Wednesday, November 14, 2007
They came, they rocked the drunkards. Last night, The Hold Steady played Lawrence, Kansas’s Granada Theater, a bigger room with a bigger stage than the Bottleneck, site of their last foray into Larrytown. The crowd was bigger, too, and more combustible, and younger and dumber (Hello fratboy meatheads pushing your way to the front! Hello world’s waifiest male crowd surfer! Hello loud unfunny guy! Hello tattooed girl to whom Craig Finn earnestly implored “put your shirt back on, please”!).
Take away that my presence significantly raised the average age in the pit (Is it time to start hanging back by the bar? Yeah, it might be), and it was just like old times, back to my salad days, full of hot, sweaty rock and roll. The band is good, you know that. And they’re a little predictable, too. Maybe “dependable” is the better word. They’re guaranteed to rock or your money back. No one has walked away with a dime yet.
It was a bit more of a professional rock show than the last time I saw them. They had their own crew (instead of setting up themselves), and Tad wasn’t mingling with the hoi polloi before the set. When the band emerged on stage – Franz in his zoot-suited Rollie Fingers get-up; Bobby with his closely-trimmed locks and ever-present Rush t-shirt; Galen looking like, well, Galen; Tad, minus the glasses, seeming the very definition of “normal guy”; and Craig, cleanly shaven, in his best English-department-graduate-assistant-as-rock-star pose – they got the full heroes’ welcome.
The set list was shuffled, with “Hot Soft Light” pushing perennial opener “Stuck Between Stations” into the second slot. From there, it was heavy on tracks from Boys and Girls in America and unreleased gems, and notably light on the mythology of Holly, Gideon and Charlemagne (though Holly’s epic “Your Little Hoodrat Friend” blew the place up). Early on, Finn announced that a recent short break from touring had yielded some new songs, and we got three of them: “Sequestered in Memphis,” trademark riff-a-licious Hold Steady; “Lord, I’m Discouraged,” a slowed-down number that has been all over the interweb; and a song whose title I didn’t catch (I don’t think it was ever said) that detailed an unhealthy post-adolescent obsession with Led Zeppelin songs, name-checking a dozen or so (including “D’yer Mak’r” and “Trampled Under Foot”) along the way.
The encore kicked off with the unreleased and rarely played “Arms and Hearts,” a slow and spooky number that may be the single most unrepresentative song in the Hold Steady canon. That segued into a scorching “Most People are DJs” and then into the set-closing “Killer Parties,” which has come to be for the band what “My Way” was for Sinatra, the flashing neon sign that says “time to go home, folks.”
There was no mass dancing on the stage at shows end, but we received the normal benediction, Finn’s affirmation that we’re all The Hold Steady.