Saturday, August 14, 2010

Concert Review: The Hold Steady with The Whigs, July 16, Toronto

Moved form Kool Haus to The Phoenix (Thank God)
You know you are a ridiculous fan-girl of The Hold Steady when you notice that lead singer Craig Finn has a new guitar. If memory serves, this was my fifth Hold Steady show (I think, I was drunk as hell at all of those shows), so I knew what to expect. Rock, jumping around, singalongs, Finn being geeky, Tad Kubler being a guitar god, spilled beer, and more rock. And in short, I got exactly what I expected.

However, this was the first time that I had seen THS since the departure of Franz Nicolay, the multi-talented instrumentalist who played with THS for the previous five years. I'm a big fan of rock piano, and I really loved Nicolay's keyboards in previous shows and records. For this show, THS had a touring keyboardist, but he was way in the back and I couldn't get a good look at him. After scouring the THS web forum, no one else seems to know who he was either. Regardless, I missed Nicolay, and I felt that the live keyboard parts were weak without him.

But the guitar parts were killer! THS added guitarist Steve Selvidge, formerly of Lucero (another of my favorite bands), on backing electric guitar, which was a brilliant move on the band's part because, let's face it, Craig Finn is too busy singing and flailing around the stage to properly add a rhythm background.

THS focused most of their set on their latest release, Heaven Is Whenever, and scattered the rest of their set with songs from all four of their other studio albums. My verdict on Heaven is Whenever is still out. It's not as good as my favorite, Boys and Girls in America, or their previous release Constructive Summer. But at the same time, you can't expect Finn to write songs about drugs, parties, Charlemagne, and bad Catholics forever. Is this album a departure, or growth as a band? I don't know. Anyway, for this show THS also played the three personal favorites that I really wanted to hear: "Massive Nights, "Your Little Hoodrat Friend," and "Stuck Between Stations." Awesome!

Kubler sounded like he was auditioning for Winger circa 1987 with his power ballad guitar solo on "We Can Get Together." During "Your Little Hoodrat Friend," Kubler and Selvidge exchanged dueling guitar riffs. But Kubler really blew my mind when he pulled out the 12-string/6-string double electric in "A Slight Discomfort." Eat your heart out Jimmy Page.

At the beginning of the show someone handed Finn a cardboard poster, and towards the end of the show he held it up and it read something like, "There is so much joy in what you do." And it's true. There is no happier dude on the planet than when Finn is on stage, grinning like an idiot, and entertaining the masses. There is nothing in my life that makes me even one-half as happy as Finn is when he is performing. Except for maybe a good beer buzz while Finn is entertaining me.

Set List
1. The Sweet Part of the City
2. Rock Problems
3. Constructive Summer
4. Multitude of Casualties
5. Magazines
6. Hurricane J
7. Soft In The Center
8. Banging Camp
9. Chips Ahoy!
10. Barfruit Blues
11. Cheyenne Sunrise
12. Barely Breathing
13. Sequestered in Memphis
14. Girls Like Status.mp3
From: Boys and Girls in America (Australian release Bonus Track) (2006)
15. We Can Get Together
16. Stuck Between Stations
17. Your Little Hoodrat Friend.mp3
Buy: A Positive Rage (2009)
18. The Weekenders
19. Massive Nights
20. A Slight Discomfort

21. You Can Make Him Like You
22. Southtown Girls
23. Slapped Actress

The Athens, Georgia, based trio The Whigs opened the show with a rocking mini set. Despite some technical problems, which The Hold Steady stage crew helped them out with, they place loud, tight rock. I loved watching the head-banging, hair-flailing, stage-jumping boys jaunting around like rock stars. Indie rock needs more of these types of stage antics. A lot more.

In the Dark.mp3
Buy: In the Dark (2010)

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