Friday, June 1, 2007
Hold Steady concert preview 1: Why are these guys such a big deal?
I was not an immediate convert to the church of The Hold Steady.
And it is a church. The texts are full of people we've never met and places we've never seen, but we know all about them nonetheless. Alcohol also plays an intricate, symbolic part.
The faithful, most of them evangelical, would try to convert me, suggesting psalms and trying to get me to come to a service. I tried but just didn't feel it. The actual music was good but, in part because I am a Springsteen fan, I bristled at the Boss comparisons. Sure, Bruce packed a lot of words into his lyrics, but they fit the beat. Craig Finn's lyrics were Bruce-worthy, but at times he spewed his words as though there was no beat at all.
Then came "Boys and Girls in America" last year. The music got even better, as did Finn's lyrics, which he even started fitting to the music. Not only did the album soar, it unlocked their two previous, messier records. All the parts came together, and, as the song goes, "then I got born again." I was a convert.
The Hold Steady — Stuck Between Stations (MP3)
The Hold Steady — Stevie Nix (MP3)
Now here I am, preaching to the unconverted, saying that I was once like you, but The Hold Steady really are that good.
Tonight's show at Canes got me thinking about what exactly makes The Hold Steady so exciting. Sure, there's big guitar riffs, and the songs are about drinking, girls and regret, but not in that Bon Jovi kind of way. That's a sure hit for my 20-something-guy set, plus plenty of others. But right now you're probably thinking of another of your favorite bands that fit the description.
The difference is that a Hold Steady concert makes us feel the way we did at our first concert.
And while many of us might be embarrassed to name that band, there's no embarrassment with these guys. Jump up and down, sing or yell along with the words, raise your tall boy can of beer in the air. It's all good. The band is having just as much fun on stage. That's what they mean when they talk about making their concerts a big party. It's all-inclusive and all-accepting, the kind of mantra so many other religions preach but rarely follow.