The Hold Steady – Melkweg – 21.06.2010

Craig Finn - The Hold Steady
The lovechild of Woody Allen and Jarvis Cocker?

My ears were bleeding by the end of this – a very loud gig in the intimate surroundings of the Oude Zaal at the Melkweg. Given my tendency to be into more folky stuff, perhaps my threshold isn’t very high, but with two lead guitars, Craig Finn on rhythm from time to time, and the drums and bass thumping, there was plenty of sound to fill the room. (Frankly I’m not sure why the guy on keyboards bothered – you really couldn’t hear him 95% of the time – or maybe I’m losing my hearing with age!)

It used to bother me the way Uncut magazine would go on and on about how great The Hold Steady were. I bought Boys and Girls in America and took a long time to get into it. But I do like the story-telling and seeing Craig Finn perform in the flesh adds a whole new dimension. Unfortunately his vocals weren’t very high up in the mix, so I couldn’t really hear most of the stories he so dramatically told, but it was entertaining to watch him in action. If Woody Allen and Jarvis Cocker were somehow to conceive a child together I think Craig Finn is what would result…but he’d be brought up by Bruce Springsteen, who would teach him the value of good stories about the trials and tribulations of the working man. Then he’d go off the rails for a few years and hang out with various dodgy characters before emerging as the twisting and twisted front man of a guitar-driven rock band.

It was a good gig. I think they played for about 90 minutes, almost without catching a breath. High energy stuff for a not-quite-full room. The hard core fans up the front were loving it. It was probably a bit too raucous for my tastes, but on the right night I could really have gotten into it. (I’m far from an expert on Thin Lizzy, but I had the impression that the sound wasn’t a million miles from what a Lizzy gig might have been like.) From Neil Finn the night before to Craig Finn, it was definitely the antidote to the more gentle proceedings of the evening before. I probably would have liked both to be somewhere in between.

The support act was actually louder and more raucous again. Cymbals Eat Drums, also from New York. Their songs were a bit more disjointed and angular – not really my cup of tea, but interesting to watch.