Live: The Hold Steady with Sean Na Na and Black Fur at the Great American Music Hall: I arrived about ten minutes before the nominal start time of 8 pm and found about ten other people there. This did not give me confidence in the opening band; I was unaware that Black Fur were even on the bill and was expecting Sean Na Na to be the first act. In any case, the lack of people on the floor when I arrived allowed me to get very close to the stage. Black Fur did come across as unprofessional, with problems such as forgetting to plug in the guitarist’s pedals and some indeterminate flakiness in the bassist’s amp, and their drummer was a jackass who at one point spat beer into the audience. But despite this I actually enjoyed their set (once they got their equipment working). Certainly they sucked far less than the opening act at last year’s Hold Steady show. They were followed by Sean Na Na, who didn’t make much of an impression on me and I can’t really even remember what they sounded like.
The Hold Steady then came on and proceeded to play an outstanding set. Maybe it’s just that I was closer to the stage this time, but it felt like they had a stronger stage presence than last year and there was more interplay with the audience. All the songs sounded terrific, although during the first few Craig Finn was almost inaudible until they turned up his mike. Highlights: Of the new songs, I probably enjoyed “Massive Nights” the most—it was in the middle of the set when they were well warmed up and they gave it a great treatment. At the beginning of “Don’t Let Me Explode”, Finn told the story of the martyrdom of Saint Barbara, who is apparently the patron saint of Not Letting Things Explode (really), hence the line in the song: Saint Barbara I’m calling your name. As the second to last song they played a blistering rendition of “Your Little Hoodrat Friend”, during which a string broke on the bass, and the rest of the band improvised while the bassist replaced it, after which they picked up where they had left off.
This was all eclipsed by the encore, where “Hornets! Hornets!” was followed by “Most People Are DJs” during which the crowd was whipped into a frenzy. The song then transitioned smoothly into “Killer Parties”, the lead guitarist pulled someone out of the front row and put him on guitar, and then the band members started pulling people on stage as fast as they could. And did I mention I was up in front? As the show ended I was up on the stage with the Hold Steady and a crowd of other audience members, all dancing and singing along to the last lines of the song: I remember we departed from our bodies. We woke up in Ybor City…
It seems to me that any concert that ends this way should get a perfect score. Rating: 5/5
Hold Steady setlist below the fold (I was close enough that I could read it off Craig Finn’s copy):
Stuck Between Stations
Cattle and the Creeping Things
You Can Make Him Like You
Don’t Let Me Explode
Multitude of Casualties
Your Little Hoodrat Friend
Most People Are DJs