Live @ Port City Music Hall, Portland, Maine | 10.19.2010
by Andy Whorehall
The Hold Steady, with the release of 2010’s Heaven is Whenever, continued to plow a rock n’ roll path fusing 70s & 80s classic rock & punk. What separates the recent release apart from the previous recordings are the realities of road weariness & lineup changes kicking in- live, this is not the case. The central focus has been and will always be intelligent barfly observations courtesy of lead singer-songwriter, Craig Finn, combined with monster riff arrangements by Tad Kubler. Finn is the real draw though on record and live. A true band leader & writer, if there needs to be a blind comparison; a less pompous, pretentious-free version of Elvis Costello.
Live, in Portland, Maine, the band speed rocked it’s way up to Your Little Hoodrat Friend off of ‘Separation Sunday,’ pausing to slow down, building 1 solo into a triple solo attack while entertaining the thought of a jam band moment. Just when it coulda gotten a bit ‘Phishy’ it kicked back in. Reoccurring themes and characters live and die, party and reflect, connecting each Hold Steady song together; often blurring into one, epic, rock suite. Hurricane J twisting into Sequestered in Memphis breaking the pace for the punk-bop-bounce of Barely Breathing. As if the band has somewhere to be by dawn.
Not even random attempts by a very tall kid who kept trying to crowd surf like he was in a Pearl Jam moshpit to no success could slow down this train. The Hold Steady sped through songs, digging deep in their catalog and sweating for every cent Portland gave them. Finn spat off lyrics & gestured the crowd with punk preacher theatrics quicker, funnier, angrier, and just as poignant as any hip hop artist running the game right now minus pro-tools and hits. About 1 hour and 35 minutes after it began, before I could breathe and after I was drunk, the night ended in a 4 encore blur, magnificently with How a Resurrection Really Feels, the closer off of ‘Separation Sunday.’
The Hold Steady has been dubbed one of America’s great bar bands, to quote one of their own songs- a slight discomfort. They’re a little too ironic & moving too fast for a title once reserved for Hootie & The Blowfish. There’s no way a middle aged man like Craig Finn can sweat this much on stage, furiously spit out some of the most brilliant, midwestern lines live in a drenched polo while gesturing like a toy monkey; and breathe still; and make it to 50 without a heart attack.
Sweet Part of the City / You Can Make Him Like You
Constructive Summer / Hot Soft Light
You Gotta Dance (With Who You Came To The Dance With)
Our Whole Lives
We Can Get Together
Stuck Between Stations
Your Little Hoodrat Friend
Sequestered in Memphis
A Slight Discomfort
How a Resurrection Really Feels