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OK. Now’s the time for a superlative. The Hold Steady are the best rock and roll band in America.

Take away all the adjectives: no “indie”, no “progressive”, no “post” anything. They just rock and roll. Spin has called them the best bar band in America too, so I’m not too far off the reservation. I’m going to depart from my usual style here and start by talking about their headlining performance last night at the Earl.

They opened with the opening track from Boys and Girls in America(Pitchfork Review 9.4), “Station to Station.” It started there. The crowd was pumped. The band was pumped. The sound was huge. Loud. And lead singer Craig Finn was frenetic and magnetic.

You can’t really be prepared for their stage presence just by seeing them during set up or sound check. As one of my friends put it, Craig Finnan looks like your high school English teacher, and is probably just as literate. But once the performance begins, all that just melts away. And it did for about an hour and a half as they pulled material from all three of their albums. Highlights for me were “Your Little Hoodrat Friend,” “Station to Station,” “Stevie Nix,” and the final encore, “Most People are DJs,” which ended up with a good portion of the audience on stage. Bonus points to whomever loaned Craig their Twins jersery for the first encore; he said it made him feel 10 feet tall, but truth be told, he performed like he was 10 feet tall all evening.

If you don’t know this band, and you like bands with a huge sound that just flat out rock, I heartily recommend that you check them out.

Sean Na Na had the unenviable task of warming up the crowd for the headliner. Walking into the Earl, I really had no idea what to expect, but I was impressed. The band was a good pairing with The Hold Steady and got the crowd warmed up nicely. During the show, I discovered that I knew one of the tracks, but I still couldn’t tell you the name of it. I’d see these guys again live and will do some googling to see what else of theirs I can find.

I don’t have much to report about the first act, The Secret Service. I only caught about three songs, but I can report that they were loud. And fast. And the lead singer played a flying-V, which is something you don’t see much these days.

NP: “Duress” – Swervedriver

Post Author: flannelenigma

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