When the members of The Hold Steady formed their band, they had no intention of ever releasing their music in recorded form: they simply wanted to be a great bar band. Six years and four highly-praised albums later, the Brooklyn-based quintet is on the verge of jumping into the mainstream with their Springsteen-meets-Costello-meets-Clash sound. They remain true to their bar band roots, however, as evidenced by the whirlwind of a show they put on as headliners of RXP 101.9's anniversary show held at the Fillmore in New York City on March 30th.
Their set opened with the strike of a gong and the rapid-fire intro chords of "Constructive Summer," a song about striving to do great things but falling short due to life's distractions (including drinking). The crowd (doing a lot of drinking themselves) went ballistic immediately, with general craziness breaking out all over the floor, pausing only momentarily to give folks a chance to shout the song's refrain, "This Summer!" Crowd interaction is one of The Hold Steady's strong suits, and would become a recurrent theme through out the show. From the whoa-ohs of "Chips Ahoy!" to the rhythmic clapping called for at times by Craig Finn (the lead singer), the crowd became part of the show itself. One can't help but get sucked in by all the energy eminating from the band and the audience, especially when it's wild enough that one girl actually backflipped off the stage onto the crowd, who proceeded to surf her around parts of the venue and back. The wild party atmosphere was both amazing and infectious.
Although most of the show was very high energy, the band did slow things down occasionally as they explored their entire catalog during their 1 hour, 45 minute set, with strong performances of their more pensive songs (such as "Don't Let Me Explode" and "Lord, I'm Discouraged.") It's good to see a band confident enough to pull out their possibly less-recognized early releases and really make them work. They made sure to go out with a bang, though, as they played a rousing encore highlighted by (probably) their most popular song to date, "Stuck Between Stations." Most of the crowd left the show happy, hoarse, and a little haggard, which is always an indicator of a great live band. For more info on The Hold Steady, head on over to MySpace. Their music is available now on !