Monday, September 28, 2009

The Hold Steady- Live At The West End

All photos by Jesse Miki

2009 has been great year so far for witnessing some wickedly good concerts. Thursday night at the newly renovated West End Cultural Centre saw the appearance of the Brooklyn-based (and Minneapolis) band, The Hold Steady. Their reputation of being "the best bar band in America" was definitely confirmed as they treated their diehard fans to a amazing display of club-sized rock that saw the band grind out a 25 song set, 105 minute show. They played a good range of songs from all four of their full-length releases, as well as a bunch of new songs.

Since the West End didn't have seating (except for the upper level), I positioned myself smack dab dead centre, about 8 or 9 people deep from the stage. This sweaty-beer soaked (yes, there were many spelt beers on the floor and on people) scrum hung on to singer Craig Finn's every word, screaming out the lyrics, fist pumping and frantically jumping around. Finn's stage presence has always amazed me, with his geeky looks (balding guy with glasses) and odd voice that reminds me more of Randy Newman than Bruce Springsteen, to his wild gestering with arms flailing. He yells into the mic then steps back and screams off-mic frantically baiting the audience to respond and react, creating a connection that keeps the crowd focused on the show. The rest of the band is more low-key as the focus is clearly on the singer, but keyboardist Franz Nicolay, dressed in a suit and fedora complete with a villain-like moustache, posed and put on his own silent show, a perfect contrast to Finn's nervous energy.

My only issue with the show (as a fan and a taper) would be I wasn't especially impressed with the mix of the West End's sound. I've been to many great shows there over the years and I have lots of documented proof (recordings), but it seems the quieter folky/jazz/pop shows sound much better than the noisier loud rock concerts. The mix was heavy on the bass and the overall sound was a little muddy sounding. It noticably improved as the show went on, but to be honest I was less crowded in and jostled with most of the talkers heading to the front of the stage, mid-set. My recording came out okay (but not great), and the results on disc actually sounded better than I remember standing in the crowd. I ranted to friends after the show about concert etiquette, or lack there of, but I'll save that for a future posting. Overall, the Hold Steady put on a very satisfying show, I definitely got my money's worth and I'm thankful I was lucky enough to score tickets since the show sold out the first day they went on sale. Similarily to the Baseball Project/Minus 5 show, it was awesome to see a great live band in such a small venue. Up close to the stage is the only way to really see a band, your body physically feels the music because it's loud and pulsating and the performers appear as real people you can relate to and react to, instead of specks on a stage aided by video screens, seated inside a arena better suited for hockey.

Here's a review of the show from the Winnipeg Sun's Darryl Sterdan.

West End Cultural Centre
Winnipeg, MB Canada
September 24, 2009

01. Positive Jam
02. Stuck Between Stations
03. Navy Sheets
04. Banging Camp
05. Chips Ahoy!
06. Cattle and the Creeping Things
07. Goin' on a Hike
08. Sequestered in Memphis
09. You Gotta Dance (With Who You Came With)
10. Heaven is Whenever
11. Slight Discomfort
12. Multitude of Casualties
13. Most People are DJs
14. Our Whole Lives
15. Massive Nights
16. Party Pit
17. Cheyenne Sunrise
18. Separate Vacations
19. Stevie Nix
20. (cuts in) Magazines
21. How a Resurrection Really Feels
22. -Encore Call-
23. Constructive Summer
24. Your Little Hoodrat Friend
25. Stay Positive
26. Slapped Actress


If you don't have a Dime membership, you have the option of downloading the show at The Hold Steady Taped Show Archive. (An excellent source for H.S. concert recordings in FLAC and mp3 format)


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Heck yeah all photos by Jesse Miki!

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