Thursday, November 22, 2007

The Hold Steady Top of the Pops Art Brut Top of the Pops 1990s Top of the Pops at Terminal 5

The Hold Steady; Art Brut; 1990s
@ Terminal 5
New York, NY - November 21, 2007

See here's the thing: By all logic, the Hold Steady should NOT be good. A bar band? A constant focus on Craig Finn's life from 15 years ago? The same topics, phrases, and conventional rock styles repeated over and over in each song? This should be considered right awful uninspired garbage with an exceptional and bizarre level of self-obsession. But lo and behold, this is one of the most fun, most wonderful, most joyus experiences in the world today. Whether it be the belt of house shaking rockers from their 3 records, or the shoulder-embracing ballads, this drunken love fest is beyond reproach. There is something disconcerting about the beer swilling (and whiskey swilling and wine swilling) men on stage singing about their days of yore with a hindsight of years gone by...and their youthful reflections below them, gorging on the very excesses Craig sings about. And yet, it is a time so unabashedly glorious, it slays hyperbole with ease. After all, let's not kid ourselves: life is a cycle and there would be no point in the Hold Steady if Craig looked upon his past with total, evangelical, regret. So let the kids do what they must and each will figure out their own road. And as they do, let "Hot Soft Light", "Stuck Between Stations", "The Swish", "Chips Ahoy", "Massive Nights", "You Can Make Him Like You", "Your Little Hoodrat Friend", "South Town Girls", "First Night", "Stay Positive", and "Killer Parties" be their soundtrack for better or worse.

Art Brut has become something of a comedy band. The new projector screen full of funnies insures that ("TWICE" flashing over and over after Eddie Argos' proclamation of how many times he's seen his brand new girlfriend naked was the highlight). But damned if they don't provide bitching solos, stomping hooks, and headbanging fun. Eddie's run through the crowd was marred only by the crowd's shocking lack of enthusiasm (who'd a thunk the Art Brut fans would be much calmer than the Hold Steady fans) but when the man sang "hey ho, let's go!" in ode to New York's greatest, you knew where the band's heart lay, in the right spot. "18,000 Lira", "Pump Up The Volume", "Direct Hit", "Good Weekend", "My Little Brother", and particularly "Modern Art" worked best.

1990s opened the show with that slap dash good time 3 chord dancey rock n' roll that made them the buzz of CMJ. Distant cousins of Franz Ferdinand (the band, not the archduke), this Scotch-led trio proved a time tested hallmark of a great band: making the album filler sound Not perfect. Like Art Brut after them, there was some unavoidable "enough already" moments, but, when you take in all 3 bands in one night, it makes you lament, yet again, the state of popular music today. And that makes you feel old, which is exactly what the point of these 3 bands is not. Well maybe that is the point of the Hold Steady. Who knows. Walk around and drink some more and then find out.

An SPTV Special

The extended Hold Steady introduction before "Hot Soft Light", with more Morricone, is available here.

Photos (all awful, not my fault though, tell Craig and Eddie to stop moving around so much!)

Fantastic Hold Steady and Art Brut photos by Jason Bergman

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