A collection of musically themed musings by Brendan Bush in Burlington, VT

Mail: PO Box 1556 | Burlington, VT 05402

Wrapup: The Hold Steady @ Higher Ground 4/5/2010

Filed Under: Concert Reviews, Live Shows

Written by Brendan

Tuesday April 6, 2010

I knew I should have worn earplugs last night. My ears are still ringing and clicking. Needless to say, it was once again worth it.

The Hold Steady played the Ballroom to a crowd of a couple hundred. The turnout was actually fairly impressive given that they have never been here before and they aren’t a jam band or an aging hip-hop artist (oh, Burlington). It was an eclectic crowd — from the 20 or so x-hands jumping around up front to the decently sized college kid contingent to the more subdued 30, 40 and 50 somethings in the back.

I got there in time to catch a few songs from The Oranges Band, who are celebrating 10 years together. I found them to be a bit bland, like a watered down version of The Hold Steady (their lead singer Roman Kuebler — no relation to Hold Steady guitarist Tad Kubler — even looks like a watered down version of Craig Finn). Kuebler’s best performance came when he returned to the stage to sing a couple of songs with The Hold Steady — apparently he is featured a bit on their new record.

unfortunately I only had my camera phone...

Anyhow, I went in to the show hoping they’d play a good chunk of songs off of Separation Sunday and Boys & Girls in America, and they didn’t disappoint. The set began with “Cattle and the Creeping Things”, and while the sound mix could have had Finn’s voice a little louder, it definitely set the energy level fairly high for the rest of the show. My favorites were “Your Little Hoodrat Friend,” “Chips Ahoy,” and “South Town Girls.” Finn said “South Town Girls” is his mom’s favorite Hold Steady song, though she has worried that the lyrics mean that he’d settle for a woman even if he knew she wasn’t good enough — to which he replied no, but I know some guys who would.

The crowd was definitely into the show, and I think the energy and interest was returned to us by the band. I didn’t come across any show-talkers, and at points it almost seemed like the whole room was dancing/bobbing/nodding along.

The Hold Steady

Having seen The Hold Steady during what I consider to be their prime (Lollapalooza 2007), I do have to say that the presence of Franz Nicolay was definitely missed (not to mention his mustache). There was something about the energy that flowed between him and Craig Finn that is really lacking in their new arrangement. Though for what it’s worth, Finn still has an incredible stage presence. During many of the songs, after singing a line, he would then step away from the microphone and repeat the line to the crowd, seemingly smirking at the cleverness — an endearing quirk in spite of the obsessive-compulsiveness.

I’m getting old and had to skip out before the encore, which I regrettably have to assume included “Massive Nights.” The price you pay I guess…

All in all, another great Hold Steady show that has me eager to pick up their new album “Heaven Is Whenever” when it comes out on May 4.

Note: All photos are copyright © 2010 Brendan Bush unless otherwise noted. You are free to copy, distribute and transmit them as long as proper attribution is given, in accordance with this Creative Commons policy.

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