Monday, October 30, 2006

Massive Night

concert review: The Hold Steady, Sean Na Na @ Horseshoe Tavern(Toronto, Ontario), October 28, 2006

Craig Finn of The Hold Steady @ Horseshoe Tavern: photo by Michael Ligon

If I ever believed in the healing powers of rock n' roll, I had to look no further than The Hold Steady who were playing the Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto this past Saturday night. While I'd been down with a cold for a week prior to the show, by the time The Hold Steady's set rolled around this past Saturday night, it was like a shot of adrenaline. Fronted by charismatic frontman Craig Finn, he brought an Evangelical-like zeal to his stage presence as his sing-speak vocals had the crowd's full attention. While I'm a fan of much what's currently in vogue in rock n' roll, whether it be post-punk, garage-rock, or what-have you, The Hold Steady are wholeheartedly American-sounding. I've read the Bruce Springsteen comparisons and yeah that did ring true at times during The Hold Steady's hour plus set. I was actually reminded of another great American band, The Replacements. Like them, The Hold Steady perform an exuberant brand of working-class rock n' roll. The guitarist performed some of the crunchiest guitar sounds I've heard in a long time, and it was amazing. The dude with a moustache who played keyboards and harmonica was also a standout.

I'm reminded of how late I've jumped on The Hold Steady bandwagon. I recall overhearing a conversation this summer(or was it last year?) at a Toronto indie record store(which shall remain nameless) where two persons(I believe one was a store employee) talking about The Hold Steady where one person expressed The Hold Steady to be 'average' indie rock. After, I just never bothered to give 'em a listen. However, given the accolodaes threwn upon them in the music press, and bloggers like Chromewaves(who was also at the show) and others, I decided to finally check 'em out.

So yes, the show was pure rock n' roll. Craig Finn sing-speak vocals were somewhat peculiar against the more conventional rock n'roll instrumentation but you know what, I liked it. Mr Finn was a consummate frontman, exuding an energy as he extended his arms to the crowd, even if he look like a university teacher's assistant. Craig preceded most songs with what seemed like scripted banter which segwayed into songs quite nicely. As a newbie, it was a little frustrating not to have known the songs previously but thinking back to the show then checking out their albums on the internet, I know they peformed songs like, "Don't Let Me Explode", "Chips Ahoy!", "You Can Make Him Like You", "Chillout Tent", "Southtown Girls", and "Cattle and the Creeping Things". I've been listening to their newest album "Boys and Girls In America"(which I purchased at the show) and I'm struck by it's immediacy - it's quite possible that it'll be my favourite rock n' roll record of the year. I know that's saying alot, but it's that good.

I should say at least a few words about openers Sean Na Na. I think I'd have liked them more back in the 90's - they performed an admirable set of powerpop tunes, featuring fleshed-out melodies and adequate instrumentation. But overall, their music isn't something where my head's at right now. Although, half way through their set, I must mention that the rye and ginger that I had been drinking didn't sit well with the cough medication I took an hour or two before because near the end of Sean Na Na's set I had to head outdoors to catch a breath of fresh air.

Here are my photos.

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