what the hell those words just meant alternating with silently mouthing some of the words over again to reinforce them, like using a fluorescent highlighter to make you pay attention to them.

Craig Finn is smiling a lot these days, during and between songs, and he should be. He said in a Providence Phoenix interview that this current line-up and their charisma is about as good as it gets. They WERE about as good as it gets Friday night at the Hollow. THS served up a good dose of half the stuff from their new album, along with an abundance of other fan favorites about little hood rat friends, a hurricane named Jesse, rock and roll problems and staying positive. They played 24 songs in all.

Three songs into it, he told the crowd of his Saratoga Race Track experience some years ago, where he won a drinking match with his sister by downing 29 beers. He is still gloating a bit about it, he admitted. He continued with a story about a woman calling on the phone while he was at the track, telling him to play a horse for her. With that the band lunged into “Chips Ahoy.” “She put $900 on the fifth horse in the sixth race, I think his name was Chips Ahoy” was sung while Finn and audience hand-signaled various numbers to each other as they came up, with the audience also singing along with the “wo-ah-oh-ee-ah- oh-ee-oh” background vocals. A Hold Steady show is a collaborative experience with the audience, and everyone involved comes out ahead for it.

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Later, he also thanked the audience for being “nice” since it was so crowded and tight and yet everyone respected everyone else, especially up front. He revealed that an uninitiated women-friend who came to their previous show told him afterward that “I think your fans are really nice people.” And Finn agreed, saying, “You ARE really nice people.”

The tune “The Weekenders” from their Heaven Is Whenever album ends with the line, “In the end I bet no one learns a lesson.” When the song concluded, Finn stated, “That’s what all these songs are about, aren’t they?”

Finn gave kudos to the audience, saying “It is 2014, and there must be a million ways you could spend the evening. You could have stayed home tonight, but you didn’t. You came out and drank beers and listened to rock and roll. Thank you.”

SECOND OPINIONS:
John Rodat’s review at Metroland

THE HOLD STEADY SET LIST
I Hope This Whole Thing Didn’t Frighten You
Ask Her for Adderall
Chips Ahoy!
On With the Business
Stuck Between Stations
Cattle and the Creeping Things
Sequestered in Memphis
Rock Problems
Magazines
Almost Everything
The Weekenders
You Gotta Dance (With Who You Came to the Dance With)
Multitude of Casualties
Spinners
The Ambassador
Southtown Girls
You Can Make Him Like You
Your Little Hoodrat Friend
ENCORES
Constructive Summer
Hot Soft Light
Hurricane J
Massive Nights
Stay Positive
Slapped Actress

BONUS REVIEW: The Hold Steady @ The Met, Pawtucket, RI, 4/12/2014

I had reason to be in Providence, Rhode Island on the weekend, so I was able to hook up with the tour the following night at The Met in Pawtucket. The Met is a great place to see a show, spacious and friendly. THS set list was changed considerably from the Hollow show the night before, and the show differed greatly. About halfway through I thought Finn’s voice was really hurting, that maybe it was a struggle to sing, and a great thing happened. He turned his voice into more of a growl, and it seemed to me the band really picked it up and covered for him, playing intensely and great. I thought I saw something else interesting. Bassist Galen Polivka looked taken aback, and as I watched him I concluded that possibly he looked a little embarrassed about at how damned great this band was playing. The bandmates boosted Finn, as it seemed his voice bounced right back after a couple of songs.

That’s how cool THS is. You show up, maybe run into the guitar player with his pretty girlfriend outside the club next to the tour bus, certainly a rock ‘n’ roll cliché. Fans collaborate with the band in their show. Everyone feels exhilarated – you absorb both the certainty and the irony – and as you leave and can’t get the side exit door open, a hand comes forward as a voice says, “We gotta get this door open” and as you turn you find Craig Finn opening the door for you. Very real and normal, but also way-cool.

Cheap Girls opened both nights, with Pawtucket being their final gig on the tour. Channeling a Matthew Sweet ’90s-era sound, they were forceful with lead singer-bassist Ian Graham being charismatic and commanding attention throughout. They are a dynamic trio with a new album, Famous Graves, dropping on Thursday, May 13.

THE HOLD STEADY SET LIST
I Hope This Whole Thing Didn’t Frighten You
Constructive Summer
Hot Soft Light
The Swish
Sequestered in Memphis
Rock Problems
Magazines
Girls Like Status
The Ambassador
Spinners
The Weekenders
You Can Make Him Like You
Sweet Payne
Stuck Between Stations
Banging Camp
Southtown Girls
Your Little Hoodrat Friend
How a Resurrection Really Feels
ENCORES
The Sweet Part of the City
The Only Thing
Chips Ahoy!
Massive Nights
Stay Positive

The Hold Steady

The Hold Steady

Galen Polivka, Craig Finn and Bobby Drake

Galen Polivka, Craig Finn and Bobby Drake

 Ian Graham of Cheap Girls

Ian Graham of Cheap Girls

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