Sunday, August 30, 2009

'Yeah It Feels Pretty Good': The Hold Steady, Live in D.C., 8.29.09

No matter how much different music you listen to, I think there’s always something you call home. Not even a genre, necessarily, but just a … feeling you get when a certain sound hits you.

Something that gets you in the gut and sets fireworks off in your soul.

For me, it’s big, wide-open, earthy, full, sturdy rock. Not too hard, not too soft. Not too easy, not too obscure. With their chunky chords and driving rhythm section, The Hold Steady—at times—play this type of music. They played a lot of it Saturday night at the 9:30 Club in D.C.

I’m not a huge fan of this band; their singalong songs definitely are not my scriptures (I leave that to The Gaslight Anthem). But I sure like them enough for a $25 ticket on a weekend. Their set reinforced all my perceptions about their studio albums: The songs I love on CD I loved even more in concert; the songs I can live without, I could have lived without hearing in person.

I prefer frontman Craig Finn when he actually tries to sing, rather than his stream-of-consciousness shout/talk style (“Hornets! Hornets!,” for example). Which, basically, means I like his band’s newer material more than the old. My favorite section of the 95-minute show was the six-song stretch that closed the main set, starting with “Lord, I’m Discouraged” and running through “Stuck Between Stations” (probably my fave THS song), “Southtown Girls,” “Stay Positive.” “Slapped Actress,” and “How a Resurrection Really Feels.”

Finn is a likeable lead, with his male-pattern baldness, middle-age lumpy frame, and enthusiastic stage presence. But his lyrics don’t speak to my gut the way his bandmates’ music does. I wrote last year it all seems very academic, and last night did nothing to change my opinion. I can only listen to so many songs about girls getting drunk and high.

That being said, I appreciated being in the room. It’s a joy to watch a band take a stage and just own it, with confidence and clarity and craftsmanship. They balanced the set well with songs from all their albums, plus three new tracks I know sent the diehards into fits of delirium.

I’m glad I went. I like The Hold Steady all the more for it.

I just don’t think I’ll ever go further than that.

The Hold Steady

9:30 Club

Washington, D.C.


Show Time: 1 hour, 35 minutes


Hornets! Hornets!

Constructive Summer

Hot Soft Light

Sequestered in Memphis

The Swith

Barfruit Flies


Our Whole Lives (new song)

Don’t Let Me Explode

Stevie Nix

You Can Make Him Like You

Separate Vacations (new song)

Lord, I’m Discouraged

Stuck Between Stations

Southtown Girls

Stay Positive

Slapped Actress

How a Resurrection Really Feels


Chips Ahoy!

Going on a Hike (new song)

Your Little Hoodrat Friend

Certain Songs

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