The Hold Steady 

Sept. 23, Revolution

This was my first Hold Steady show that didn't bring a day-long, cactus-stomached, cotton-mouthed, Jameson-cursing hangover in its wake.

See, when you're worshiping the splendor to be found in well-meaning hedonism with the clergymen of getting black-out drunk, you're required to put a pretty huge emphasis on the communion aspect of the whole night. That is, communion in the crowd and, especially, the sacraments behind the bar.

Now, after five Hold Steady Memorial Hangovers in five years, I'm pleased to report that the band's notoriously great live shows aren't just a figment of a communal boozmagination. The liquor-soaked, "double whiskey Coke, no ice" hymns are still contagiously ecstatic even when you're in the rare, sober minority, nursing a beer instead of sucking down shots.

I can't imagine higher praise for America's Greatest Bar Band™ .

After the band ambled on stage to a Morricone spaghetti Western whistler over the speakers, the foursome strapped up, plugged in and tore through "Constructive Summer," funnily enough, one day after the end of the season. Consider it the music for the closing credits of a successful summer.

From there on out, they soloed, shimmied and chanted through six years of catalogue, hitting high points ("The Swish," the ban's first single; "Stuck Between Stations," the opening track from 2006's "Boys and Girls in America," a bona fide classic album) and obscure gems ("Guys Go For Looks, Girls Go For Status"). But when Hold Steady played tracks from "Heaven is Whenever," the crowd gave the same lukewarm (but polite) reaction that met the album upon its release.

Thankfully, the new material didn't account for too much of the 23-song set. And when the band returned for an encore, they hit hard with "Chips Ahoy!", "Your Little Hoodrat Friend" and "How a Resurrection Really Feels," three long-time, sure-fire crowd pleasers.

Throughout the entire show, the reliable Brooklynites didn't stray too far from their trusty formula. Tad Kubler shredded on his double-neck Gibson, the bassist tripped over his own feet and Craig Finn spazzed, contorted and grinned through the set so hard that he unplugged his microphone at least once.

The Hold Steady: the most dependable band in America.


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